People sometimes ask me why my work is important. While I’m normally pretty clear on the impact of the work I do, lately I’ve been questioning it. Beaten down by daily news of a divided country, threats of war, mass shootings, and natural disasters, it’s hard to think that anything I do makes a difference. I’m not alone in this thinking. I run across it with others all the time.
To stay engaged, I have to keep remembering why I do what I do. I consult, speak, and coach to help people—to help individuals be more successful and happy in their lives and to help organizations be more successful by improving the performance of their people. No matter what goes on in the world around us, making the world a better place—even at a small level—is important, and that’s what keeps me going.
We all are making the world a better place in one way or another. The key is to figure out what your impact is and not lose sight of it.
To keep sight of how you are making the world a better place, look at the ways in which you impact the world, either through your work, your organization’s products or services, or in your life outside of work. Here are some things to consider.
How does your work itself impact the world? Here are some examples of how people’s work positively impacts the world.
- You provide a service that helps people, like performing surgery to unblock arteries.
- You provide a service that makes people happier, like teaching meditation to help people relax or doing standup comedy to make people laugh.
- You increase human knowledge, like conducting scientific research to find cures for diseases or look for life on neighboring planets.
- You help the earth, like by developing sustainable farming practices or delivering farm-to-table dining.
Even if you work in a seemingly meaningless corporate or government bureaucracy, you still have the ability to make a positive impact in your daily life. Think about the power you have to improve someone’s day by simply giving them a smile or asking them how their day is going, or by helping them with a task. You can bring meaning to any job.
If you don’t see how your role impacts people or the world in a significant way, what you do may be part of a bigger organization that has positive impact. How does your organization improve the world?
- Your organization provides a service that helps people, like healthcare.
- Your organization provides a service that makes people happier, like entertainment.
- Your organization increase human knowledge, like through scientific research.
- Your organization helps the planet, like by developing sustainable energy.
I consulted for one pharmaceutical company that reminded its employees daily that the mission of the company was to save lives. The company researched, developed, and sold products to manage diabetes and to manage weight loss. Every single employee at the company was helping to fulfill that mission, whether they were a scientist, an administration assistant, a food service worker, or member of the janitorial staff. Every job was necessary to save lives.
Perhaps your work isn’t your contribution to the world. Rather, you use work as a vehicle to do other things that make an impact. How do you make an impact on the world through your family, friends, or activities?
- You raise children or grandchildren or take care of other family members who need it.
- You give advice and companionship to friends.
- You volunteer at an animal shelter, school, veterans’ association, museum, or some non-profit organization that is helping make the world a better place.
- You write, create art, or perform and share your talent with others.
- You vote.
These are only a few examples of the good that people do and the impact that people have on the world. Yours may be big or small, but every bit counts. In fact, these are precisely the things that do count when there is so much negativity that is outside of our control.