Are you making a difference in your career or your life’s work, or are you just showing up because you have to?
If you prefer listening to reading, click here for an audio version:
When I present or facilitate, I like to open by asking: “who leapt out of bed this morning“? And I’m amazed how few people then show their hands. Leaping out of bed is a wonderful metaphor that suggests we are doing something worthwhile. And that we love doing it so much, that we can’t wait to get into it when we wake up each day. If that notion is true, it’s sad really, that so few people are truly enthusiastically inspired by what they do, isn’t it?
Either way, would you agree with me that enthusiasm (dare I say passion?) and making a difference can be expected to go hand-in-hand?
Making a Difference – What Does That Mean To You?
If you think about your purpose and your legacy, is what you’re mainly doing every month and every year really working towards that? Is that truly making a difference?
If not, what do you think you could or should be doing in order to be making such a difference? What inspires you to leap out of bed in the morning? You know, like you do when you are awake hours ahead of the alarm to catch that flight to take you on that long awaited holiday?
Just reflect on the last few months. Or your last year. What have you been focusing most of your attention on? Has it been meaningful? Has it really mattered? To you? To your loved ones? To those that depend on you? To those that you answer to? Is that helping you in making a difference? Really?
You see, most of us are very busy. Sometimes quite stretched and even stressed. Maybe even approaching or in overwhelm. Trying to stay on top of things. Is that when we can really be making a difference? As in Are you thriving or surviving?
Maybe you are. Again, isn’t it to be expected that unstressfully enjoying what you do (what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to in his book “Flow”) and making a difference would go hand-in-hand?
Making a Difference or Just Showing up?
I’m known to suggest that most people spend more time planning an annual holiday than ever planning their life or their career. It’s usually also true that most people “fell into their profession”, correct? And then most will also own up that they “fell into their last 3 roles”.
That doesn’t mean they can’t be successful, of course. It also doesn’t mean they can’t be making a difference. It’s just that in my work as an executive life coach, I come across so many people that are so busily consumed by their work, that they admit to often being too exhausted to think about their bigger picture. And remind themselves of their vision for their life’s work, if they ever had one. They just keep showing up. Usually because they have to. Which often doesn’t make for much inspiration. Their own and that of those they’re leading.
Us coaches have a very simple, but powerful approach: it stands to reason that if you have no purpose and no goals (as in direction), you’re like a yacht without a rudder – directionless. And at the mercy of the wind and the tides as to where you end up. Hardly a strong recipe for making a difference, right?
Making a Difference as an Employee
You don’t have to own or run your own business to be making a difference. I believe anybody can. In any or every role. To me it’s a matter of attitude. Like the different responses received from 2 different bricklayers as to what they were doing. The one rolled his eyes and said: “can’t you see – I’m laying bricks…“. The other enthusiastically said with an expansive gesture: “I’m part of a great team building this magnificent cathedral“. Same job, Different outlook, right?
Go on, think about your role and how you already are making a difference or how you might reframe your view towards it in terms of your leveraging it to do so.
Making a Difference as an Leader
It’s well known that many people join organisations and leave because of the boss. So if you are a leader complaining about your people, which is akin to pointing your index finger at the problem, why not notice the 3 fingers in that gesture usually pointing back at you?
What have you done today, this week, this month that has helped inspire the people you lead to want to hold the attitude of the cathedral builder and be motivated to making a difference?
Making a Difference as an Entrepreneur
Most people would love to have the recognition successful entrepreneurs are accorded when they have led something outstanding. Yet, how many are actually willing to “take the plunge” and take on the risks such initiatives require? How many are actually cynical of such entrepreneurial effort, probably even jealous?
Isn’t the vision of such entrepreneurs often to want to be making a big difference? In terms of The Prize and the Price, isn’t it usually the prize and the difference it can make that has them overcome any concern about the price? In his book “Screw it, let’s do it”, Richard Branson outlines how his team brings him an acquisition or investment opportunity to approve. They know to expect his question about whether and how they can overcome any threats that could knock them off their perch. When he has seen enough to satisfy himself they can overcome those, he says: “screw it, let’s do it“. Isn’t he one of those entrepreneurs that has been making a difference?
And so if you’re employed, are you sufficiently empowered to contribute to making a difference? If not, what are you doing about it? Grumbling? Or will you take your consequences and go after a role in which you can? As in Are you a “fetch” person?
Making a Difference – Does Age Matter?
Does age matter? I don’t think so. Why? Because I was able to re-invent myself from over 30 years of successful corporate life, past age 50, into doing what I was born to do. Imagine if I hadn’t. I’d still just be showing up and trying to do my best at staying on top.
Not that I’m a fan of the kind of nutrition their global businesses provide, but both Ray Croc and Colonel Sanders were almost or over 6o when they started their today extremely successful McDonald’s and KFC empires. How many franchise owners have they helped to make a difference in their lives? And how many people are grateful for the work ethic they learned through being trained in one of their thousands of restaurants? Work ethics that enable them to be making a difference?
Making a Difference. What Will It Take?
So what will it take to make a difference?
In my book a plan, to have enthusiasm (passion) and the will to leave a legacy. To have a reason. To be bold. To have a dream that takes your breath away. That will inspire you to pursue the unusual in order to get the spoils. That will create courage to overcome the fear.
I love the Aussie term: “get a life”. Go on, what’s it going to take?
If you already are, I applaud you. I’d love to hear how you are already making a difference. Or if you’re not happy with where you’re at, when and how you’re planning to be making a difference?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, OK?