We are selfish. And we have to be, to an extent. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. The better we take care of ourselves, the easier it is to help others. When you’re on a plane and about to take off, in the emergency instructions they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. Why? Because if you don’t put your mask on, you won’t survive to help others.
There are many benefits to helping others. If it is someone you know, maybe you’ll get satisfaction out of seeing them progress with your assistance. If it isn’t someone you know, you might feel good about yourself knowing you helped someone, even if you never see them again.
Studies show that happier people give more, and giving makes people happier.
At the most basic level, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence shows that giving money to charity leads to similar brain activity in regions implicated in the experience of pleasure and reward.
– Harvard Business School – Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior
But this post isn’t necessarily about giving money, it’s simply about proactively making the world better. Giving money may be one way of doing that. But there are many ways to make the world better, even with no money – you can do it by creating something, sharing or teaching something, learning something and then spreading it. With the internet, it’s easier today to create something than ever before. Information and education are abundant, use it.
In Steve Pavlina’s book “Waking Up: Becoming a Conscious Human”, he argues we shouldn’t be making self-centered choices, but choices that benefit the whole. And he doesn’t argue this just from the point that we should be advancing all of society, but also persuades you that by helping the whole, you’re far more likely be live a happy, fulfilled, and successful life. The whole typically rewards those who they value. And I tend to agree. My brief review of the book is below:
Excellent book. Great message and well written. I think reading it would benefit anyones life. It basically talks about how humanity as a whole is improved by individual contributions that benefit the whole, and brought down by individual contributions that harm the whole (or remain neutral). As a whole if individuals do good, then humanity does good. He uses the analogy of human cells to our bodies. If a few cells are bad, it doesn’t mean our bodies our bad, but by improving each cell, it improves everything in our body (our mind, emotions, physical health, etc.). Cancer is basically a group of collective cells who do harm, just as a gang is a collective of individual who do harm to humanity.
The takeaway is that each decision you make shouldn’t be about your individual gain, it should be about the gain of the whole. And throughout life, if living this way, you recognize that by helping the whole, you not only fulfil yourself but live a better life in many ways. I think his view is simply an alternative perspective to ways people look at “good business” today. They say “focus on your customer”, which really means “help the whole and don’t focus on just you and making money”.
He goes into detail about the 3 different ways to live:
– self-centeredness – focused on what is good for you. The whole is irrelevant and harming other people doesn’t affect you, or at least you think.
– neutrality – don’t harm, but also don’t benefit others.
– onenesss – living in a way in which you constantly think about how you can help others and improve the whole.
He argues that oneness leads to better outcomes in every way shape and form, and how the other 2 actually lead to life issues throughout (friendship, love, fulfilment, passion, etc.). Even neutrality remains stagnant. If everyone was neutral, we likely wouldn’t be alive today. If I think about my life and the people around me, I can definitely see the patterns he describes and the classifications he makes above.
These are a few quotes that stuck out:
“Be willing to lose what doesn’t matter, so we can all gain what does matter. Paying our bills doesn’t matter, but keeping our bodies healthy does. Getting good grades in school doesn’t matter, but preserving and passing on our collective knowledge does. Start reorganizing your life around what matters, and be willing to shed what doesn’t”.
“Stop thinking about what you want for yourself as an individual. Start thinking about what you want for humanity as a whole”
“Some people are repackaging and selling my work for money. Does that bother me? Of course not. Even though they may be operating at an individual level of consciousness, they’re actually helping. They’re spreading ideas that humanity wants to spreads; after all, humanity gave me those ideas to share in the first place. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.”
All of the privileges we have that seem so mundane were from people who made the world better. The toilet, a table, various food and restaurant experiences, the can or bottle, trash bags, the internet, books, vaccines, etc. They all have made our lives better, and if someone hadn’t been proactive and actually built it and spent time thinking about it, we wouldn’t have these things to enjoy. Most people take them entirely for granted.
I realized years ago that few people proactively contribute to make the world better. It is a very small, tiny group which contribute to create all the the things that make our lives great. And since we’re born into them, we owe it to all the people who contributed before us to make the world better. And if we want the people to come after us to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives, it is our duty to make the world better, or at the very least, not make it worse.
So, what can you do to make the world better? Giving is the easiest way to start making a difference that compounds (checkout givewell.org), but even better, create something and contribute to the whole.