Part of you really wants to make a difference. You want your life to count for something. You want the world – or at least some part of it – to be better because you were here. You want somebody – or many somebodies – to be happier, healthier, more whole as a result of your presence.

But how do you do that? In the middle of a busy life it can seem like most of what you do is fruitless. Much of your activity seems to make little impact.

You are probably already making more of a difference than you think. But here’s how to make sure your legacy is a lasting one.

Think of one person who made a significant and positive difference in YOUR life. What were the most important aspects that affected you? What did that person say or do that stayed with you? How did you feel when you were with them? What were the things they valued most?

In thinking about that parent, coach, teacher, pastor, or friend, you probably felt they cared about you, understood you, believed in you. You felt special when you were with them, and that you were important to them.

And whether or not they talked about it, you unconsciously picked up characteristics they demonstrated. Characteristics such as hard-working, courageous, kind, thrifty, strong, faithful, hopeful, or loving. And what they did made a much bigger difference than what they said.

So here are the two lessons that will guarantee you will have a positive impact on those who come after you:

  1. Live With Integrity. You’re not perfect. But let your life do the heavy talking. Let your behavior back up what you say. When you’re wrong, admit it. Are the values you say you have backed up in what you do? The someone you hope to influence will remember your actions more than  your words.
  2. Believe in Them. If you want to impact a child, a friend, a client, a customer, or anyone, in a positive way, believe in them. Study them, and do your best to understand them. Look for the best in them, and encourage them. Don’t try to impress them: allow yourself to be impressed by them.

Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s mother, once had dinner on consecutive evenings with Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and then his chief rival William Gladstone. In commenting on the experience, she reportedly said, “When I left the dining room after sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when I sat next to Disraeli I left feeling that I was the cleverest woman.”

To make a positive impact on someone, focus on them. They will long remember.

And you will have made a lasting positive impact.

Your turn: Who made the biggest positive impact on your life, and why? Are there important factors I have left out? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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