The youth wing of one of the international organizations has invited me to take a session, this week end, at its annual camp. The subject I am expected to deal with is: ‘HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE’
Honestly, do I know how?
Whenever we talk about making a difference, we think, that it is about making a difference to others… to the society and the world around us. Therefore, the question that I am supposed to answer is: How to make a difference in others’ lives? Or, if I may rephrase it a bit colorfully: How to change the world?
My answer would be this: to change the outside world, we need to first change the world inside us… Charity always begins at home. There is no meaning in trying to put the outside world in order without putting our own house in order first. To me, self-care always comes before caring for the world around me. That’s not being selfish… that’s being sensible. Over the years, I have been telling the Youth the same thing, in different ways… Don’t’ attempt to change the world, attempt to change yourself, your attitude. When you change, the world changes… Because, you are a part of this world. When the part changes, the whole has to change. There are a hundred things which you can do to bring about a difference in you and in the world outside. Here are just sixteen…
1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN LIFE
Before you learn to manage your own affairs, how can you ever think of managing others’? If your life is your business, then, it is for you to take full responsibility for its quality. Our ability to respond to situations in life is what ‘responsibility’ all about. This is the most fundamental pillar of a healthy self-esteem. You cannot think of making a difference in others’ life till you don’t feel good about your own self. So, learn to take charge, starting from simple routines in life.
2. MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL
God has given us only twenty-four hours a day… Yes, from American President or the richest man on earth to our local postman or roadside tea vendor, everyone makes it in life only in twenty-four hours only that God has stuffed in our day…
When you learn to manage your time well, you get a feeling of self control and your well-being goes up. It’s only from this space, that you can think of reaching out to anyone else, in true sense.
3. MIND YOUR COMPANY
One of the biggest influences on the quality of your life is the company that you keep, your friend circle. We all need friends through our lives. True friendship is true treasure. Such friendship enhances the quality of your life, instills in you a sense of contentment in life. To reach out to others, you need this inner joy of friendship.
On the other hand, if you surround yourself with friends who are goalless, mediocre, and who have lost track in life, it will certainly ruin your life. As it is said, you are, often, defined by the company that you keep. So, when you have lost your track, how can you ever think of putting others around you on track?
4. BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR CAREER GOALS
One of the most effective ways in which you can feel happy and confident in life is by defining your career goals clearly. When your career goals well-defined, and when you approach them with a proper road-map, we invariably feel a inner sense of command. It is from this inner clarity, that we are able to guide others. Otherwise, it is like one blind man leading another!
5. KEEP UPGRADING YOUR SKILLS
Your old skills will not see us through your entire lives... The world outside changes swiftly, and, to cope with it, you need to remain abreast. There are so many skills – both professional skills and soft skills – you can keep learning them as you go about your lives. It will fill you with a feeling of preparedness and optimism. It will reduce your anxiety about future drastically. You can serve others better when your own future looks bright!
6. BE LESS REACTIVE
Do you have to comment on every happening around you – politics, religious, social or whatever. The quality of your comments and opinions on social media speak a lot about you. Blaming, passing acidic comments, shooting from the hips – all these are not signs of maturity. You need to particularly stay away from commenting on controversial subjects like party politics, party leaders, religious group or their leaders or any taboo subjects. Some think, that they have the right to comment and doing so is bravado. Sorry, it is not… It is inviting unnecessary trouble for yourself… and, sure shot way of making enemies.
They call the reactive people as losers. It may sound harsh... But, I agree with the statement. Only when you can control your urge to blame, and react as a victim in public, you can sense the power that enables you to reach out.
7. SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND EMPOWER OTHERS
A true leader does that. He shares his knowledge with his team, his juniors... He grooms them, empowers them. Such people are giving people. Reaching out comes naturally to them.
8. LEARN TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN NEEDS AND WANTS EARLY IN LIFE
About 80 to 90 percent of the stuff that you own or desire to own is simply not required. They are your wants; and, Economics theory says, wants are unlimited, insatiable... and, they keep recurring. Trying to fulfill your wants is a wild-goose chase... You will eternally remain frustrated.
