12 Improvements That Make a Difference

by Alex Blackwell -

We may not solve every problem we encounter or always find the right words to say in a challenging situation but we do have the ability to make a difference today. When our focus is how we can make a positive impact, just one helpful action today, then we really can change the world - one day at a time.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
--Anne Frank

Making a difference has no scale. It could be saying the encouraging words someone in our life needs to hear or it could be agreeing to do a chore no else wants to do. Making a difference means to provide whatever resources we have to improve every life we touch.

These improvements can be measured in buckets or they can be measured in teaspoons. The point isn’t really to measure them at all, only to provide them. When we do, we can make a difference today.

  • 1. Say “Thank you.” Say “Thank you,” to anyone who has helped you or has made your day easier. This will show respect and acknowledge the efforts of others. Appreciation will be returned to you in abundance.
  • 2. Perform one act of random kindness. Hold the elevator door open for someone who is a few steps behind you or lift the bag and place it in the overhead bin on the airplane for someone who is struggling with this task. Kindness creates more kindness for everybody to receive.
  • 3. Listen. Listen, really listen to someone. Listen without judgments or criticism. Try to avoid any self-referencing and be fully present for whoever needs it and for as long as they need it.
  • 4. Focus. Focus on one thing at a time. We can’t be all things to all people, and when we try, we sometimes find our effort becomes diluted and less effective.
  • 5. Say “No” more often. This may sound counterproductive, but it’s all about setting realistic boundaries for yourself. Show honor for your personal beliefs and convictions by not compromising who you are. Save your energy for the people and tasks that are the most important to you .
  • 6. Say, “I love you.” Say “I love you” to the people who you truly love and cherish. Do so with heart-felt sincerity. Love them as if this were their, and your, last day on earth. Don’t wait. Tell them today because tomorrow may be too late.
  • 7. Find your cause. You may have passion for animal rights, Gay rights, or human rights. Recycling, education or helping others with addictions may be examples of other causes for which you have energy. Here's a list of other causes that will help you make a difference today.
  • 8. Be an encourager. One gesture of encouragement with a nod of your head or the motion of your hand can be the difference maker between someone having doubt or actually accomplishing the goal. Your encouraging actions can make a life-long impression.
  • 9. Think before you act.  Choose your words carefully before speaking. Consider your actions before taking a certain path. Although unintentional, our words can sting and our actions can cause pain if we are unaware of their potential impact on others. Sometimes the best way we can make a difference is to say nothing or do nothing until we have enough information to act in a responsible and positive way.
  • 10. Show patience. We learn by doing and often we learn best from our mistakes. Show patience for others and allow them to make a few mistakes – even if you know a mistake is inevitable. Also, show patience for the slow-moving check-out clerk the grocery store or the person in the meeting who is just not engaged or is not grasping the concept being discussed. The art of patience is really the gift of grace and compassion. We are not able to receive grace when we refuse to extend it to others.
  • 11. Take care of the things you have. We never know which of our resources we will be called upon to share. Keep a budget, maintain your car with regular oil changes and the like, and care for your clothes and other personal belongings. There may come a day when these items can make a difference in the life of another.
  • 12. Set an example.  Gandhi taught us to Be the change we want to see in the world. This means our actions do set an example for others. I attempt to set an example of being a nurturing and responsible parent for my children; I try to let Mary Beth know I want her to have a life that is uniquely her own; and I try to share my experiences and thoughts in a way that will touch the hearts of others. The opportunities to set an example occur all the time. They happen in how we react, in what we say and in how we live. If we do nothing else to make a difference today, at least we can say our actions created the opportunity for someone to see something good inside of themselves, too.

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