Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Soul Sustenance: Beyond Survival – Being Someone Who Contributes

When forces beyond our control turn upside down those things in life we tend to assume are secure – whether it’s our homes, our savings, or our communities – it’s easy to slip into being worried, upset and afraid.  We tend to shrink back, withdraw, and go into survival mode, even when we ourselves aren’t the ones directly impacted.

Here’s the thing that’s surprising for many people: Being someone who contributes to others in times of need doesn’t just make a difference for THEM, it makes a profound difference for YOU. There’s even a growing body of scientific research that says much of human happiness comes from the relationships we have with each other, including those of contributing to the community as a volunteer, for instance. 

Being part of a community and making a difference – even if it’s a relatively minor one – is deeply rewarding.  Even if you yourself are busy, stressed, perhaps worried about some problems of your own, the act of contributing to others and doing something positive for a community tends to put your own life and problems in perspective.

Tip #1:  Commit to contributing.
Where most people get stuck is in feeling bad, feeling helpless, feeling like they should do something, but can’t.  Once you resolve for yourself that you are going to contribute in some way, you don’t have to wonder any more whether there’s something you can do.  You’ve just said you ARE going to do something.  Now you can get to work on it. 
Tip #2:  Create it as a self-expression.
There are so many opportunities out there to contribute – which speak to you and are a natural expression for you?  Each of us has particular strengths, particular things we’re passionate about.  You can look to see which causes are close to your own heart – for example, the environment, or children, or animals, or people having homes.  In the case of a community struck by a disaster, there are many different ways to make a difference in that situation.  (Note: is a great web site to find an opportunity to contribute that’s just right for you.)  The point here is to create a way for you to actually express yourself, your commitments, your passions.
Tip #3:  Take action.
The final thing here is to translate your commitment into reality.  Call the organization you choose and make a promise as to what you’ll do, when you’ll be there, and so on.  And consider contributing on a regular basis, having it fulfill what you're truly passionate about and committed to in life. Build it into your life, have it in your calendar – otherwise, what happens is, life gets in the way and then you're left just busy again.  If you have created a means of contributing that’s a self-expression for you, it’ll be important to you to make the time for it. 

In all the years I’ve been coaching people in Landmark seminars, it’s become very clear to me that what really matters to people is being able to make a difference in some way.  Human beings have a fundamental instinct for connecting and contributing.  When we reach out and contribute to the larger community in whatever way, it lifts our own spirits and creates a sense of fulfillment and wellbeing that really impacts the quality of life for us as well as others. 

About the Author: David Cunningham, M.Ed., is a communication expert and seminar leader for Landmark, a personal and professional growth, training and development company that's had more than 2.2 million people use its programs to cause breakthroughs in their personal lives as well as in their communities, generating more than 100,000 community projects around the world. In The Landmark Forum, Landmark's flagship program, people cause breakthroughs in their performance, communication, relationships and overall satisfaction in life. For more information, please visit

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