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How To Make A Big Difference (To Others And In The World)

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Published on , last updated on July 16, 2021

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Do you want to make a big difference in the world, but you don’t know where to start? You’re not alone, as it may seem like all your actions are inconsequential and don’t lead to any improvements. I’ve written this article to hopefully change your mind.

If you want to make a difference in the world, here are 7 actionable ways to help make the world a better place. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you. While some of these things may sound small and insignificant, they all have the power to inspire those around you. And that power can snowball into actual change.

Change starts with you. I’m going to show you how your actions can make a real difference to the world and those around you.

This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!

How to make a difference

So you want to make a difference, but you don’t know where to start? Here are 7 ways to ignite change in the world, that will hopefully inspire you to take action today.

1. Clean up your neighborhood

The world is messy, and it’s only going to get worse with the growing population. However, you can make a difference by picking up trash in your free time. This is probably the most simple, elegant and actionable way to not just make a difference in your community, but also in the world.

Try to go for a 30-minute walk around the block every week, and bring an empty trash bag with you. Depending on where you live, you can fill it up with trash quite easily. You’d be surprised at the amount of trash there is littered around.

man picking up trash on beach

Does this really make a difference? I know it may seem inconsequential, but your simple actions have the power to inspire others as well. Whenever I’ve gone out to pick up trash myself, I’ve had multiple people stop by for a quick chat. They all let me know how much they think that it’s amazing that somebody spends their (free) time picking up trash. As an indirect result, I believe these people are more inclined to think twice before throwing out their garbage on the street.

That’s how you can make a difference.

You won’t be alone, as there is a growing community of people dedicated to cleaning up the planet. Just have a look at this subreddit – with over 100,000 members – that shares experiences of “detrashing” around the world.

2. Challenge yourself to go vegan for a month

Veganism is a delicate subject for most people. But it’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

If you want to make a difference to the world, just being open-minded about a future in which the production of animal products is reduced is super important.

Here are just a couple of facts about our current impact on the environment: 

  • Animal farming is the leading cause of rainforest deforestation, the single largest driver of habitat loss in general.
  • Agriculture, including the farming of fish, is listed as being a threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 species that are currently facing extinction. Every single day, up to 150 animal species go extinct. 
  • The fishing method of bottom trawling alone is responsible for producing the same amount of emissions as the entire aviation industry.
  • If the world shifted to a plant-based diet, we could feed every mouth on the planet and global farmland could also be reduced by more than 75%.
  • Within the next thirty years, our (human) population is expected to increase to 10 billion. However, global trends are showing that animal product consumption is increasing regardless of the growing population.

We also released a study recently that showed that going vegan doesn’t have to negatively affect your life. In fact, we found that vegans are actually happier than carnivores.

So what do you have to lose (except for a future in which the world is actually a better place to live in)?

If you want to make a difference to the world, I want you to challenge yourself to go vegan for a month. This will show you that it’s not as hard as some people want you to believe. Depending on where you live, there are lots of plant-based alternatives that are just as tasty as their non-vegan counterparts.

You don’t have to go all-in at once, because success is achieved with small steps. While it may require some sacrifices, rewards like psychological well-being and satisfaction, and the continued existence of natural resources, make at least trying worth it!

3. Stand up for equality (even if you’re not the one being mistreated)

This is a big one.

The world is currently divided, pretty much in every way you look at it. This can almost all be traced back to inequality. Large groups of people are mistreated every day, be it due to deep-rooted racism or the gender pay gap.

You can make a real difference by standing up for equality whenever you see an opportunity. Unfortunately, these opportunities show up a lot more often than you might realize:

  • Whenever your traditional/conservative family member makes a jokey remark about someone from another race.
  • Or when your colleague gossips about your LBGTQ colleague.
  • Or even when your sports team doesn’t pass the ball to someone in the team that isn’t as good as the rest.

One thing that you can do in these situations is to ask yourself:

Would the world be a better place if everybody acted this way?

If the answer is no, then you can make a difference to the world by voicing your opinion against whatever’s happening.

I’m not saying you should fight fire with fire here, as that would only make things worse. What you should do instead is just stand up for your opinion and let everybody know how you feel about it. Even when you’re not the one being mistreated.

When you show the world that you’re against any form of inequality, you might inspire those around you to change their way of life as well.

4. Become a volunteer

Just like picking up trash, this is another way for you to make a difference that immediately shows results. By volunteering in your community, you will directly see the results of your work. Whether that’s because you’re helping animals in the shelter, or you’re tutoring your nephew with his math homework, you’ll directly make a difference to the cause that you’re volunteering for.

dog in animal shelter

That said, many people are reluctant to actually volunteer. Our lives are busy as they are, so why should you spend your time and energy on something that doesn’t pay?

