On making a difference

Until a few years ago, I worked for a small organisation with a big slogan - ‘Making a difference’. From supporting people with getting around to promoting independence, from setting up new services to fighting for equality. Making a difference was the mantra I chanted without giving it a second thought.

One day it was time to move on. I decided to leave the comfort of working frontline and landed with a desk job instead. I thought that having a better status would by default let me do more of the good stuff. But the reality was different. Sitting in an office chair in an open plan office, I began to struggle almost instantly. Despite delivering well-resourced projects, I felt like a mouse trying to move a mountain. To change even the simplest thing felt like mission impossible.

Other posts came and went after that, as I continued to feel powerless. It seemed that the higher I was on the job ladder, the more I questioned the meaning of my work. My longing for making a difference has continued just as I continued to feel paralysed. It was hard to overcome my expectations that every job should come with a space to contribute. And yet many jobs are structured in this exact way - without a well-signposted door to the meaning of what we do. And so we’re left with a simple choice: to let go by or find it anyway.

Choosing to seek more meaning has helped me redefine what making a difference may look like in everyday life. Instead of looking for visible cues in the outside world, I began to look for opportunities in my internal world. This simple shift has enabled me to engage in a whole new wave of side projects and encouraged me to look at my own capacity to do what I can, with what I have, where I am - my new mantra.

Bit by bit I began to excercise my muscle of making each day count. Shifting the focus from thinking ‘I wish I could do this or that’ to just doing things was a game-changer. I no longer saw making a difference as a mission statement, but as a way of showing up in life. Sometimes this involved doing visible things, like shopping for a foodbank. But most of time I simply took one small step that day, whether it involved being someone's listening ear or sending a card.

Nowadays kindness feels like a door that swings open both ways connecting people together. It’s a two-way street that fills me with gratitude and reassures me that desk job or not, we can all find ways to be more connected to those around us. Not everyone can move a mountain, but we can all walk side-by-side someone, even if just for a short while.