A lot of people make the mistake of thinking you have to do something exceptional to make a huge difference in the world. Changes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re found in acts of kindness, memorial donations, and the small things we do every day.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How to Make a Difference in Your Community
- How to Make a Difference at Work or School
- How to Make a Difference in the World or Environment
- How to Make a Difference in Someone’s Life
With our everyday lives becoming busier than ever, how do you make sure your impact is a good one? The good news is you don’t need to go out of your way to make a difference.
Here are 21 special ways to make a difference in the world, whether it’s in your own life, your family, or the community at large.
How to Make a Difference in Your Community
While it’s true there are endless problems around the world in desperate need of help, you don’t have to travel much farther than your backyard to start making an impact.
1. Use your skills for good
Everyone has something they’re good at. If you’re not sure where your skills could be best put to use, check in with your local community center. They’re your best source for local information.
In addition, check out VolunteerMatch to see any calls for volunteers that are posted online in your area.
2. Work at a food bank
One of the best ways to give back to those in need is by partnering with a food bank. There are a lot of different ways to help.
You could help organize supplies, donate food, prepare warm meals, or clean up after each event. Food banks can be found through local religious centers, shelters, and community groups.
3. Assist with an emergency
Every community faces emergencies from time to time. Whether it’s a hurricane in a seaside town or an ongoing fire, there are always situations where people are called to action.
Instead of waiting idle, see how you can be of service. It’s how we respond in moments of crisis that define who we are, so this is a truly important way to contribute.
4. Donate blood
Hospitals are always in need of blood for transfusions and other life-saving services. This is something your body naturally replenishes, and it costs you nothing but a few minutes of your time. Find a local blood drive through the Red Cross to help save lives.
5. Neighborhood clean up
We’ve all observed litter and messes in our own communities. It’s never appealing to see trash and other debris on the ground in our favorite parks and downtowns.
Volunteer with a group or put some friends together to host a neighborhood clean up. You’d be surprised just how much of a difference you can make with an hour of work.
6. Shop local
Though small, shopping locally makes a big difference. Small businesses are always competing with big-name retailers, and it’s not easy for them to stay as competitive.
If you can afford to, do your best to shop small. That means visiting local boutiques, retailers, farmer’s markets, and craft stalls.
7. Attend a charity race/walk
Every community hosts a range of charity races and walks throughout the year. It’s okay if you don’t have any running experience! You can still participate.
To join, you’ll likely need to make a donation in honor of the cause. From there, you just have to run (or walk) along with the rest of your community.
How to Make a Difference at Work or School
If you’re looking to make a difference you can really see yourself, why not focus on your workplace or school? This is how to make someone’s day really special, whether you’re assisting a new coworker or someone struggling to keep up with coursework.
8. Become a mentor
Mentors pave the way for others to follow. Whether you’re a mentor to a new employee or a younger student, this is a powerful way to help someone else reach their goals.
Within the workplace, see if there’s anyone in need of extra assistance. Many workplaces assign mentors to newer employees to help everyone advance. For students, there are a lot of programs to choose from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters or the YMCA.
9. Take a coworker to lunch or coffee
Coworkers help us get a little bit closer to our goals, and they’re a necessity in the workplace.
When was the last time you said “thank you” for all their hard work? Treating a coworker to lunch or coffee is a great way to let them know you care about their efforts.
10. Clean common areas clean
Keeping your office or school common areas clean can be a big chore. This is usually a point of frustration for workers and students, so taking the initiative goes a long way.
You don't need to invest in any complicated cleaning methods. Just taking some time to take out the trash, do the dishes, or wipe down counters will make all the difference.
11. Write thank-you notes
The art of thank you notes has largely fallen out of practice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t revise it as a way to make a difference.
Writing a thank you note to your teachers, coworkers, peers, and managers is a powerful way to show someone you care.
12. Do things without being asked
Though it might sound small, this is one of the most impressive things on this list. Instead of asking if there’s anything you can do, find ways to be useful. Whether this means helping a coworker or working with a student who’s fallen behind, take the initiative.
13. Stay positive
Nobody likes a downer. While it’s not always easy to look on the bright side, it goes a long way.
