How to make a difference
Erikson posits that there’s a crisis we go through at different stages of life that we must resolve in order to flourish. There are a total of eight stages and the seventh stage is called ‘Generativity vs. Stagnation’.
Individuals going through this stage have a specific goal in mind. Basically, they want to create something that will outlast them; something that will immortalize them in a way.
This immortalization can be in the form of a contribution to society, educating and/or helping future generations, or nurturing positive change in the world.
Failure to achieve ‘generativity’ in this way leaves a person feeling disconnected and under accomplished.
Interestingly enough, according to Erikson, this particular stage when generativity and stagnation battle it out doesn’t even occur until middle adulthood, around the time a person is between the ages of 40 and 65!
Anyone who’s been through a quarter life crisis, however, knows that the itch to make a difference in the world surfaces much sooner.
Generation Y is made up of some of the most ambitious good-doers ever. We want to work for ourselves, we want to achieve success and wealth, and most importantly: we want to leave an indelible print of goodness in the world.
Unfortunately, you may not always know HOW to make a difference. And as a result, you can end up feeling frustrated, empty, and unfulfilled.
Once we’ve earned that college degree and have officially transitioned, more or less, from adolescence into adulthood, it’s easy to trip up on the gargantuan question marks of the decade: Am I doing enough? Does my life have meaning? Am I making a difference?
What’s all the fuss about making a difference anyway, though?
At the heart of it all, it has to do with interconnectedness. I recently started reading Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, and in it, a character discusses how humanity has long searched for atonement no matter their race, religion, or creed. He further explained that what people were really after without even realizing it, however, was at-one-ment. They want to feel at one with the Divine, at one with people, and at one with the universe at large.
Our natural inclination is to form connections and to feel at one with this thing called life that’s happening all around us every second of the day. When we’re not forming connections, we can feel isolated from the world, empty, unfulfilled, and frustrated.
In this setting, we’re like a cell phone losing battery power. What do you do when your cell battery is low? You plug it in. In the same way, we have to plug into things that are going to fuel us. When it comes to life, feeling like we’re making a difference is the best quality fuel you could ever hope to obtain.
I used to think that making a difference meant relocating to a third-world country, finding a cure for cancer, or achieving some big feat. A lot of times, we all make the mistake of thinking likewise. However, making a difference in the world is simpler than you might’ve imagined and can very well be something you can fit into your every-day life.
Below, I’ve listed three ways I’ve elected to make a difference in the world and I’m positive they can offer you the at-one-ment that your spirit is hungry for!
1) Write love letters to strangers. The power of a kind word can change someone’s inner world in immeasurable ways. In 2011, Hannah Brencher founded The World Needs More Love Letters. The organization has since grown to a community of over 20,000 individuals from 49 countries who have chosen to spread more love in the world through letters. Regularly, More Love Letters posts requests on behalf of people in trying situations who could really use encouraging words and sentiments. My father was a recipient not too long ago and I can speak from personal experience when I say that love letters do in fact make a difference in a person’s life. The letters we read filled us with joy, peace, laughter, and a sense of interconnectedness with the beautiful goodness that exists in our world.
2) Sponsor a child. I sponsor through World Vision, one of the largest humanitarian organizations in the world, serving close to 100 million people in nearly 100 countries. Their goal is to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice by making communities self-sustainable within a specific timeline. Not only are you helping to better an entire community, but you’re also forming a relationship with a child and encouraging that child to follow their dreams, stay in school, and believe in themselves. Your child will even correspond with you through letters if you’d like and World Vision will regularly send you pictures of your child as well as updates on how he/she is doing in school.
3) Volunteer. You have something that you’re passionate about, something that you love, something that stirs you up. For instance, I love dogs, so I used to volunteer at a local animal shelter walking and playing with dogs who hadn’t yet found a home. I knew I was making a difference because not only was I exercising these four-legged friends, I was also socializing them, so that when a potential adoptive family might ask to play with the dog, he’d be calmer and more well-mannered, which equaled one more canine finding a forever home! So what do you love to do? Who or what do you care about? Research local organizations and start getting involved! You’ll be making a difference and fueling up at the same time!
So, did any of these suggestions spark ideas? Will you be giving any a test-drive? What are some other ways that you’re choosing to make a difference in the world and in the lives of those around you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this article with a friend!