I am a motivational speaker; help socioeconomically diverse students find and apply to compatible colleges; and build programs to better inform health professions students about how patients live and work. I also repost pieces on how to live healthier and stories on those who impact others’ lives through service. In my diverse roles, I see how unhappy many people are in their lives….and how those who live fully and impactfully reshape their reality every day.
Surveys say two thirds of Americans are unhappy and unfulfilled in their lives. How sad for us that in times with lots of opportunities to live fully and impactfully, millions believe they don’t matter.
In doing so, they make it true.
There are a vast range of things you can do to change your fortunes—and our world, too. My “Impact Center,” has stories on how individuals are positively impacting others’ lives—and their communities. It also profiles many organizations here that, with the help of people like you, impact lives every day.
Here are five ways you can impact your life, your community, and your world in 2018 and beyond.
1. Get Involved
Find ways to make the world the way you want it to be. Voting is a great way to do this. It may seem a waste of time, but every vote cast reminds politicians—no matter how distant they feel—that they are accountable to all of us and can be replaced if they legislate—or behave—badly.
If you choose to vote, help someone in your community who can’t get to the polls by themselves. You can drive them, or, where possible, help them cast an absentee vote. In doing so you’ll give them a voice and strengthen our democracy.
Volunteering for causes important to you is another great way to feel great about yourself. Studies show volunteering can extend your life and make you feel better about it. It also lets you live your values.
Through volunteering you can show others that action can change others’ lives. Doing so helps others and shows those around you that they, too, can have an impact. Doing service in organizations you care about also helps you build a positive legacy.
2. Offer and Accept Help
“I love you is powerful,” but asking “How can I help?” can change the world.
Whether helping your kids with homework, or doing some home chores your partner usually does, there are many ways to assist people near you. All of them can keep those essential—and life-extending—connections to people you love strong and vibrant.
You may also be able to help someone when you’re out and about. Whether you help them get their groceries into their car or rescue an animal left on the street, having your eyes open in your neighborhood and community can make you feel you’ve done something valuable while making a huge difference in another’s life. By asking “How can I help?” you may even save that life.
I am blind and diabetic. I’m often told to be independent; to do everything I can myself. This philosophy is limiting…and dangerous as compared with balancing independence and mutual engagement. Accepting help can be far harder than offering it. Too many people think accepting help implies they are incapable or weak.
My website and social media, show how accepting help has saved time, energy, and risk for me and others. Mutual engagement expands opportunities for everyone. Doors won't open if we don't say, “yes, some help would be great, thanks!”
3. Consider How your Behaviors and Choices Impact Those Around You
From smoking, unhealthy eating, and exercising to managing work, relationship and family, always remember how your decisions affect everyone around you. Do you regularly eat unhealthy foods your colleagues bring in to work? They often have hundreds of calories that frequently add unhealthy weight known to increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and reduced life expectancy. Getting drunk regularly may lead to your arrest for drunken driving, while adding numerous unhealthy calories and increasing your risk of premature illness or death.
Do you speed when you drive and/or choose not to wear protective gear on your motorbike or the slopes? One accident can change your life, or end it. Choosing not to wear safety gear or ignoring laws meant to make the world safer can add to the risk of hurting or killing yourself. These choices can also endanger others. If you struggle with making smart choices, go back to number two: get help if you can.
4. Be More Than a Follower
Listen to ideas and opinions from people you disagree with. Today, the media (social and professional) doesn’t have to offer balanced views of policy, events, or others’ opinions. Using social media unintelligently can actually reduce your exposure to views outside of your friend groups. Internet sites track outside resources you use. Tracking software then selects adds you see.
Whatever you believe, intentionally seek out articles from sources you disagree with every day. You may find the other side can justify their views. Even if your opinions are reinforced by exposure to your opponents’ ideas, you will know, and more effectively counter, their arguments.
5. Find Ways to Spread Stories of People and Organizations Doing “Good” Things
Social media is great for this kind of sharing. Remember sharing things on social media, puts your thoughts out there forever so be careful in what you share and how you do it.
Sending me stories of people having an impact on other individuals or their communities is a great way to tell others about people making our world better. I will try to get them up in my Impact Center and on the social media I use to help people learn how others do good things for themselves and our world.
Whatever you do in 2018, make it a year you can look back on with certainty you made it better than 2017 has been for you.