When it comes to leaving a legacy, do you want people to remember you as a positive or a negative person? If you can stay positive in the face of adversity, others will naturally follow your lead.
14. Be a strong listener
While what you say and do is always valuable, it’s not the entire story. Though easily overlooked, being a strong listener helps you understand others, make deeper connections, and be remembered. Everyone wants to feel heard and appreciated.
How to Make a Difference in the World or Environment
Finally, you can also make a wider impact on the world or on the environment. While change starts at home, it doesn’t have to end there.
15. Use less plastic
Much of our plastic ends up in landfills, and it’s difficult to recycle. The best way to combat this is to simply use less plastic.
Most of us use a lot of single-use plastic without even thinking. Are there ways you can reduce and reuse to avoid throwing things away? Over time, this adds up.
16. Donate to a cause
While it’s not always in the budget, making a charitable donation to an environmental group or positive cause is a great way to help those in need. If you’re not sure where to donate, review charity ratings at Charity Watch.
17. Eat less meat
No matter your dietary choices, eating meat is hard on the environment. While you don’t need to give up your favorites, choosing to eat less meat or participating in Meatless Mondays is a great way to help the environment.
Currently, meat and dairy contribute to 14.5% of the world’s yearly greenhouse gases. Just by cutting out meat (and maybe even dairy) a few times a week, you’re helping make the world a greener place.
18. Plant a garden
Along with eating less meat, why not plant some of your own food? You don’t need that much space to get started.
If you have a small backyard, patio, or even a windowsill, you’re ready to get started. Whether you grow vegetables or herbs, this is sure to step up your cooking skills.
19. Drive less
It’s not always easy to drive less nowadays, especially with people commuting farther and farther to work. If possible, look for ways to drive less. You might use public transport, ride your bike to the market, or carpool with friends.
20. Raise awareness about a cause
Is there a cause you believe in passionately? This is a great opportunity to raise awareness to generate support.
You might write some articles to publish online or even just share some links on social media. Better yet, organize a community event to get others involved!
21. Start composting
Did you know that 60% of household waste could actually be composted instead of thrown away? It’s true, so now is the time to get started.
You can easily start a compost in your own home, or work with your neighbors to create one for your entire community to utilize. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why you never did it sooner.
How to Make a Difference in Someone’s Life
If you’re wondering how to help people on a smaller scale, it’s simpler than you think. These ideas below are sure to turn someone’s day around.
22. Apologize to someone
We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of. While it’s easy to bury your head in the sand, it takes bravery to apologize.
You can write a letter, en email, or even just say you’re sorry in person. While this doesn’t always right the wrong, it does take a weight off everyone’s shoulders.
It really does take a village to raise children. If you know any struggling parents, why not take the kiddo off their hands for a few hours? They might need to catch up on chores or just get some extra sleep. Either way, they’ll be thankful.
24. Cook for a friend
Nothing is better than a home-cooked meal. Preparing something special for your friends and family is a small act of kindness that’s always appreciated. Better yet, host a potluck for everyone to enjoy!
25. Thank a serviceman or servicewoman
The brave men and women who serve our country all deserve thanks for their contribution. You can thank these individuals as you see them, but you can also write letters, bake treats, and make sure they feel appreciated no matter where they are.
26. Adopt an animal
Thousands of pets don’t have homes. This is a great way to make a positive impact if you’re able to offer a space for a furry friend. You’ll also gain a wonderful new companion!
27. Donate hair
If you have long hair, you could donate your locks to a good cause. Many charity groups take these donated strands to turn into wigs for those with cancer and other illnesses.
28. Be a mindful consumer
Last but not least, try your best to be a mindful consumer. The things you purchase have an impact. Were they made ethically? Were the workers paid fairly, and do they have a safe space to work?
While it takes a while to master, learning how to be a mindful consumer makes you a smart shopper. You’ll have more confidence in your purchases knowing that the world is a better place.
Are You Ready to Make a Change?
Change starts with you. Once you’re gone, you’ll be remembered for the actions you took. We all have a limited time on this planet, so why not do the best with what we’re given?
While you don’t have to do everything on this list above, even the small stuff counts. Making these small things a habit in your daily life makes the world a brighter place for everyone.
- Moskin, Julia. “Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered.” NY Times. 30 April 2019. NYTimes.com.