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What’s the greatest contribution you can give to humankind?
This article is a part of series of questions I asked about personal growth. Click here to learn more.
Let’s be honest here.
How often do we think about what others want and need? How often do we contribute? What should we contribute? Why should we contribute?
The Importance of Contribution
Very often, even in the personal development community, we are always asking ourselves how we can reach our goals, how we can get to where we want to be, and how we can get what we want and need.
Normally most of us contribute and show kindness when it’s convenient. When we’re at work, when a friend asks us for help. Usually it’s when we’re asked or when it shows up at our doorstep.
But sometimes it’s important to take a step back outside of ourselves and look at the bigger picture. We become so focused and narrow-minded on achievement that we can lose sight of what really matters. We sometimes need to realize that we are just a small part of something big, yet we can do so much.
Just like we need others to survive and thrive, others need us just as much.
We need to take time to ask ourselves what we can contribute, what our gifts and skills are, what we can share and give, how we can serve, what we can do. Even just the littlest thing makes a difference.
Adam Grant, leadership expert, states that what promotes a thriving society is not pursuing achievement, but our ability to contribute.
When we focus on contributing, it enriches and deepens our personal growth. Our personal development becomes meaningful and purposeful.
When we contribute, we are more likely to make a lasting difference beyond our years.
As human beings, we were given life by another human being. We are born physically attached to a human being. It is in our nature to connect and contribute to others.
I asked the question, “The greatest contribution you can give to humankind is __?” as a part of a series of questions from a survey on personal growth. Click here to learn more.
Normally, with all of the questions from the survey so far I’ve disagreed with the majority of responses. In this case, I fully and wholeheartedly agree with the majority.
This question also probably had the most repeated responses.
This is the case because most of us already, I think pretty much all us, know the answer. So why do some of us contribute more than others?
This article is going to mainly focus on the science behind contribution, giving, generosity and love.
Let’s look at each of the main responses.
The top two answers were:
Knowledge and Love
There were variations of each, but we’re going to put the similar ones into the same category. Knowledge will include education and similar answers. And Love will include kindness, compassion, empathy, support, altruism, etc.
We are also going to look at our best selves as an answer because I did notice it recurring and it was my original answer before I started the survey.
First, we’re going to look at knowledge and education as a contribution.
Knowledge as a Contribution
Also education, etc. which will be used interchangeably.
We all know the quote, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Education and knowledge literally changes lives. It makes anything that is physically possible achievable.
Would you prefer to receive a million dollars or would you rather be mentored by the world’s most successful people, either financially or most successful in your eyes and receive all of their knowledge.
I would undoubtedly pick the latter. Your probably would want to too.
If you check out this article, you’d learn why you wouldn’t want to just be given a million dollars anyway.
Knowledge is the best investment you can make and can therefore be the best contribution or gift you can give someone or society. Why? Because it can apply to anything and it is most often the best thing that can be applied to anything, specifically any goal or problem.
Knowledge as an investment can mean an investment for yourself, your career, your relationships, your health, your survival and wellbeing.
Education and knowledge is necessary for our survival and continuation of our species as well as our advancement. A world without teachers, educators, instructors, coaches, mentors wouldn’t survive for very long. Skills would become extinct and lost. A world with stagnating education and knowledge wouldn’t see any advancements in medicine, technology, people, and society.
This is something that separates us human beings from other species and why we are at the top of the food chain.
Knowledge is by far the most valuable thing in the world. By value I mean mostly relative to economic and financial value. I wouldn’t compare the value of knowledge to the value of say, relationships, life, happiness.
But part of the value of knowledge is that you can apply it to relationships (learning how to have better relationships), living (learning how to be healthier, live longer, take care of yourself, cook, etc.), and happiness (learning the science behind happiness, learning about gratitude, etc.)
Now, let’s look at love as a contribution.
Love as a Contribution
Also including kindness, compassion, support, generosity, altruism, empathy, etc. which will be used interchangeably.
This was a quick and easy answer for many. There was little thought put to it. That’s because love is always the answer.
The Ripple Effect
Love can solve so many problems.
The better other people around the world are well off and happy, the better you are. The more people have love and education, the more likely they are to contribute. People we don’t know and will never see or talk to in places we’ve never been being well off affects us because it advances society as a whole.
Have you ever watched those YouTube videos where someone is doing random acts of kindness like giving homeless people hundred dollar bills or getting them cleaned up, food, and clothes? Have you ever noticed the comments criticizing the actions of these people because they’re doing it for the views or the fact that they make money of those videos?
Those comments have always irked me. I always thought, “So what?” We are also often told that we shouldn’t brag about or share on social media and with others our contributions like if we donate to charity or do some volunteer work.
While I understand the intentions behind these comments, that we should do good when no one’s watching and that our intentions should be pure, science shows that these shared and profitable acts of kindness are more beneficial than just the acts themselves.
