Making a Difference
A couple of weeks ago I took a personal trip to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where my dad is buried. I chose to go there on the anniversary of his passing for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to visit his grave and while there, celebrate the time I was able to share with him. Second, I wanted to express gratitude for the things he taught me. While he was in this world I sometimes wondered if he taught me much, but every time I reflect on my relationship with my dad, I understand just a little bit more how much of him is in me. His influence on my life is bigger than I realized; especially considering my history with him (you can read more about that history here).
Having said that, I can honestly say that the most amazing gift I got from my dad was an unlimited supply of exuberance for life and a passion for having fun.
Those who know me personally know just how true those words are. And now that I’ve celebrated my dad and spent time with my surviving aunts, uncle and some of my cousins, I’m in a reflective mood.
Why? Because I realized that my trip to Idaho Falls wasn’t so much about my dad as it was about me and what I learned from him. My dad’s struggle to balance his playful nature with the responsibilities of being a husband and father took a severe toll on him. I learned a lot from watching his struggle… most importantly, I learned how to let go of “either-or” thinking and to live the best, most joyful life I can.
While I learned a lot from watching my dad, I still wound up forging my own path and making my own mistakes. I can honestly say I made a large number of my mistakes within the last three years.
The path that brought me to where I am now started in late 2013, shortly after I took advantage of an opportunity to leave the corporate world. At first, everything was great, but I quickly discovered that I had a hard time striking a balance between commitments I made to others and the things I wanted to do. Perhaps my biggest challenge was answering the question: “How can I make a difference the world while taking care of myself?”
Like many people who overcome significant personal challenges, I decided that I wanted to help others facing similar challenges. I was infected by the “make a difference and change the world” bug. And, like so many others who’ve been bitten by that bug, I started going to workshops, seminars, and learning as much as I could about how to get my message out there.
What did I learn from all those books, seminars and workshops?
I learned this: The primary motivation to do anything “big” should NEVER be because I want to make a difference in the world.
For me, anytime I did something from that space, I got frustrated. I would make it so far, and then I would shut down because everything felt off. It was only during my trip to Idaho Falls that I realized was sabotaging myself because I wasn’t coming from a place of joy. Every time I did something because I was focused on some grandiose need to make a difference, I started to feel crushed by the weight of being responsible for satisfying the needs others.
I had to remind myself of the First Principle of Joy: I’m not responsible for anyone else’s happiness but my own. I live, breathe, and share the Principles of Joy every day, and yet even I need to be periodically reminded of them.
It’s only when I take responsibility for my own happiness that I discover the freedom to do my greatest good. I call it being selflessly selfish. On a very personal level, the application of the First Principle means doing something because I enjoy doing it. Period. If I add any other reason to the equation, the burden gets very heavy very quickly.
And so, as I reflect on my relationship with my dad, the lessons he taught me, and my own adventures, the most important thing I can remember right now is that by being responsible for only one person (me), I’m giving myself permission to do the greatest good with the least amount of expectation.
I’ve released the needs, the worries, and all the other baggage that goes along with making a difference. I don’t care if any of my posts go viral, or if no one reads them. I share what I share because I find great joy in doing so, and for no other reason.
As for the question, “How can I make a difference in the world while taking care of myself?” … I now have my answer.
By taking care of myself, I’m making a difference in the world.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.