Want to make an impact? Start helping others.

help-others

“The worst thing in the world is for an individual to live, breathe and exist and leave this earth, die, and not make an impact.”

-Marvin Sapp

Most people, if asked, would tell you that they want to leave an impact. Something everlasting that their children’s children will know about and share stories about. It’s a noble goal to have in one’s life, but it is something that all too often, people end up falling short of. We get stuck in a routine that does not allow us to build our legacy. How many people exist in today’s world, going from day to day like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day. Waking up to do the same automatic routine that they have been doing for the last 5 years without putting any thought into why they are doing it.

This was my life. I, like many of you, want to make an impact. I want my story to be out there so that when I’m gone, my children, their children, and even their children, will know who I was and what I did to make the world a better place. I was stuck in a rut for a long time, and lately I’ve been taking steps to get out of that same old routine.

About a week ago, I made a promise to one of my friends to begin writing. I have always romanticized the idea of being a published author, but I have always come up short on the delivery of the actual writing. Coming up with ideas on what to write about? No problem. Actually sitting down and doing the work? Queue the anxiety.

But why was that? People tell me all the time that I am an “expert” in my field, but I have always had this underlying fear of not being able to deliver my message in a way that people will actually take value from. It is almost as if there is a perceived barrier between my brain and my writing (typing) hand, and I was unsure of how to overcome that. That fear of not being able to deliver my message properly has potentially led to missed opportunities for communication that I will never recover. Perhaps there are people out there in the world that could have benefited from my message that will no longer have the opportunity to read it due to this delay in producing work. This has led to a whole new set of fears for me – the fear of not being able to help others, the fear of my word not living on after I’m gone, and the fear of not providing some sort of value to the world.

Just shy of four years ago, I was forced into a life changing situation that completely uprooted me and forced me to take a good hard look at my life. Recently, I was fortunate enough to have the time to sit with some professionals in the field of personal development and begin the process of learning about how to provide real value to the world. For so long, I was bent on becoming a wealthy and successful business person or entrepreneur. I was so caught up in this wild goose chase that I became focused only on my personal needs, not of the people around me. I realized through this process that I was going about it all wrong.

To truly succeed in life and make an impact on the world we have to provide some type of value to those that are around us. You see, there is a certain value that each of us can provide others. Each of us has a completely unique set of skills and traits that allow us to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Whether you are a CEO or unemployed, rich or poor, black or white, there is a very good chance that you have the power within you to leave a positive impact.

The process that I have followed to find how I can add value to other’s lives may seem daunting, but in reality is quite simple, and it’s one that anyone can undertake. If you want to begin taking steps to help others and provide value to the world at large, start by doing these things.

Understand your strengths and weaknesses

There is a relatively common tool that is often used in businesses that helps organizations to determine what they are good at and where they are lacking in skill. This tool is called a SWOT analysis and it is used to help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is a powerful tool in business when used properly, but I feel that it is even better for personal growth.

Dedicate some time to sitting down with a pen and paper in a comfortable environment. This is an introspective exercise, and you will find the most success with it if you free yourself from any distractions. Put the kids to bed, shut off your cell phone, turn on some soft background music, and get comfortable.

Start by writing your strengths. What kind of things are you good at? What advantages do you have over others (education, experience, location, personal connections, etc.)? What kind of things do you regularly succeed at that others struggle with? Asking yourself these types of questions will help you identify your strengths.

Next, write your weaknesses. What are the things that you find difficult to do? Are there gaps in your education that could lead to problems? What kind of bad habits do you have? It is important to be honest with yourself during this session. It can be very hard to acknowledge our shortcomings in life, but it is also an extremely important part of becoming self-aware.

Third, write your opportunities. This should be done from two different angles. What strengths do you have that you can capitalize on, and how will you do it? What weaknesses do you have that can and need to improve, and what will you do to improve them? Be sure to focus only on things that you can control. For example, if during the weakness section you recognize that you are short, you wouldn’t want to focus on finding ways to become taller. Some things we have no control over, and it is foolish to spend all of our time worrying about that. Focus instead on the things that you do have control over improving.

Finally, write down any threats to progress. Are there any financial obligations that may limit you from capitalizing on your opportunities? Are there any family obligations that may limit your time to develop your strengths and weaknesses? This is a crucial part of understanding how to capitalize on your strengths and weaknesses as it will make you aware of any risks to progress, and increase your chances of avoiding these pitfalls in the future.

Find your passion

This is an area that I struggled with throughout my twenties. I became a father at a young age, and with that came the responsibility of not only having to worry about feeding and clothing myself, but feeding, clothing, and raising another human being. As most young parents do, I put schooling aside and began focusing on how to make money. I was extremely fortunate in finding an employer that has treated me incredibly well for the last 11 years, and I have worked my way through the ranks to become a highly valued team member.

While I am very fortunate for where life has taken me to this point, it didn’t come without its cost. The convenience of falling into higher positions because it was the “right next move” combined with an increased responsibility at home of raising children and managing a household before I was ready led to me putting off the journey of finding what I was truly passionate about. Sure, there were things that I cared about, but putting myself last more often than not did not allow me the time to focus on myself.

Two years ago I recognized this as a large gap in my life and I went on a journey of self-discovery to understand what my true calling in life is. If you have yet to find what it is that you are passionate about in life, now is a good time to do so. Spend time reflecting on the things that inspire you, motivate you, and make life worth living for you. There are many tools out there that can assist in finding your passion – from week long retreats to web based courses – and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this. The most important thing to do in this step is to remain open to what the universe has in store for you and embracing it fully.

Combine your passion with your SWOT

This is the fun step in this process and where you will be able to determine how you can provide value to the world. In this step, you’ll want to combine something that you are passionate about with your strengths and weaknesses.

For example, say that you are passionate about travel and seeing the world. You understand that there is true beauty in nature and you take vacations to the most exotic places on earth. You may even have a bucket list of places that you want to travel to. When analyzing your personal SWOT analysis, you see that you are skilled in telling stories through pictures. In this situation, it is pretty clear to see that you could provide value to the world by showing people the incredible sights that they otherwise would not have access to.

But it doesn’t have to be limited to your strengths. Say that one of your weaknesses is being out of shape, and one of your passions is to get in shape and become an athlete. Is one of your strengths communication? Imagine the amount of value you could provide if you started a YouTube channel and began a daily vlog where you share information that you learn regarding diet and exercise all while documenting your journey to physical fitness!

There are countless ways that you can combine your passions with your strengths and weaknesses in order to provide value and make a positive change for the world. This article is my own personal example of such an exercise. I am passionate about personal development and teaching, and the written word is one of my strengths. This naturally would lead one to assume that I should write on the topic of self-improvement, but I struggled to do so until I recognized that one of my weaknesses was my ability to procrastinate on tasks because of a fear of how my message would be received.

If you feel like you are not providing the value that you could be, go through this exercise to learn how you could provide value for the world. Feel free to shoot me an email at brettgill@gmail.com if you have any questions or if you want to share how you will provide positive value to the world!

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