At the beginning of this year (and every year), I dedicated a full day to dream about the year ahead. It is one of my favorite annual activities. Together, with my wife, we plan all the things: family events, finances, etc. I set personal goals related to my job and health. I dream about what I want to accomplish that year. I’ve learned that if we do not take the time to plan, we will drift off course and not achieve the goals that matter to us.
So we set a plan. We plan for our health and well-being, for financial goals, for fun times and for rest. But often, we forget to plan for the most important area: where we can make an impact in other’s lives. Who are we going to serve? How do we make a difference? Asking ourselves these questions is vital to living a life of meaning and significance.
It is important to remember that one does not make a difference by accident. Taking the time to process and plan your impact is essential. Often our passion is there, but we lack a clear plan on how to execute or how to put our passions into practice.
Now that we have entered February, it’s time to reflect on all we’ve done in the last month and what we plan to do in the remaining 11 months. Ask yourself: How can I make 2020 the most generous and intentional year yet, so that this time next year, I can look back and see how I made a difference in my community and around the world?
Generosity Requires Intention
Set yourself up for success by making goals that are achievable and clear.
To set these goals, you must first identify your passions. For more on how to do this, you can read my blog about discovering your impact matrix here. Ask yourself: what do you care about in this world? What drives you to action? How do you want to make our world better? Some examples might include addressing homelessness, the environment, the refugee crisis, access to quality education, clean water, etc.
After you identify what your passions are, the next step is to conduct a bit of research to find which organizations address the cause you chose to pursue. Write these findings down.
According to a study done by Dominican University in California, when you write your intentions on paper, the chances of your success increase by 42%. Acknowledging your interest on paper is an imperative step that drives you to action because it will 1) focus your impact and 2) create an action plan for HOW you will make a difference and support this work.
Generosity Requires Habits and Automation
I find that the easiest way to make a difference is to automate your impact. Each month, I contribute support to multiple organizations, which I back on an automated, recurring basis. Even when life gets busy, I know that I am helping the organizations I support through my automatic donations, with little effort on my end.
As a founder of a nonprofit, I can attest to the effectiveness of this. When our donors commit to monthly, recurring donations, whether it be through child sponsorship or The Circle, it makes the most significant difference, as those donations create robust predictability. The automation of my giving not only provides me with peace of mind, but it also gives organizations the fuel they need to carry out the work that matters to both of us!
The next thing I typically do is figure out how I can make a difference beyond just the giving of my financial resources. We all have talents and gifts that can be used to help others. As you plan the year, write down how much of your time you want to, or are able to, volunteer. Once you add that time to your calendar, the odds of you actually doing the task increase significantly.
When you automate your giving and thoughtfully calendar your time to volunteer, you help remove the pressure points, like busyness and stress, that often get in the way.
Generosity Requires Community
Group fitness has changed my health. About five times a week for the last four years, I’ve participated in Crossfit. For me, group workouts are a powerful force that help me focus on my fitness goals because I am held accountable by a positive community of people who share similar goals that we can work towards together.
The same is true for making a difference. Rally a group of people who care about the same cause you do, and hold each other accountable in pursuing it. When life gets busy or your budget gets tight, you can lean on each other and encourage each other.
Making a Difference Should Be Fun
Lastly, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, just remember that making a difference SHOULD BE FUN. At times, giving back to others can definitely be hard. Making a difference will often require sacrifice, but that does not mean it won’t be life-giving and fun!
I’ve had the privilege to take hundreds of people around the world with my organization to visit with some of the communities and the phenomenal local leaders with whom we work. Each trip, participants see difficult things, brokenness, and darkness. Together, we have to process those tough realities. But, amidst the difficult conversations we also commit to enjoying the time we have in a country, learning from its leaders, having fun and enjoying the beauty of a culture. We commit to spending some time adventuring and experiencing the beauty and uniqueness that each place has to offer.
When we process our feelings and experiences as a group, not only are we creating fantastic memories that last a lifetime, but we are also maintaining a sense of accountability when we return to the chaos of our lives. We take our collective experience from that trip and devote our time towards advocacy, education and collaboration on how we can support the local leaders and their respective communities’ work once we have returned home.
Make 2020 The Most Impactful Year Yet
2020 can be a fantastic year. Like all years, it will inevitably have its ups and downs. That said, if we set clear intentions, automate our generosity, and connect with communities of people who share our passions, we can ensure that 2020 will also be a year of impact!
Chris Marlow is the CEO of Help One Now, an organization that empowers families in developing countries through high-capacity local leaders with proven solutions to end extreme poverty.PREVIOUS ARTICLENEXT ARTICLE