Layers of Positive Impact

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Breaking down the Challenge of Doing Good Work

I’ve seen it many times. The person plugging away at their career or business for years, climbing the ladder, building things up. Until one day something shakes them - perhaps a life event, an illness, travel, maybe just an epiphany - suddenly they look at what they’re doing and ask...

Where’s the meaning? How am I contributing? How am I making a difference?

I’ve been there. Perhaps you have to. I like to think that most of us will at some point in our life. Why?  I want to believe as people we are fundamentally wired for good and wanting to do good is in our nature, even if it’s buried deep within.

So when we hit that point in our life and we start thinking about the good we would like to do though our business or career, what can we do?

Well the best news is, we all have a choice. A choice to do good work. Even if it’s on the smallest scale. Even if it’s just a change in how we conduct ourselves, the impact of our intention will be felt.

I like to look at the possibility for good work in layers.

At the core is what we have the most control over and also the thing we can have the largest and most direct positive impact on. Ourselves. As we move to the outer layers, we get to those things we have the least control over and which our interventions as an individual will have the smallest impact.

So let’s look at each of the layers.

This is really just a starting framework. The layers will look different for everyone depending on the context of our lives and work. The one thing that should always be the same, is that ‘self’ is at the centre. Here’s one take on what the layers might look like:


Each on of these layers is an opportunity for us to make a difference to people’s lives or our planet.

The most important one is the ‘Self’ layer. You.

Think of it like this. If everyone in the world who is fortunate enough to be living freely and autonomously were to take action to create a career or business that were to positively affect their own life - that’s positive change on an epic scale. Billions of people.   While changing things for other people, changing organisations, communities, societies the environment is not always in our control - what we do for ourselves, for the most part is. So if we want to do good work. We need to start with ourselves. What is going to make our life better?   Once we start moving out from Self, we can start thinking about the external positive impact we can have. Starting with the things closest to us will enable us to have more immediate and direct impact. Once we move out the layers, it can get harder - but of course we can’t let that stop us trying. We just need to remember we’ll need to bring more people along with us to make a significant impact.

Where we choose to put our efforts is completely up to us and might look totally different depending on the person.

  • A Mum or Dad wanting to be a positive role model for our kids - Family & Close friends).
  • A corporate manager wanting to create a positive workplace culture - Colleagues & Direct Employees or Organisation/Employees).
  • A wellness coach wanting to create positive body image for women in his/her area - Customers/Users & Local Community).
  • A wildlife enthusiast wanting to  save the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (they’re critically endangered by the way) -  Global community and environment.

We don’t even have to focus on one area. If we want to think about bringing more good into our lives, we can take a look at each of the layers and think about how we can have an impact.   Here’s some great questions we can ask ourselves for each of the layers to think about increasing our positive impact via our work:

How does my business/career have a positive impact on [insert layer here]?

How does my business/career have negative impact on [insert layer here]?

How might I reduce my negative impact on [insert layer here]?

How might I increase my positive impact on [insert layer here]?


The answers might be difficult to implement (eg. relocate eight critically endangered finless porpoise’s to a new home far away from humans), or they might be very easy (E.g. Smile more at work). What is important is that we start to think about things and take action. It’s never too late to make a difference. To our life, to the life of others or to the world around us.   What are you doing right now to have a positive impact on people and planet? I’d love to hear from you. What are the really little things that seem to make a big difference to you and those around you? What are the huge things you’re doing that you want to tell the world about?

Here's a finless porpoise to brighten your day. Image Credit: kenichi nobusue

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