When talking about making a positive difference in the world whether through work, hobby, or volunteer, you can generalize the job descriptions simply to two separate categories:
I make a positive difference in the world by taking care of the bad guys
I make a positive difference in the world by taking care of the good guys
Can you take your job and map it to one of these categories?
Some jobs have a more direct impact and reach to the above categories than others, but I would tend to say that your job is designed to fit one of these categories. And once you find out which category you fall in, you can use that for great motivation.
Most jobs fall into category 2, making a positive difference in the world by taking care of the good guys. In fact, there are relatively few jobs where the individual can really say that they are making a positive difference by taking care of the bad guys. The military, is the main contributor to category 1.
When I worked IT for Kroger, programmed software for Apple, and painted displays at Lowes, I fell into category 2. You my readers (I think…) are some of the good guys. When I solved issues that helped get groceries on your shelves for prices that you could pay… I was taking care of you, the good guy. When I wrote benchmark software to get Apple computers Energy Star certified… I was enabling their sale to an increased (US Government/Education institutions/etc…) audience of good guys. When I built displays and stocked product for fashion bath in Lowes, I was doing that for you, the good guy.
Life is different in the Department of Defense/military.
The things I and my “coworkers” do day in and day out “at work” are yes meant to take care of the good guys, defending your and my freedoms, but they are targeted specifically at taking care of the bad guys.
It is rather unfortunate that there are bad guys out there that need to be taken care of, but the reality of the world we live in is that there are. No path of ignorance nor denial will change this.
I love having a job that has a reach so close to the above categories. On the flip side, social workers or teachers (or Kids Ice Cream Parlor owner!) are perfect examples of professions that work with direct reach and impact to make a positive difference in the world by taking care of the good guys.
Wherever life takes my family and me next, I would love to work in a way that directly impacts and reaches either the good guys or the bad guys as much as possible.