Reality Check: To Make a Difference

We’re in to a New Year! But before we leave Christmas 2020 behind, let’s remember the classic Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s an oldie, yet the message is still worthwhile. George Bailey gets to see the difference he made; how his town would be had he never been born.
It’s a fascinating idea, isn’t it? What would the world be like if we were never here? Would it be better? Worse? Unchanged? Does the life of one person make a difference?
I know that I’m not alone in believing that each of our lives does make a difference. At least to some degree, we get to determine that difference by the choices we make. Also, believing that we are making positive differences can make our lives more satisfying.
Without purpose, one might feel useless, helpless, even a burden to others. In tragic cases, a feeling of purposeless could lead someone to conclude that they have no value at all and give up on life.
Yet each of us is unique. Having purpose can make the difference between starting each day with enthusiasm versus wondering, “What’s the point?”
For some, finding purpose is a real challenge. It’s not easy to figure out a satisfying answer to, “What can I do that matters?”
If you are struggling with finding a satisfying purpose, one of your challenges may be distinguishing between what you can control and what you can’t. We may be able to control the actions we take. However, we can’t necessarily control whether or how we are recognized for it.
Like it or not, culture and technology affect everything. Because we are exposed to news, people and events all around the globe, it’s easy to get the mistaken impression that making a difference results in recognition. Do you decide whether someone is making a difference by what celebrities say? By who is featured on TV?
If you are feeling that life doesn’t have the level of meaning that you want, you may be looking for purpose. Perhaps you are searching for a cause to believe in, but nothing quite fits for you. You just can’t find a satisfying way to make a difference.
Here’s a question to spark your imagination: If there were no chance of being recognized for anything that you do, what would you do?
Because making a difference and being recognized for that difference don’t always go hand in hand, let’s pretend for a moment that there is no such thing as recognition. What if no one was applauded (or vilified) for their difference-making? Would that make a difference in how you perceive your purpose?
We may never know all of the differences we make. Many folks go through their lives never recognized for their contributions.
A long-forgotten kindness may have encouraged someone through a hard time. The work you’ve done, the friendships you’ve shared, the actions you’ve taken may all make differences that you may never know.
All contributions are not earth-shattering. Our contributions are not the same as those of others. That doesn’t mean that they are not valuable.
What does making a difference look like to you?

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