How to Make a Positive Impact on the Lives of Others

Three Methods:Starting with YourselfCompleting a Self-AssessmentChanging the World for the Better

Deciding to make your mark on the world in a positive way is a noble goal. One of the best ways to find happiness, fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging is to try to help improve the lives of others. However, this can be an overwhelming goal: how can you, just one individual person, change others' lives for the better? Thinking about that question may make you feel insignificant and impotent, but we've got concrete advice on how you can begin to affect others positively.

Method 1
Starting with Yourself

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    Find your own joy. If you want to try to make others happy, then you'll need to start with yourself. What makes you happy? What brings you joy? Thinking about these questions will help you start to figure out how you can spread happiness to others.
    • Make a list of the times you've been happiest in your life. It may help for you to go through a photo-book for this. Pay attention to the photos where you look happiest or at peace: What were you doing then? Who were you with?
    • Do you still manage to find time to engage in these activities? If not, try to make it a priority to set time aside for you to do things that truly make you feel happy.
    • Even if you don't have the time to go on long off-trail runs every weekend like you used to, for example, perhaps you can manage to fit in a jog around your local park once or twice or week. You may be surprised at how quickly you start to perk up after returning to the activity you once loved so much.
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    Get your life in order. It's hard to help others effectively if your own life is a mess. If you really want to make a positive impact on the world, you'll be better at it if you aren't too distracted by your own problems.
    • Maybe you'd like to help people who are unemployed find meaningful work that provides them with a steady income. If you struggle to keep a job, though, you won't be able to offer much in the way of advice, and you certainly won't be taken seriously.
    • However, you shouldn't give up on this goal just because you haven't (yet!) held down one good-paying job for a long stretch of time. Indeed, once you manage to figure things out, you'll be in an excellent position to help others who are in positions like yours.
    • You will truly be able to understand their situation and will be able to offer solid, proven advice once you manage to overcome your own obstacles.
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    Aim for improving your own life, not perfecting it. While one of the first steps towards helping others is helping yourself, be careful not to put off the start of your new plan for too long. You will never be perfectly happy, perfectly content, perfecting employed, etc.
    • If you wait for the time to be perfect (and for you to be perfect) before you begin to try to make your mark on the world, you'll never get started.
    • Maybe you aren't yet in a position to be a career counselor, but perhaps you can work to provide people who are homeless with interview outfits.

Method 2
Completing a Self-Assessment

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    Identify your skills and talents.[1]If you're trying to figure out how you can make a positive impact on the world, you should know as much about yourself as possible. How would you answer the question “What are you really good at?”
    • For example, are you a meticulous organizer? Are you a natural at public speaking? Are you a skilled reader and writer? Do you know how to program computers? Are you a soccer star?
    • Think broadly when answering these questions, and don't rule out anything that seems silly or frivolous.
    • For example, maybe you're really good at doing complicated nail art, which you think is a useless hobby. However, nursing homes and retirement communities often look for volunteers to provide residents with manicures.
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    Think about how you work best. Just as you should know what you're good at, you should think about the type of environment you work best in.[2]Answering the following practical questions can help you figure out where and how to help others.
    • Do you thrive in an outdoor setting? Do you avoid the elements at all costs, and thus prefer an office-setting? Are you perhaps a bit of recluse, and so prefer to work remotely?
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    Be honest about what you truly enjoy. Beyond knowing what you are good at doing, you should also think about whether or not you enjoy doing what you're good at. To be able to consistently help others, you want to avoid boredom and burn-out. Doing what you are both good at and enjoy can help protect against this.
    • For example, you may be a great writer, and if so, this could serve you well in your quest to help others. However, if you hate writing, then there's little chance that you'll be able to sustain a commitment to teaching others to write. Surely there are other things you're also good at that you enjoy a bit more.
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    Identify the causes that are important to you.[3]As your plan begins to take shape, you should think about what your passions are.
    • What causes move you? Are you an animal-lover who would rather interact with non-human creatures than people? Are you a strong advocate of women's rights? Are you passionate about school reform?
    • Try to identify the causes that either warm your heart or get your blood boiling. Either way, you'll know that you've chosen to commit yourself to something that matters to you.
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    Decide how much time you can devote to helping others. Outline all of your current time commitments (work, school, family, etc.) in order to identify open windows of time that you can devote to volunteering or doing good deeds.
    • Be careful not to make overly ambitious promises about the amount of time you can devote to volunteering or working for others.
    • For example, if you promise the local shelter that you can help them out fifteen hours a week, they'll depend upon you being there, but after a few weeks you may be burnt out. You need to allow yourself some downtime.
    • You should, however, make helping others an actual priority that gets written into your schedule and that you take as seriously as any other commitment like work.

Method 3
Changing the World for the Better

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    Identify ways that you can help right now. In this noble quest to positively impact the world, it's easy to always look far down the road and overlook the opportunities you have to help others right now. Think about how you can improve someone's life today.
    • You may be very busy and think you don't have much time to spare, but you can still find little ways to help others.
    • For example, you can set your alarm just a few minutes earlier than normal and scrape the ice off your neighbor's car before you head off to work.
    • If you're in school, you can offer to organize a study group before a big exam or offer to share notes with your classmate who has been out with the flu for two weeks.
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    Look for the little ways to help. Make a resolution to perform good deeds every day. The best way to do this is to look for little ways to spread joy and/or help others. For example:
    • Hold doors open for the people, making sure to do it with a welcoming smile.
    • Let someone who looks to be in a hurry move in front of you while waiting at the grocery store.
    • Buy a pack of diapers for the new parents across the street (even if you don't know them).
    • Spend a few minutes cutting coupons from the newspaper so that you can pick up some extra groceries, and then donate them to your local food pantry.
    • Sincerely ask those who serve you (your waiters and waitresses, check-out clerks, gas station attendants, etc.) how they are doing.
    • Even though these are fairly small gestures, they can still have a big impact on others.
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    Look to the future. You'll continue to find ways to make positive changes in others' lives on a daily basis, no matter how small. However, don't forget to think bigger and longer-term as well.
    • For example, do you want to be a philanthropist or work for a non-profit someday? Would you like to work for Doctors Without Borders? Do you want to make sure that all children have (beyond) adequate learning materials at school?
    • Depending upon your longer-term goals, you may need to spend some of your time now developing and sharpening your skills and acquiring the requisite knowledge.
    • This might mean that you'll need to enroll in particular course of study, obtain an internship or even change career paths.
    • As a result, some of the time you have open to volunteer right now will be reduced, but you'll be making yourself into a better instrument for the world in the long-run.
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    Count your blessings. Think about what you appreciate in your life, and then think about ways that you can spread those good things to others.
    • For example, are you in a fulfilling career today because of the educational advantages you had as a child? If so, then perhaps a good way for you to both express your gratitude and help others would be to focus on helping school children get the books they need.
    • Alternatively, you could volunteer to tutor a couple of times a week in an economically disadvantaged school district.
    • The basic idea is to identify the ways in which you've been helped or blessed and in turn find ways to pay it forward to others.

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Categories: Volunteer and Community Service