How do You Make a Difference in a Complex World?

How do you make a difference in a world facing so many existential threats? Pick your favorite nightmare from global pandemic, climate crisis, nuclear risks, rising fascism, or add your own. There are no shortages. Yet before I send you into your own crisis, more than ever, this is a time for hope, not despair. We can all do something to make this world a better place (besides limit time on social media and network news.)

make a difference
Photo credit: dutchy_42 on VisualHunt

These three tips will get you started.

Do the one thing you’re called to do. Do it well and with conviction. It doesn’t matter what it is. Only you will know what’s right for you. We all have a unique calling and it can change over time, but you know when you’ve answered it. It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment either, it can be something you enjoy in the moment. Listen to that voice that is guiding you. I’m not talking about following every impulse but learn to listen and follow the voice of your intuition (See #2). It takes practice and it gets stronger with time.

Trust your intuition. Sometimes I call this “follow your heart, with input from your mind.” When I’m walking on the trail, I know the trail is there and the markers will show me where to go next. I don’t need to see my final destination. I only need to see to the next marker.

In October 2019, I knew I was entering a time of solitude and reflection even before the pandemic hit. I knew I was leaving a familiar, comfortable, and enjoyable way of being behind, but had no idea what lay in store. It was almost two years before I got the call to continue my studies at university, something that had never entered my mind. Yet when it came, it was clear and undeniable. Accepting that call awakened a part of me that had lain dormant for years, waiting for expression even though I don’t know where it is leading. Completing this final year of undergraduate studies is the next marker on the trail and I’m loving every moment.

See the sacred in everything. The rest will fall into place. Each of our unique gifts is needed on earth now. They are given to us to share. Extending an act of kindness to a stranger, even a smile, can change a person’s day. You don’t do it for ulterior motives but because you care about yourself and others. We are all connected. By that I mean all beings on earth, human, plant, animal, and the earth herself. What you do to one you do to another and you do to yourself.

How do you make a difference? Listen to your voice and follow its prompting. Most of the time we won’t know if what we do matters. That’s when it’s helpful to read stories of others who have persisted in overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. They’re motivated not for personal recognition but for the inherent value of the work itself.

This spring I discovered the work of Dr. Suzanne Simard through her book Finding the Mother Tree. She’s a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of British Columbia, has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.

Dr. Simard is a pioneer, known for her work on how trees interact and communicate using below-ground fungal networks. . Her findings are astounding but it’s what they teach us about ourselves and our place on this earth that are so mind-boggling. Her book is being made into a movie and last week her work was mentioned on the hit TV show Ted Lasso. (She, like me, had never heard of the show.)

It hasn’t always been like this. She’s worked in her profession for forty years and faced rejection and tremendous opposition to her findings from the male-dominated forestry and science community. While that continues, albeit to a lesser degree, her voice is being heard and having an impact.

How do you make a difference? We never know where our work is reaching, who’s being touched by our words or actions, or what effect they are having. When we’re following our own lead, miracles happen and that benefit us all.

Additional Resource: On Being Podcast with Suzanne Simard: Forests Are Wired for Wisdom


Author, writer, and student Liz Jansen combines her artistic mediums to create stories that inspire readers to embark on their own journey of self-discovery.

2 Comments on “How do You Make a Difference in a Complex World?

  1. I am going to check out this author Liz. Thanks for the ‘making a difference’ prompt.

    • I think you’ll like her Camilla. Her book is part scientific, part memoir but even I could understand the scientific part. She’s very down-to-earth and easy to understand. I listened to the audio version which she narrated. Made me feel like I was sitting there listening to her.