Two ways of living: survival and contribution

So as part of an assignment, I’m pondering answers to these questions:

What is my life about?
   What am I giving myself to?

…and out of the shadows of my mind comes this: “surviving.”

Wow. That’s not good. Survival is important, of course, but not very inspiring. Imagine someone greets you with, “How’s it going?”

If you answer with “I’m surviving,” you’re likely to get a Stuart Smalley reply or a recommendation for a self-help book. Maybe both.

So on I ponder, and then comes “contribution.”

Okay, that’s better. I like contribution. In fact, I think contribution is part of our design, just like survival is. It may even be essential to our survival, like breathing.

Here’s my logic. Over the years, I have heard many people say, “I just want to make a difference,” or “I want to leave a legacy.” So much so that I concluded that we’re “wired” that way.

Makes sense when you consider we’re a tribal species. We can’t survive for long on our own, so we tribe. The best tribe members contribute; the worst do damage to the tribe and, in less enlightened times and places, are cast out. Nature favors contribution.

Now, survival will always prevail, but survival invites drama.
Contribution invites joy.

And it occurs to me that one or the other is always at work beneath the surface, behind the scenes, pulling the strings. See if that rings true for you. Without some “noble cause” aren’t you just surviving, just getting by?

What if you never got clear for yourself what contribution or difference you wanted to make in the world? Because there’s power in language and clarity, time may be well spent on the question of HOW.

It’s not THAT you want to make a difference that makes you special. It’s HOW you make a difference that makes you special.

Ask yourself:
What is my life about?
What am I giving my life to?

What if you looked at all your decisions throughout the day, including how to handle the tough situations, and asked, “Am I doing what I’m doing now from a place of survival, or of making a contribution?”

Are you clear on what your contribution is?
Are you honoring that?
How much or how often?

Are you spending too much time and effort surviving?

By the way, surviving can look like fitting in, getting it right, and keeping your nose clean.

Okay, so here are my answers:

My life is about helping people maximize the contribution they make.
I’m giving my life to helping people maximize the contribution they make.

That brings me joy.

It still needs a little polish, but the essence is there.

I’d love to hear yours, or any comments you have.

Jim McLaughlin

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