The Making A Positive Contribution During Your Time On The Planet Approach

Imagine that you want to make a positive contribution during your time on the planet. There are many ways to explore this theme.

Viktor Frankl, for example, encouraged people to focus on what they were here to give. He explained this in the following way.

Everyone has their own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment. 

Tom Rath takes a similar approach in his book Life’s Great Question. Here are some of his thoughts on the topic which can be found on his website via the following link.

What are the most meaningful contributions we can make? This is Life’s Great Question.

Life is about what you do that improves the world around you. It is about investing in the development of other people. And it is about efforts that continue to grow when you are gone. In the end, you won’t get to stay around forever, but your contributions will.

The key is to invest more time where your talents will yield the greatest return for others. Work is about what you create that improves lives. It is about investing in the development of other people.  

While your talents are nature’s best building blocks, they serve the world best when your efforts are directed outward — not inward. Consider how your talents can make a more meaningful contribution to others over a lifetime.

Life has an unknown expiration date. Your efforts and contributions to others do not. The time, energy, and resources you invest in people you care for and your community keep growing forever.

During the past 50 years I have worked with many people who describe different reasons for wanting to take this step. These include the following:

They want to follow their life principles and encourage people in their personal and professional lives;

They want to use their personal strengths to serve something greater than themselves and leave a positive legacy; 

They want to develop or maintain a sense of purpose and make a positive contribution during their time on the planet. 

Different people come to this stage for different reasons. Some have a natural desire to encourage other people. Some have had a life-changing event that encouraged them to review their priorities.

Some have experienced glimpses of what Erik Erickson, the psychologist, called The Generative Age. He described this as:

A concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.

Different people express this in different forms. The most common way is through parenthood and wanting their children to be happy. There are also many other ways of passing on knowledge and encouraging future generations.

Erickson’s view was that for much of our lives we define ourselves in relation to other people. These include our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, peers and authority figures.

The Generative Age brings a new awareness and we may then define ourselves in relation to humanity. He explained this in the following way.

Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. 

Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world. 

Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfilment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair. 

Many of the people I have worked with have experienced this feeling relatively early in life. They want to follow their chosen principles and do positive work that helps people or the planet.

You will have your own approach to clarify your contribution. The following sections describe themes that people sometimes find useful when taking this approach.

Positive Energy

Many encouragers like to give to others but they also need support. Recharging their batteries give them more strength to give to other people.

Different people get support in different ways. Some spend time in their favourite sanctuaries. They do things that give them a sense of perspective or peace. Some spend time with their loved ones or friends.

Some do enjoyable activities in which they feel alive. Some focus on serving a purpose that is greater than themselves. Here are some of the other ways that people encourage themselves or other people.

Some choose to maintain a positive attitude. They appreciate life and develop a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings rather than their burdens. They build on their strengths and use these to encourage other people

Some focus on their life philosophy and principles. They clarify what they believe is important in life and spend time doing these things. They clarify the principles they want to follow in life and translate these into action.

Some people do things that give them positive energy. They recognise that energy is life and do things that soothe or stimulate their soul. Doing these satisfying activities gives them more strength to encourage other people.

Bearing this in mind, here is an exercise I often use when working with individuals or groups. It invites people to describe the specific things that give them positive energy in their personal and professional lives. Here are some of the things they write.

Positive Energy 

The things that give me positive
energy in my personal life are:

Being with our children … Writing … Looking after our garden … Listening to the sound of falling water … Singing in the choir … Taking walks by myself … Playing the guitar … Spending time with my partner. 

Cooking for our family … Following my daily routine … Caring for our horse … Sleeping deeply … Climbing mountains … Breathing deeply … Learning new things … Visiting art galleries … Cycling … Taking time to think. 

The things that give me positive
energy in my professional life are: 

Doing satisfying projects … Encouraging people … Caring for animals … Building boats … Teaching about wellbeing … Playing to my strengths … Working with certain kinds of customers … Acting as a trusted advisor. 

Making things work … Building successful prototypes … Fixing certain kinds of problems … Mediating disputes … Leading pioneering companies … Showing people new ways to treat cancer … Building sustainable systems that achieve success.

People like doing the exercise. They then sometimes focus on: a) The specific steps they can take to do more of these things; b) The specific benefits – both for themselves and other people – of doing these things.

Recently I used this exercise with a team. Each person wrote their lists on flip charts and put these around the room. People then focused on how they could encourage each other to do more of the activities that gave them positive energy.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

Positive Things You
Want To Give To People

Many people like to give to others and help them to succeed. Sometimes when doing this they experience the helper’s high. This gives them even more strength to give to other people.

Many people also like to have a sense of purpose. Bearing this in mind, it can be worth remembering the following guidelines. 

A purpose is something that you develop. Sometimes it can happen through serendipity or by coming out of the blue. But it is normally something you develop by doing things you care about that also help other people.

How to take this step? One approach is to focus on the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. Different people give different answers when exploring this theme. Here are some of the things they say.

The Positive Things I Want To Give To
People During My Time On The Planet

I want: 

To give my family a loving home … To give people encouragement … To give my students hope … To give people nourishing food … To show people how they can take care of their health … To show people how to make use of their talents. 

To give people tools they can use to build great organisations … To give people models they can use to build successful and sustainable systems … To pass on knowledge that helps both present and future generations.

Some people experience a realisation when answering this question. They recognise that what they want to give to others may mirror the things they have been given in life.

Some people build on what they have written and translate this into a clear purpose. This can become a compelling theme that they pursue during their life.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to focus on the following themes.

Describe the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet.

Describe the benefits of giving these positive things to people.  

Positive Memories 

There are many ways to make a contribution. One approach is to try to give people positive memories. Maya Angelou touched on one aspect of this approach in the following way.

Young people, for example, appreciate that their parents work hard to provide economic support. At the same time, however, they treasure the times when their parents provide emotional support.

Looking back, can you recall a person who created positive memories? They may have done this for their loved ones, friends, students, colleagues or the wider community.

They may have encouraged a person, created a stimulating environment, passed on knowledge that helped people to grow or helped people in another way. What was the result of them creating the memory?

Different people create positive memories in different ways. You may aim to achieve this by doing some of the following things.

Positive Memories 

Sometimes you can help
to create positive memories:

By being kind … By creating an enriching environment in which people grow … By serving lovely food … By spending quality time with people … By doing activities together … By creating beautiful things … By giving people enjoyable experiences.

By helping people to take more control of their lives … By running inspiring workshops … By doing exciting things with people … By going to stimulating places with people – such as sporting events, galleries and countries … By helping people to achieve success. 

Today many people are exploring how they can use their talents to help other people. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to make a positive contribution during your time on the planet.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things – both for yourself and for other people.

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