You’re the only one who can make the difference. Whatever your dream is, go for it.
-Earvin “Magic” Johnson
At the beginning of each school year, I invite student leaders to think about what they hope the end of the year will look like. I have never heard a student say he or she hopes the end of the year will be exactly as things are right now. In fact, one of the reasons they became involved in student leadership is because they had an idea of how things might look different if they had a chance to lead.
This is why I encourage student leaders to possess a “make-a-difference mindset.” It’s one of the five core leadership skills I teach every year.
Making a difference is all about inspiring and implementing change. It’s also one of the paths to leadership. Leaders look at where people are and point them to an ideal or better future. In other words, leaders create and cast vision.
In between our present reality and the hopeful future (as described by the vision) is a space. This space is called the difference.
Everyone can make a difference. The question is whether or not it will be a positive or negative one. Change happens all the time…not always for the better.
I encourage student leaders to be the kind of difference-makers who will inspire positive change. I want them to solve a problem, accomplish a goal, and reach their potential.
I’ve thought about the various stages a person will go through in an effort to make a difference. It’s the process of possessing a make-a-difference mindset.
These thoughts are a work in progress. I would love to hear your feedback on these stages. Which ones resonate with you? Have I missed something? Keep these questions in mind as you read through the list.
1. Discontent: The entire notion of change begins with a healthy discontent for the way things are. We begin to see where something could be better or something needs to be improved.
2. Desire: Out of our discontent we are motivated to do something about the present circumstances. We realize change is necessary and we feel like we should do something about it.
3. Dream: Since we are no longer satisfied with present circumstances, we begin to envision a better future. We aspire to change something, to become something different than we are now.
4. Determination: Any type of change is going to cost something. We must measure our own courage, strength, resources, and resolve to ensure we are ready to pay the price of achieving the dream.
5. Do: All the thinking in the world (while vitally necessary) doesn’t change anything until we put plans, strategies, and schemes into motion. Action puts the “maker” in difference-maker.
6. Discipline: Lots of people start out with the best of intentions and energetic momentum. But the journey to reach the dream is full of obstacles. This is where leadership is most necessary. It’s easy to get lost in the space between the present reality and an ideal future.
7. Delegate: If you do everything by yourself, you’re not leading, you’re simply working. The difference will be greater and long-lasting as more and more people get involved. This is where one person striving to make a difference turns into a lot of people invested in a cause.
At first glance, these are helpful stages to consider when wanting to make a difference in your own life. I think it’s okay to practice on yourself. But the most powerful differences we can make will be the ones we make in the lives of others.
Let me ask you this: Where are these stages evident in your own efforts to be a difference-maker?