Never doubt the impact you have

Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I believe that we all want this to be true. We want to know that what we do leaves a mark beyond the proverbial footprints in the sand. I want to know that my actions will leave a lasting positive impression, even if it’s just for one person, in one fleeting moment.

You see, when I was a little girl, I was pretty sure I could be president of the United States. I guess I have been aspiring to have an impact since I was six! As I grew up, I stopped wanting to be president. (I actually wanted to be a ballerina, which was, frankly, more of a stretch than being president…) But even though neither aspiration came true, I never lost the desire to have an impact and to make a difference.

I am not naturally drawn to public service, so I will never run for office or seek a life in the public eye. My source of creating impact has been work. I need to know that what I do at work has created positive change along some dimension of the business. And, the one I personally get the most satisfaction from, is creating positive change for the people I work with. I measure my personal success by whether the people who work with me are better off, by their definition, than they were before they worked with me. This can range from helping them take a next step in their career to something as simple as giving them advice on a project they are working on.

What’s true for you? Do you think you’re happier at work when you know that what you have done makes a difference? Or said another way, are you unhappy at work when what you’ve done appears to be ignored or unappreciated?

Another aspect to this for me is not to “do the big thing” that gets recognized and rewarded by the masses, but rather, to pay attention to what others around you may be quietly doing—and to recognize the impact of their efforts. A simple “thank you” can have a huge impact on someone who was previously an unsung hero. Think of how great you feel when someone unexpectedly recognizes your work—this is worth multiplying.

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2 Responses to “Never doubt the impact you have”

  1. holly says:

    Denice,

    Thanks for this post. Over the course of my career I have spent a large effort on this idea. I took a leadership course in my last year of my MBA, the very first assignment was to imagine if the Wall Street Journal printed a front page article announcing your ‘retirement’ from a position – what would be the tag line or best phrase summarizing your time spent. I loved this assignment, it was clever. Taking a look at your career from the end and developing a statement to define what is really important to you. My first statement included three main ingredients, 1. Committed to people, 2. treating everyone with respect, 3. Making an impact/difference.

    The challenge for me really came when defining impact/purpose. I felt these words, Impact/purpose/meaning, all needed to be written and defined separately.

    I came to find that being committed to people and their success is having an impact!!!! Not just a small one, but this can be even more fulfilling than constantly charging forward to make some individual statement. Shifting from this idea of making small personal achievements to making strides collectively goes against most natural instincts.

    Through our lives we are rewarded on personal gain – making that good mark in school, learning to ride a bike or drive a car. These individual achievements give a sense of self satisfaction but the impact is small and quickly forgotten. Now you are expected to achieve the next step and then the next…..

    Shifting effort from internal to external – from individual to collective, makes a much greater impact and is much more rewarding. Recognizing others in these efforts multiplies the return, certainly a good habit to have.

    In short;) I must feel I am making a difference with my work and my life. I am hard-wired to think this way. I have to work very hard to keep this notion present in everything I do. It is so easy to get lost in the annoyances of work, those things that seem to make NO difference or are a complete waste of time!

    Thanks for your post and reminding me to stay present and keep focused on what is important! I have certainly lost site of this as of late. I need to dig out my ‘career/life statement’ now;)

    Keep up the good posts!

    Holly

  2. admin says:

    Holly,

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment! It’s so easy in the day-to-day activities to lose sight of what nourishes our sense of happiness; I still have many days where I get a little lost as well.

    Clearly, you have your own north star that has guided you over the years–my hope for you is that you remember this–it’s so powerful!

    Good luck!

    Denice

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