|This upcoming Saturday is National Make a Difference Day, but for me, every day is an opportunity to make a difference.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the people who are passionate about making a difference all have something in common: they have drive. They have a purpose. They have a goal.
I deeply believe that every one of us has a calling, a unique gift, and a specific reason for being here on this earth. I’ve spoken to so many people over the years who desperately want to find their passion, but can’t seem to land where they think they should. What I’ve learned, though, is that sometimes all you have to do is look within you, and around you.
Your purpose is usually in your own home or your own community. It’s usually connected to something that’s happened to you or something you’ve borne witness to and that you care passionately about. It usually starts small. My mother, in fact, started the Special Olympics as a camp in my backyard. Note to self: never be afraid of starting small.
I love to highlight the work of people who use their time here on earth to make a difference. It’s one of the many reasons I use my social platforms and The Sunday Paper, in particular, to highlight the work of people I call Architects of Change. Individuals like our Architect of Change of the Week Erin Schrode, whose voice we share with you here in The Sunday Paper today. It’s my hope that by sharing these individuals’ endeavors with you, it might inspire you to join in their effort, or to start something that speaks to you.
It’s also why I aim to share with you news stories that I feel rise “above the noise” of the everyday news cycle. Stories that you may have missed, like the one this week about Jacinda Ardern, who at 37, just became prime minister of Australia and the country’s youngest leader in more than 150 years. I mean, how cool is that?
Over the years, I’ve met so many people who have said to me, “I want to make a difference, but I just don’t know how to do it.” As I say to my children, just take the first step. Help one person and see where that leads you. (I was reminded of that just last week when I spoke to Architect of Change Treger Strasberg, who said her nonprofit Humble Designs grew out of helping just one friend.)
It’s also important to know that passion and purpose may change over the course of your lifetime. As a young girl, I believed my purpose was to be a great journalist. I believed I was here to tell stories that weren’t being told. Ones that were both informative and inspiring.
Then, my focus and my purpose shifted to being a mother. When I became First Lady of California, my passion and purpose broadened yet again, this time to being of service to my state, as well as to women and those living on the margins.
Now, my mind is focused on wiping out Alzheimer’s through The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and trying to figure how why two out of every three brains that are diagnosed with this mind-blowing disease belong to women. Focusing my mind on this question doesn’t wipe out the other things I’ve been passionate about throughout my life. In fact, it builds on them and brings all of my passions together. It just gives me a bigger mission. It gives me a bigger North Star.
Trying to make a difference requires patience and perseverance. It requires having a vision for oneself. I’ve found that having a vision for your future helps you stay fighting forward in the present.
And so, when I get down or feel discouraged, as we all do from time to time, I try to imagine myself 10 years into the future standing in what I call “The Open Field.” My children are all around me with their families. I feel at peace knowing they are loved, that they are happy and that my relationship with them and their significant others is loving and good.
I imagine that I’m calm. (Anyone who knows me knows that this is my imagination at work ☺ .) But, I know I will be because I believe that by that time, someone will have discovered a cure for Alzheimer’s. Millions of families are going to be spared from confronting this mind-blowing disease when this happens, and I believe that it can happen in our lifetime. I’ll be able to breathe because I’ll know that my voice and my work in this space, and in others, made a difference.
I also imagine myself healthy and happy. I pray that I’m surrounded by people who understand me and who accept me. People who believe in me and who aren’t scared to stand in this vision with me.
I have faith in this dream and I’m focused on making it a reality. You, too, can have your own vision of The Open Field. Close your eyes and allow yourself to imagine 10, 20 or 30 years in the future. Imagine how you want to feel. What difference would you have liked to have made in your life? Who will be standing there with you? Will you be able to take a deep breath and feel calm and proud of where you stand on that day?
Reflect on these questions and allow the answers to rise up from within. Then, open your eyes and go make your calling your reality.
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