One of my biggest hopes in life is that I will make a difference. I’d like this world to be a little better because I was in it.

However, “change the world” isn’t an easy item to put on a to-do list. Where do you even begin?

Here are eight great ways to change the world for a better. They’re all fairly quick – all things you could do today. Which will you pick?

(And if you think of any others as you’re reading these, leave a comment with your ideas. Let’s see how long we can get this list!)

#1: Smile At Everyone

It’s such a tiny thing, but it really does make a difference. Smile at people – the folks on the bus, or the receptionist at the office, for instance.

Depending on your culture, this might feel a bit awkward. Give it a go anyway! I’m British and we tend to be a bit stand-offish and shy, but people still respond brilliantly to a smile.

Take it further: Give out free hugs. Vlad Dolezal has a great post about this: Free Hugs in Leeds)

#2: Write a Letter to Someone You Love

If a letter sounds like it’ll take too long, how about a card or postcard? Write to your parents, or siblings, or a relative who you don’t see very often but who you care deeply about. Let them know how special they are to you.

Take it further: Look for a group or charity that asks for penpals – perhaps writing to a sick child, or to someone in prison. Your letter or card could make all the difference in someone’s day.

#3: Create Something Unique

Being creative is a great way to change the world. It might not seem like much – but your poem, painting, tapestry, special recipe, blog post, etc, may well outlast you.

If you don’t think you’re creative, try putting together photos into an album, or digital photos into a custom-made book (Lulu and other sites let you do this easily).

Take it further: Offer your creative skills to a local youth group, school or retirement home. You could paint a mural, run a class, organise a concert …

#4: Donate to Charity

Small donations add up, and if enough people give just a few dollars, lives can be changed. At this time of year in particular, you might want to think about giving to a charity close to your heart.

Take it further: Fundraise for a charity. My husband and I have been running a charity stall after church for three weeks, and we’ve raised around $500 from the sale of the charity’s products and from donations for “good gifts”.

#5: Sign a Petition

The world of politics can feel remote from our daily lives. Perhaps you currently live in a country where you dislike the governing party, or where you disagree with decisions being made. By signing a petition, you can help make your voice heard.

Take it further: Write to your representative, and make your concerns known personally. Letters have more impact than names on a petition.

#6: Buy Fairtrade Goods

The Fairtrade movement has taken off over the past couple of decades, and you can buy all sorts of fairly-produced goods – not just tea, coffee and sugar, but chocolate, flour, dried fruit and loads more. You may pay a few pennies more, but the farmers will be getting a fair price.

Take it further: Persuade your workplace (or another group) to switch to Fairtrade tea and coffee.

#7: Say “Thank You”

It’s such a tiny thing to do – but saying a heartfelt “thank you” can mean a huge amount to someone. If you’re in a management position at work, take the time to thank your subordinates for what they do. In your family, thank your partner, parents or kids.

Take it further: Write, phone or email someone in your community to thank them for the role they play.

#8: Give Your Time

Many of us don’t have much spare cash to give to charity – but we often overlook the other gifts that we can give, like time. Maybe you could stuff envelopes, knock on doors, shake a collection tin, or perform some other admin task.

Take it further: Offer particular expert skills. Perhaps you’re a web designer who could create (or update) a website for a small charity, for instance.

There are loads of ways you could make a real difference in the world, today. What’re you going to do? If you’ve got ideas which aren’t on this list, add them in the comments!

Photo by eflon

Ali Luke

Ali writes about personal growth and development on her blog, Aliventures. As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.

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