For 15 years, I have had my students in the University of Toledo’s College of Business and Innovation turn over the course information card I pass out at the start of the semester and provide additional information on the back. I ask them: “Please tell me one specific thing that you are doing to make the world a better place.”
I want to get them thinking about the fact that they are on Earth not just for themselves, but also for a greater good. I am encouraged and motivated by their responses, which almost always focus on their taking responsibility for their actions, looking for ways to help others, and making a difference in our community.
Here is a sample of what my students have told me:
To make the world a better place, I...
● “Smile a lot and always try to stay positive.”
● “Have the goal to be the best dad in the world to my two children.”
● “Always drive the speed limit.”
● “Try to be friendly and nice to everyone.”
● “Led a sorority team to raise $10,000 for autistic children.”
● “Skip a meal once a month and donate the money to Cherry Street Mission.”
● “Never, ever litter.”
● “Always tell the truth.”
● “Foster shelter animals that have been abandoned.”
● “Am dedicated to my spouse and committed to keeping our marriage strong.”
● “Give money every paycheck to United Way.”
● “Lead with absolute integrity.”
● “Work hard to leave things a little better than I found them.”
● “Am a passionate fund-raiser.”
● “Perform my job with great passion, professionalism, and a minimum of supervision.”
● “Teach Sunday school class to high school students.”
● “Belong to [Alcoholics Anonymous] to help others get and stay sober.”
● “Volunteer at the American Cancer Society.”
● “Always put the needs of other people before my own.”
● “Let my friends and family know that they can depend on me when they need help.”
● “Tutor at an elementary after-school reading program for underprivileged kids.”
● “See a problem and work hard to become part of the solution.”
● “Am always friendly to strangers.”
● “Support a child in a third-world country through Children International.”
● “Make people laugh and am always ready to tell a good and appropriate joke.”
● “Don’t complain, whine, or use sarcasm.”
● “I look for the good in everyone and I never gossip.”
● “Step in when people look lost or if they need help.”
● “Try hard to make wise choices in every area of my life.”
I find these responses thought-provoking, heartwarming, and convincing. They remind me that there are always things each one of us can do to make our world a better place.
Some are big and some are small, but all of these choices are important to a healthy society. Each of us can have a positive impact on our world through the choices we make with our attitude, time, talent, treasure, and exchanges with others.
As you begin 2015 and are possibly discouraged by what you see in the world, take time to identify and develop your life plan for making your world a better place through your daily actions. The history of the world makes a strong case that individuals can be a real force for good and can make a real difference for good, regardless of their calling in life.
When enough people act in this thoughtful regard, our individual actions can have a multiplying effect on other people, organizations, and communities. As you live and execute your plan, think of what an awesome opportunity and privilege it is to be able to say: Today I really helped make our world a better place.
Clinton O. Longenecker is the Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation at the University of Toledo.
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