Surprise: You Really Do Make a Difference (Even if You Don’t Realize it)

Do you ever feel like you are not making a difference or that you what you do does not add value? I have. And, if I am not careful, I do. Part of the journey that is this blog is to find a path to a more purposeful life, which includes making a difference in the lives of others. I have felt that I was spinning on my wheels on certain things that neither provided value or made a difference to people. I think that, while it is natural to feel that way, I was wrong. You probably are too.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” William James

I think that the difficulty in examining yourself and questioning whether or not you are providing value or making a difference lies in the questions to whom or what am I trying to add value and what difference am I trying to make? Or perhaps it is the question of what purpose am I trying to serve and why?

You see, if you are reflecting on those questions too broadly, you will almost certainly be disappointed. Let’s say you are an accountant, a sales representative, or are in some other type of office setting, you may be comparing yourself to the doctor saving lives, the teacher molding his students, the prosecutor keeping society safe, or the researcher who is working on finding a cure for cancer – and think that those are the people that add value, that make a difference, have purpose in their work. And you are right, to an extent.

But life is about perspective.

The accountant adds value to the people for whom she helps get a larger tax return or shows the tax benefits of planning for retirement. The sales representative makes a difference when he offers a product or service that his customer needs and makes the customer’s life better or easier or more productive. Other office works provide value to shareholders, customers, co-workers, etc. However, when those individuals compare themselves to the doctors or researchers or teachers, they focus on what they may perceive as what society commonly views as valuable and overlook the value that they, in fact, provide, and the people to whom they make a difference.

We are multi-faceted individuals.

The above examples obviously deal with career. Why? Because, unfortunately, we are accustomed to talking about what we do for a “living”. In most interactions with new people, that question comes up very early and dominates the conversation – especially in short interactions. We put too much value on the answer to that question. But we should not do that, not when we are thinking about how we add value or make a difference or while searching for our purpose in our lives.

I am a father of two little boys. I try to be a positive role model to them, to teach them, to be there for them – to make a difference in their life. My engaged presence and influence shape and add value to their lives. Through being a good father and husband, I add value to my wife’s life. I make a difference in the lives of my friends and the rest of my family, and add value to their lives in different ways. I write this blog to provide value to my readers; to make them think and to help them make a difference in their lives.

It is always good to strive to be better and to make a bigger difference, or add more value through some action. However, if you are doing that only because you don’t feel that you are currently failing to do so, ask yourself “to whom to I make a difference?” and “how do I currently provide value?”. Because, as William James said, what you do makes a difference.

I would love to hear in the comments. What do you do that makes a difference or adds value? Do find that in your work? How could you add more value in your life?

Thanks for reading and please take a moment to sign up for the e-mail list or connect on Twitter or Facebook.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Darin Armstrong #TeamLIVESTRONG April 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Hello Patrick,
    Just a quick message to ask if you would be interested in a ‘mutual’ following on twitter. I am currently following you now and am awaiting for your follow-back. (#FYI I do RT’s ‘anytime’ for all #Triathletes #Cyclists #UltraRunners #Marathoners #FitnessProfessionals who follow me on Twitter and have something important they want mentioned for support…)

    All the very best to you & your family for 2013 & beyond Patrick. Look forward to hearing from you…


    Reply edit
  • BizzyMomofFour April 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    This is a topic close to my heart and something I very recently examined. While I know that what I’m doing adds value and is super important, I haven’t been able to volunteer as much as I have in the past, and I was worried about that. No soup kitchens, no coat drives, and I wasn’t doing mission trips. I’d been doing those things since high school. I thought that I was not doing my part. I realized that I could not have been more wrong. Now my volunteer hours are spent at school, making meals for new moms, and coordinating things for the various groups that I am involved in. I know that I am making a difference, even if it might be a different population, and I am at peace with that. One day the pendulum shall swing again. I can only hope that my lifetime of being of service will put me back where I was. And look forward to future mission work. I’ve had to come to embrace the season of life that I am in.

    Reply edit
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