The idea of offering a “societal contribution” may appear too large when imagined for the first time. Humans are social beings, so we all can give back a little to society, the size of our efforts not withstanding. To manage this intention consciously, you can do the following 3 things.

  • Change your perspective from “big picture” and start focusing on what is going on around you. Can you make an impact on your organization, your neighborhood, your friends, your family? Start there.
  • Modify your goal from something abstract such as “addressing global warming” to something more tangible and more pragmatic that is related, such as for example “recycling in your community”
  • Shift perspective from “me” to “we” – stop acting solely for your own benefit, and start being of service to others.

Taking the first action, you refocus your world-view to street-view  in order to identify something actionable and avoid being overwhelmed by the scale of many of today’s problems. In the second action, you adjust your goal to align with the limited resources at your disposal. This includes financial cost, personal time and energy etc. Lastly, you shift change beneficiaries from “me” to “we” in recognition that you are part of a greater whole. Personal inspiration and motivation can only get you so far. Interacting with others is a source of learning, inspiration and gratification (yes challenges also!) which in the ends tends to benefit you as much as it does others. Barack Obama, in his book The Audacity of Hope, said “I’m inspired by the people I meet in my travels–hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I’m inspired by the love people have for their children. And I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.”  

The Power of Service to Others?

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”. These are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. – and this is the essence of service. Acts of service can be defined as “you” helping someone else without keeping score. This means that you intentionally do something for someone for their benefit, growth and development and get or ask for nothing in exchange. Some people call this altruism. Look into the many stories and accounts on service to learn about the mysterious patterns which seem to suggest that those who serve others the most, gain the most – not always in the material sense, but certainly in the sense of becoming better, fuller human beings!

Shannon L. Adler said: “Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul like you.”

The Feminine Skills of Wisdom, Intuition, Creativity and Empathy in Service

Wisdom is the mindful application of what is true and right, pulling in resources from your education, life experiences and knowledge to facilitate self-discovery, and putting these into action. Intuition is trusting our understanding of something without needing to reason about it. This “inner eye” is often disregarded, but it can be very powerful in our decision making process in personal and professional settings. Empathy is understanding and sharing the feelings of another person. It helps us to create safe spaces that facilitate meaningful and transformative conversations. Creativity is using our imagination and resourcefulness to develop solutions that address personal goals and organizational success.

When these 4 capacities come together in the process of choosing an act of service, planning for it, researching it, managing it, measuring its success, etc., an act of service becomes a transformative piece of living art. These require a “deeper you”, and they challenge you to rise to higher levels of sensitivity and consideration for others. And when you are more sensitive and considerate to others, you are in fact being more sensitive and considerate with yourself.

Some questions that can help you hone these qualities are:

  • What do you have to offer another and how does this help positively impact this person or organization?
  • How can you manage your interaction with and service to others with a deep sense of humility, sensitivity and openness of perspective to another’s needs?
  • How emphatic do you need to be in this project to respect your and others’ worth?
  • What creative tools can you tap into to make your service more meaningful?
  • What does your intuition tell you about the impact your act of service has on others?