The answer is quite simple, actually. Volunteering not only makes a positive difference to the world and the people around you, it also improves your mental health.

2007 study found that people who volunteer consistently report to be healthier both physically and mentally than those who do not. Another important finding of this study was that those who were less well socially integrated benefited the most, meaning that volunteering may be a way to empower groups who are socially excluded otherwise.

For this reason, volunteering is one of the best ways you can make a difference in the world.

5. Spread positivity to others

There’s plenty of proof that shows positivity makes the world a better place. Here’s a simple example from the Medical University of Rochester:

Researchers reviewed the results of over 80 studies to look for common findings. They found optimism had a remarkable impact on physical health. The study examined overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics. It seemed that those who had a more optimistic outlook did better and had better results than those who were pessimistic.

Can Optimism Make a Difference in Your Life?

While this proves the impact that positivity has on an individual, there’s also science that shows how positive behavior can increase happiness in those you interact with. This study found that your happiness can spread to your friends, which then spreads to their friends, and so on.

This may not result in a feedback loop where you get to see directly how much your actions make a difference in the world. But spreading positivity is arguably the most powerful way to make a difference. Because it not only helps you maintain happiness, it also spreads to the people around you.

These people will then feel happier and, therefore, spread more happiness in the world as well.

By spreading positivity, you can help to make the world a happier and better world to live in.

6. Offer to help someone without expecting anything in return

In high school, my English teacher made the class watch the movie “Pay It Forward”. I didn’t find the movie itself great (it didn’t involve as many explosions or car chases as I liked). But the main message of the movie has stuck with me ever since.

“Paying it forward” comes down to asking a person you’ve been kind to not return the favor, but instead to repay the kindness to someone else. That way, one simple act of kindness has the power to turn into a larger wave of kindness.

What can you do to implement this idea and make the world a better place?

  • Help out a colleague with a project of theirs.
  • Do some grocery shopping for an elder.
  • Give some of your food to a food bank.
  • Provide your support of a good cause at a rally.
  • Find opportunities to give compliments.
  • Give someone a lift.
  • Offer a listening ear to your friend or colleague.
  • Give away some of your stuff to a thrift shop.
  • Lots more…

This idea applies to everything. Even though your help is not requested, and you don’t stand to profit from giving away your time, you’ll be making the world a better place. And by specifically not asking for anything in return, you may inspire others to do the same.

This way, the positive energy of your act of kindness will not end when the kindness is returned. It will live on as your act of kindness spreads from person to person.

7. Donate money to a cause you believe in

If you’ve been reading this article thinking “man, I simply don’t have the time to go out and do all these things“, then here’s a simple thing you can do:

Donate a part of your money to a good cause. While it’s hard to see any real impact of your actions this way, it will still make a difference in the world.

You are probably reading this from a Western country. This means that you’re already better off than >50% of the world. There are a lot of people in the world that haven’t had as much luck as you. And they could use a bit of your help if only to have the same chances that you had while growing up.

So whether it’s the environment you want to support, animal welfare, refugee care, or hunger in Africa, your help can make a difference.

And if you’d rather spend the money on a vacation or a new watch, you should know that donating money is likely to raise your happiness more than that new watch.

well-known study once organized around 500 participants to play 10 rounds of a word-puzzle game. In each round, they could win 5 cents. They could either keep it or donate it. Afterward, they had to note down their level of happiness. The outcome revealed that those who donated their winnings were happier compared to those who kept their winnings for themselves.

So if you want to make a difference in the world but are still not sure what to do, think of a good cause you believe in and donate.

You have the power to make a difference

You don’t have the power to single-handedly change the world completely. Even the most powerful people in the world are finding it difficult to make a big lasting difference.

But you do have the power to inspire others.

Your power to inspire others is the key to making a larger difference in the world, far beyond what you can directly measure.

By inspiring those around you, your actions can snowball into something bigger. For example, I personally only started picking up trash because I saw a Reddit post someday about someone detrashing. I thought “hey, that looks quite fun actually”, and continued to find out more about what motivates these people.

If some total stranger across the world hadn’t shared his experiences with detrashing, I would not have come across it on Reddit. Maybe then it would have taken me another year before I found out about it, if at all.

While this may be a silly example, what I’m trying to say here is that your actions can have the power to snowball into something bigger. Even though your actions seem inconsequential and minor, you can make a real difference when you can inspire others to be open-minded.

Wrapping up

Making a difference might seem hard, but I hope that you know by now that it’s completely possible. You can make a positive difference to the world and it doesn’t even have to cost you your own happiness and mental health! By inspiring others through your own actions, you have the power to make the world a better place.

What did I miss? Do you want to share something in particular that you have done to make a difference to the world? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Hugo

Hugo Huijer

Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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