“Life is problems. Living is solving problems.” ― Raymond E. Feist
I had a classmate in college named Ben who struggled to keep his grades just above the passing mark. If he wasn’t missing half his classes, he was practically catatonic when he did show up.
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. Just the semester before, Ben was doing well and even quite social.
We weren’t close or anything, but I decided to get to the bottom of it since no one else seemed to care or notice what was happening to this guy.
On a whim, I said I was going to grab something to eat, and he could join me if he wanted. To my surprise, he said yes.
It took all of twenty minutes of small talk and a few bites when I came out with it.
I asked Ben point blank what was going on with him.
After staring at the floor and fidgeting with his sandwich for a full minute, he laid it out.
“My grandma died from cancer and I really can’t handle it right now. I don’t even know if I should finish studying here,” Ben said, holding back tears.
He went on, “My dad left me when I was three and my mom was in between psychiatrists while I was growing up. My grandma was the only one who took care of me. I was hoping she’d see me graduate and make something of myself, but so much for that.”
I couldn’t really say anything more than “Yeah” and “That sucks, I’m sorry.” Being there with him was more important than trying to say something to soften the blow.
So Ben had a kind of existential crisis, now that the person who raised him to be a proper adult was gone.
He lost his sense of purpose and felt it was pointless to create something positive in this world.
I kind of took it upon myself to check in with him every now and then after that, and we’d sometimes grab a bite when our schedules weren’t too crazy.
Thankfully, he slowly pulled himself away from the brink of despair.
He decided to get professional help several months down the road, but our little chats continued.
After almost a year since I broke the ice with Ben, he told me, “Hey, I never really got to thank you. Our conversations put things in perspective for me and made me want to help myself. I realized that my grandma would have wanted me to keep going and change other people’s lives.”
Sometime after that, we reconnected online and I was blown away to find out that he became a full-time high school counselor. He said in his email:
“I think my purpose is to help other people find the light missing in their lives, much like how I was before. Thanks again for everything.”
“What can I do? I’m just one person.”
Like Ben, many of us have felt at one point or another that our actions don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
It’s pointless to even try, some might say. But I’ll show you 5 ways you can empower yourself, eliminate that feeling of futility and be an agent of change:
#1: Put on your armor
There’s the saying that goes, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
I personally live by this truth – I’ve found that everything I had to overcome made me wiser, quicker and tougher in the process.
People often limit themselves to how much they can grow because the thought can be terrifying.
The idea that you could transform into a superior version of yourself lies in the realm of the unknown, and that doesn’t sit well with a lot of folks.
If you want to do something that matters in the world, you need to embrace those challenges and push yourself further than you ever thought you could.
You can’t see it now, but the more you grapple with that which terrifies you, the stronger you get.
Think of it this way – what if you really pushed your limits and REALLY applied yourself…five years ago?
Where do you think you’d be right now? Probably somewhere better.
I’m not trying to make you feel bad though.
We’ve all wasted opportunities before, and that’s part of being human.
But now you know the truth.
Think of all the years AHEAD of you, and the opportunities and challenges you’ve yet to encounter.
Make the most of them, and you’ll be unstoppable.
#2: Respect your time
Fortune magazine recently featured a survey which found that a typical office worker wastes about 8 hours every week on non-related work activities.
This includes surfing the web on their mobile phones and attending to personal errands.
So in a month, that’s 32 hours down the drain for just ONE employee.
And the survey included a relatively small group of about 600 office workers – more than half of which were wasting those eight hours.
Conservatively speaking, you’re looking at 9,600 work hours lost in a single month for those people.
Imagine how they could have better spent that time improving themselves, working on their skills, honing their craft and ultimately, changing the world.
It’s painful to think about, really.
What about you? How many hours on average do you think you’ve wasted on trivial things when you should have been working, learning and growing?
That lost time may be costing you more than you think.
Now imagine if you “took care of business” while you were on the clock and kept your leisure hours separate.
What if you kept this kind of habit for a few years at least? How would those recovered hours help you get to where you want to be in the future?
You could spend those hours learning a new language, get a side income project going, exploring the world and anything else that would help you make a difference in this world.
Again, it goes back to the fact that you can’t possibly fathom what you’re truly capable of – not until you plug those leaks in your workday, at least.
#3: Realize your place in the universe
While others see themselves as just some random person in a faceless crowd, you can look at it differently.
Imagine yourself at the center of a hub, with other people connected to you. And imagine those people with their own connections, branching out into a vast network.
Now, whenever you do something that affects at least ONE person, think about how it affects the other individuals connected to that single person.
You’re creating a wave of change, and you can’t see the full effects of your actions.
And remember, this is just an extremely simplified way of looking at it.
We’re ALL doing something that impacts the lives of others, and this goes into the millions.
In other words, every decision you make – or don’t make – creates an impact whether you want it or not.
The sooner you understand that your presence in this world MATTERS, the better you can focus your choices and actions on making REAL change.
#4: Take responsibility
Aside from understanding your place, the other side of that coin is taking on a problem.
It could be any sort of problem you know well, like troubleshooting computers over the phone, or creating the next rocket that will take mankind to other planets.
That’s the beauty of being responsible – you get to CHOOSE which sort of problem you want to dig your teeth into.
And having the initiative to go out and become engaged in solving a problem justifies your presence in the world.
Some people might say, “Why bother? None of it matters anyway and we’re all going to die.”
What it really means is that they’d rather take the easier, “safer” route of having no responsibility.
Is that the kind of life you want to have? Or would you rather get busy living your mission and create something that affects people around you?
#5: Make a plan of attack
It’s hard to make a lasting impact if you don’t have a mission statement to guide you.
Your efforts need to be structured and focused – otherwise, you’ll be all over the place and waste your energy.
Think about where you see yourself in the next 5-10 years. What kind of person will you be by that time?
What will you be doing then, and how will you make a difference? What skills and talents will you have under your belt by that time, and how will you use them?
Thinking about these things will help you craft the perfect mission statement.
If you can clearly define what you’ve set out to do – and how to achieve it – then you’re a step ahead at the game.
Aside from visualizing your future self, don’t forget to include the principles and values you live by. These are also important factors that go into defining your life’s mission.
Once you’ve gotten that mission statement in place, you can start doing more and more things that will bring you closer to your goals – and in effect, change the world around you.
Here’s an example to give you an idea:
“I intend to be the biggest social media influencer in the world. Using my knowledge of digital marketing and sales experience, I can create effective campaigns to get more followers and share my content. This way, I can create a platform where I can talk about current issues that affect us all. It is important to me for the truth to be heard, so I will make sure that my opinions are always backed up with facts from reliable sources.”
You’ll probably go through a few versions before you end up with your ideal mission statement. Take your time and think it through.
Also, don’t be afraid to revisit it after a year because you might be headed in a different direction by then.
In any case, you’ll still be well on your way to changing the world.
However, if you feel stuck at any point in creating the reality you want, you might need a little more help.
You see, I came across an amazing discovery when I was going through my own struggles.
Before I realized that I could be on this path to helping other people, I had to help myself first.
So I did some soul-searching and research on manifesting the kind of life that would allow me to do the things I’m doing today.
Here’s a free video on how I got the clarity and perspective to change the world: