I have an overwhelming desire to connect my passions with positive change. But there are so many things in this world to be passionate about. Passion to make the world a better place. Passion to expand education, uplift the impoverished, and abolish injustice. I find myself stuck; Wanting to do more, but not being capable of such grand plans…
Last week my friend asked: “What can you do today to make a difference for tomorrow?”
Her challenge blew me away.
To begin discovering an answer I interviewed a group of people at Acton University.
1) Be open-minded and pay attention to reality
Sometimes I have the tendency of being a know-it-all. I get caught up telling others my ideas and fail to listen to their insights. Ken Sparks, President & CEO of Children’s HopeChest said, “Open your mind to be a learner and be more available to what God is really trying to reveal to you. It’s about an attitude shift. What do I need to [learn] today … that will help modify tomorrow?”
2) Ask everyone something
Questions. Questions. Questions. The student who asked “too many” questions in school was always frowned upon. But if you don’t ask people questions, how can you learn from them? Bob Keith from the Human Flourishing Project encouraged that I “ask everyone something” and that I would “learn a tremendous amount, perhaps even more than you would at your university.” But most strikingly he said, “Take the wisdom, take the experiences, take the scar tissue, take the insights, take the lessons learned, take the regrets, and take them seriously.” It means something to bravely ask, but it means something more to sincerely listen.
3) Be a problem solver
According to Dave Geenens, Director of Benedictine School of Business, “Much of what we see in the world are symptoms. Why does this poverty exist? Why does this hunger exist? Why does this happen? Drill down to the core problems.” Problem-solving is both a skill and a mindset. It creates solutions to difficult situations, but it also brings out the best in people, transforming their environments.
4) “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” – Blessed Mother Teresa
It’s important to take a sweeping vision and break it down into practical objectives. As a passionate student, I want to go out and change the world, but it all starts with small acts of love. Dr. J.J. Johnson Leese of Seattle Pacific University said, “I actually worked with Mother Teresa with Missionaries of Charity back in 1989-90 and I saw her do that every single day. I was really motivated and empowered by that.”
5) “Walk through doors that are open and don’t bother with doors that are shut.”— Dave Geenens
As a student, now is the time to seek the vocation I feel called to. As Dave said, “Don’t be shocked if it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.” Two years ago I was studying pre-med biology, and now I’m studying business. Dave highlighted that it’s the perfect time to learn and make mistakes because the consequences aren’t severe.
6) Act with the end in mind
Martha from Ghana responded, “Act with focus. Have the end of what you want in mind today so that you can achieve it.” It’s important to consciously visualize what you want in life. If you don’t set goals and recognize who you are, then you allow others to perpetually define your life.
7) Find a wisdom counsel
Peter Greer, President of HOPE International, stressed the importance of constellation mentoring. “Instead of trying to find the one super mentor that doesn’t exist, break it down into the specific areas that you want to learn.” As a college student, I am constantly seeking advice and wisdom. Lisa Slayton, President of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, said, “Ask them to help you and come alongside you, sharing their life experiences.” Mentors are a valuable resource, bridging students with success.
8) Continually work to improve your skills
A skill is one’s excellence in performance. College is particularly a time to perfect my skills, because they’re what define my future career. Nimo from Ghana said, “I must have the skills that are being taught so that based on that, I can in the future make use of those skills to make the world around me relatively a better place.”
9) Recognize the Value of Work
We were created to work. Employing our gifts allow us to understand our identity and purpose. Dave Spickard, CEO of Jobs for Life said, “We can move beyond just giving away food and clothes because that only helps for a day. When you help someone learn their dignity, experience it, and have the opportunity to go to work; their lives are transformed forever.” Work can easily become drudgery, but there is freedom when its beauty is recognized.
10) Don’t be absent from what’s really important
Dave Geenens said, “You’re going to make a difference for tomorrow no matter what you do. So the question is, what’s the magnitude?” How can I avoid making a negative difference? It’s easy to get so caught up in school and work that I seem to forget about the important things. Faith shouldn’t be ignored because it’s the foundation for wisdom and change.
After interviewing and reflecting, I am reminded of Luke 12:48. “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required.” I want to use my gifts, tackling my opportunities, and acting with purpose, “For the Life of the World.”
What exactly are you going to do today to make a positive difference for tomorrow?