Those who get the wisdom, that meeting our needs is enough, develop a different level of self-confidence in life. They may not possess money, but they possess the power to influence even the richest men and women in world.
That’s why Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Azim Premji, Narayan Murthy and such other wealthy men have given away their wealth to their Charity Foundations and made sure, that the money is handled by not those who are wants-driven but needs-driven.
To reach out to others, you have to get this distinction clearly early in life.
9. BE THE EXAMPLE
It is tough to practice what you preach. But, when you do that, you become an example and people simply trust you, follow you. To reach out to others, lead by example.
10. REDUCE CONFLICT WITH YOUR PARENTS AND HELP REDUCE THEIR ANXIETY
Your parents are always concerned about you… They constantly worry about you. The day you reduce their anxiety by giving them the confidence that you have ‘grown up’, that you empathize with them, a lot of conflict with them will drop. This will pave path for your inner well-being. Such space is very conducive for reaching out.
11. LET YOUR LEFT HAND NOT KNOW WHAT YOUR RIGHT HAND DOES
Don’t blow the trumpet when you help others... Let it be a quiet act. As Jesus said, “Let your left hand not know what your right hand does.” Loud charity is ugly, vulgar.
12. LEARN TO GEL WELL WITH OTHERS
You do not live on an island or in an ivory tower… You live among others… You are a social being. So, learn the social skills which help you gel well with others. This world is made of all kinds of people… The good, the bad and the ugly. So, learn the art of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds! Trust me, you can reach out better.
13. DEVELOP A VERY ACCOMMODATING SPIRIT
The idea of making a difference in this world is pure hypocrisy until you understand clearly what forbearance, tolerance, brotherhood and forgiveness are all about. You are an imperfect soul and you are surrounded by imperfect souls. Learning to value and honour the differences with your fellowmen is the key to peaceful co-existence. Learn to accommodate the views, beliefs, customs of your fellowmen. That would be the best form of charily… the best way of reaching out.
14. LEARN WHEN TO HOLD ON AND WHEN TO LET GO
You will hear the slogan: ‘Don’t quit’. Or, ‘A winner never quits and a quitter never wins’. It has lot of value, no doubt. But, remember, there will be times you may have to quit… let go. Letting go is a spiritual exercise… Even the mightiest soul knows how important it is… The famous Serenity Prayer teaches us this truth:
“God, grant me the courage to change the things I can,
the serenity to accept the things I cannot,
and wisdom to know the difference.”
If you do not have this wisdom, your attempts to make a difference in this world will simply frustrate you.
15. START FROM WHEREVER YOU ARE AND WITH WHATEVER YOU HAVE
You do not have to wait till you reach a certain position in life or till you become very wealthy to make a difference in this world. All that you need is a very sensitive and compassionate heart, loads of zeal and initiative. With these qualities coupled with your talents, skills and strengths, you can start from wherever you are, and with whatever you possess – yes, right now, what is right within your reach.
16. LEAVE THE PLACE A LITTLE BETTER…
“When you leave a place, leave it a little better than how you found it when you first came in.” This a simple yet powerful spiritual law…
Reflect on it… Just one wish to leave every place - every organization, every relationship, every commitment - a little better place than how you found it when you first walked in!
This one personal philosophy alone can take care of rest of the things… Yes, so much for the so-called 'the big question’: HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
So, my dear young friends, let me conclude with the wisdom taught by three of my idols, who, have made a significant difference in this world. As Stephen Covey says (in his famous book, ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’) you need to work from ‘inside out’. And, as Mahatma Gandhi says, you need to be the change you seek to see in this world. Finally, as Mother Teresa says, to make a difference in this world, you need not do ‘great things’ in life… All that you need to do is: do small things with a ‘great heart’.
With loads of love and best wishes.
Pic.: Sagnik Ganguly
Pic.: Sagnik Ganguly