11/26/2013 02:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

20 Ways to Make an Extraordinary Difference in the World


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On March 11, 2011, I woke up excited because it was my birthday. I welcomed in the beautiful, fresh, new day. The TV was on, and as I walked downstairs I saw that a giant tsunami had hit the coast of Japan and wiped out cities and towns, leaving thousands missing.

My birthday bliss changed from a euphoric rush to devastation in an instant. All I could think was how could I help? I listened to the strained screams of victims. I saw dogs drowning and homes turned upside down. Suddenly my having a day all about me because it was my birthday became unimportant.

Many people experienced the same horror in watching the events unfold on television and also felt helpless. The situation seemed so far removed from us in our cozy homes in America that many felt numb to the tragedy. Even today, with the recent natural disasters, the emotions have resurfaced. I speak to many people who say, "I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do."

If you can relate, try to tune into your inner instincts and trust that there is always something you can do. For example, I recognized that I could make a difference, so I started a fundraising campaign to help raise money to help the victims. I asked people to donate to my campaign rather than buying me birthday presents. We came together and made a positive change.

Many of us walk around frustrated because we want to do more than we think we are capable of. If you feel overwhelmed by life tragedies, gratitude is the fastest way to feel better. Sometimes we become paralyzed by the catastrophic events, but just taking one step and being thankful for what you can do, will help.

You can start by creating a "Giving List." This is a list I recommend to my coaching clients who are looking for more ways to help others. Similar to a bucket list or a magic list, you create a list of ideas to help others in need.

By creating your own "Giving List" you can feel more empowered. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I welcome you to create your own list. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Adopt a furry friend
2. Clean out your closet and donate used clothing
3. Volunteer with an organization you feel passionate about
4. Buy items that are local, organic or fair-trade
5. Smile at strangers
6. Give money to a homeless person without expectations
7. Write a thank you note to an organization, or person you appreciate and respect
8. Tell your family you love them daily
9. Bring your sick friend chicken noodle soup
10. Listen more closely
11. Speak kindly to yourself
12. Take care of your body -- when you feel good about yourself you help others
13. Get in touch with your inner child
14. Take that vacation you keep dreaming about
15. Stop over promising
16. Sit with your grandparents and listen to their stories
17. Respect everyone including yourself
18. Get more sleep
19. Stop worrying, practice being more grounded in the moment
20. Love yourself fully

How about you, what would be on your "Giving List?"