Not only do the people financially and even socially benefit from these public contributions, the people watching also benefit.
For one, witnessing acts of kindness and altruism makes us feel a deep and powerful sense of joy, warmth and peace called elation. We feel emotionally touched to the point of it having such a strong emotional reaction. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes it as, “warm feeling in the chest, a sensation of expansion in [the] heart, an increased desire to help, and increased sense of connection with others.” as well as “a manifestation of humanity’s ‘higher’ or ‘better’ nature.”
Also, these acts make us want to do the same. Kindness is contagious. This is called Moral Elevation or kindness contagion. Moral elevation has been found by researchers to “induce positive emotions, make people believe in the goodness of humanity, and inspires them to act more altruistically.” Studies found that people who witness acts of goodwill are more likely to do good deeds and give away money than those who did not.
Contributions have a sort of domino effect or ripple effect on us and society as a whole.
So, not only is love, kindness, and altruism win-win, it can be win-win-win and has the potential to go further than that
Altruism and kindness benefits:
- The contributor
- The recipients of contribution from the contributor
- The witnesses
- The recipients of contribution from the witnesses and so on and so forth
If the media focused more on good news and amazing acts of kindness and altruism, think about the kind of shift that would cause in the world.
The Power of Love
Many people believe that people, society and the world is getting worse. The news and social media as well as our brains naturally being drawn to the negative can certainly make it look this way. The truth is that studies show that people are becoming better and kinder to another. Society and the world are becoming a better and kinder place.
Love has more power than hate. Love is a choice and it feels good. If you think about it, this makes sense.
Children who are abused and neglected growing up can choose to break the cycle and love. They have a choice. And oftentimes many people who were once abused children grow up to be loving and kind adults. Although they may have other psychological issues besides antisocial traits like depression, anxiety, codependency, they still choose to have love and show kindness to others. Even hateful habits also have the potential to be unlearned and grown from through education, peers, personal development or therapy.
On the other hand, children who grow up in a healthy and loving environment still have that choice, yet they are far more likely to continue to keep choosing love because it’s what they know and learned, it’s what’s natural, and it feels good. It just wouldn’t make any sense to choose to be a hateful, abusive person.
Love is contagious and it can be learned.
When we witness or hear about acts of kindness, we are more likely to want to do the same or when someone we often feel compelled to ‘pay it forward.’
Yet when we hear about acts of destruction and violence, we are not compelled to also do the same. Some of us may feel a need for retribution or vengeance toward the perpetrator if there is one, but as a whole, others’ acts of hate do not make us want to do the same to others or society as a whole.
Even acts of hate and destruction can bring people together and can create a stronger bond, a stronger sense of community and love for one another. I remember when the terrible news of the Orlando shooting in Pulse nightclub broke.
Living in Orlando, although I didn’t personally know any of the victims that fateful night, I felt deeply affected by it. Lives were lost, families and friends were heartbroken and people were devastated, but good came out of it.
Orlando Strong became a powerful movement in Orlando that united the community in support of LGBT and Latinos. The message behind Orlando Strong is that despite the act of violence, Orlando will not hide and fear. We will continue to express and show ourselves. We will dance and unite and uplift and support and love each other stronger than ever.
During this tragedy, people came together and showed more love and happiness for each other.
Next, we’ll look into our best selves as a contribution.
Our Best Selves as a contribution
The happier and more fulfilled we are with our lives, the more likely we are to contribute to society. Just like we want others to be happier because it benefits us, the same goes the other way around.
The healthier we are mentally and physically and the more we pursue our goals and what makes us happy from a place of authenticity and love, the more we have to offer to society and others.
Even if we have good intentions, our flaws and lack of mental health can hurt others unintentionally. A mother who is suffering from extreme depression may unintentionally neglect her child.
People who are in a dark place and complain all the time may become downers to their close friends and family who feel emotionally drained spending time with them.
Even small things like not being well-rested can make us angry and irritable and cause us to snap at our loved ones.
When we are fulfilled and mentally and emotionally healthy, we share ourselves with the world. We have a positive impact on others. When we have love for ourselves, when we work on our personal growth and development, when we educate ourselves, we are more likely to want the same for others. We are more likely to contribute meaningfully to others. We can show up as our authentic selves.
Naturally, that’s what we want from others as well. We want to have relationships and interactions with people who are doing the best for themselves.
So in a way all three of these answers connect with each other.
We become our best selves through knowledge and education and choosing love for ourselves and others. The more we educate ourselves, the more we contribute and the more likely we are to teach and contribute that knowledge.
When we become our best selves, we become people who contribute love and knowledge. Contributing love and knowledge allows us to become our best selves.
The more we love ourselves, the more we give love to others.
The more we contribute to others, the more we not only make ourselves happier, but we also make society and the world a better place.
Going forward, continually ask yourself how you can contribute more no matter how small, whether it be love, knowledge, your best self, or anything else.