One of the exercises we do in our team building programs revolves around participants identifying people whom they consider to be great role models – people they would be honored to be compared with. There are always a great variety of names, often changing depending on the part of the world we are in. Some names consistently come up, regardless of the country we’re in, including Oprah Winfrey, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates and Martin Luther King, among others. Regardless of who it is, though, when participants are asked to explain their choices, the answer is always the same: It’s someone who’s made a positive difference in the lives around them.
The same holds true with how we value the people in our workplace. Think about it. The people we respect the most are not always the most senior, but the ones who make a difference. They get things done, they look after the people around them, they make their mark, they make positive change.
Why is it, that we consistently define peoples’ success based on how much of a difference they’ve made, yet so many of us who are striving to be successful focus on completely different things: trying to make more money, gain more fame, get more power, etc? Is it really any surprise that so many people who finally achieve wealth, power or fame still end up unhappy?
Do you want to make a difference in the world around you? It’s not that hard, really. In fact, you make a difference to the people around you every day, whether you’re trying to or not. We’ve all seen how one individual who comes into work in a bad mood can bring everyone else down, or how one cheerful, positive person can bring everyone up. Each of our actions has a consequence for those around us, as well as for ourselves. The secret, though, is trying to ensure it is a positive difference we’re making, not a negative one.
It’s the New Year and the traditional time for new resolve. In addition to all your other New Years resolutions, try this: Commit to yourself to make a positive difference in the life of someone else over the next month. Whether it’s donating an hour of your time to a charitable organization, giving ten dollars to a worthy cause, or simply giving someone that needs cheering up a warm smile. Each of these make the little piece of the world around you a better and happier place to be. Make it your mission to make your mark, however humble, in the coming year. The road to greatness often starts with just one simple random act of kindness.