Contribution is our last human need. In the previous posts, we talked about how people have needs for certainty, variety, significance, love & connection and growth. This leaves us with contribution, which goes hand in had with the need for growth. We usually satisfy our needs of growth and contribution last, after we have found ways of dealing with the four basic needs.
Unlike some of the other needs, growth and contribution are not in conflict with each other. They do not need to be in balance. Rather, the more we have of one, the more we have of the other one.
Contribution is any act or intention to act that improves the position of others. It can be a physical improvement or even an emotional improvement. If the interaction has made the other person feel better, even in a small way, you have contributed to someone else’s life.
Contributing feels us good. Whenever we give, it helps us think highly of ourselves. Sometimes when we give, we learn to appreciate what we have.
Giving is also a wonderful way to fill a few of our other needs. When we give, we can have certainty about our ability to give. Obviously, we would not be able to give anything if we did not think we had something to give. It can also give us a sense of variety if we help and contribute to different people. It can even help us feel special and help us connect with other people.
The important thing is to give selflessly, for the purpose of being kind and helping others, not in order to get something in return. This is why random acts of kindness are great ways to feel we are contributing to the world around us.
Be a parent
Parenting is the best way to shape our society. If we invest in parenting, we invest in social change and making this world a better place for us and for generations to come.
If you raise your children to feel that they can accomplish any goal or task they decide upon, you will have succeeded as a parent and you will have given your children the greatest of all blessings.
– Brian Tracy
Help your family/ help around the house
Any form of help at home can improve relationships. It is estimated that most marriages go through breakdowns because of three reasons: money, sex and housework. Helping each other around the house will change our society because we will raise happy families.
Offering to help someone can make us feel good. The other person feels they are not alone and for is, it cost nothing.
Be a teacher
Teaching is the most wonderful way to make a difference in our society. Similar to parenting, teachers have the ability to shape society and make changes in big groups of people. Teaching is a profession that generally fulfills many of our basic needs.
Be a leader
Leadership is a task similar to teaching. It helps individuals lead a group of people (fans, followers or voters) towards a shared goal. The leader is in the best position to make a difference as he/she holds the responsibility and the privileges of making choices for the whole group.
Take care of the Earth
Taking care of the world around us is a great way to make a difference. The world we live in is precious and everything we do to take care of it will help us live here longer. I have written a few articles about ways to save the environment and to make a difference. I am sure you will find many ideas there (see 55 Ways to Save the Environment and Make a Difference).
The whole of humanity is… One human family.
This planet is our only home.
– Dalai Lama
Give to charity
Giving to charity is a great way to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. You can donate your time or your skills. Even just a little bit can make a huge impact on someone’s life.
In our family, we give charity to an organization called Kiva. Kiva provides micro-financing for people around the world who need just a little bit of money to make their lives better. It feels good to know that our money helps others. For us, it is the amount of money that is equivalent to one family meal at a restaurant. For them, it can make a huge difference. It does not matter who you give to and it does not matter how much. It is the feeling that you have contributed that counts. Visit Kiva to make a difference.
I have written about other ways to contribute. You can read about them in these articles:
- Make a List: 18 Ways to Be Kind
- 55 Ways to Save the Environment and Make a Difference
- Good Old Human Spirit
- Let’s Work Together
- Everyone can be a Hero
- Kids Leading Social Change
- Kids Making a Difference
When you make choices based on how each option fulfills your needs, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your decision in the long run. I once worked at a school that could have been shut down any day, and had to make a decision about whether to stay or leave. I listed my needs and rated how my work was scoring on each of them.
- Certainty – 0 out of 10. I hated the feeling of not knowing if my job would still be there tomorrow.
- Variety – 3 out of 10. I did a great job but it was something I knew I was good at and there was nothing new and exciting about it.
- Significance – 5 out of 10. The kids were great and the parents were appreciative, but the school was not. In their defense, thinking about the school’s threat of closure was a bigger concern than appreciation for Ronit’s work, which I totally understood.
- Love and connection – 5 out of 10. I received lots of love from the kids and their parents but nothing from the staff and the school administration. Again, people were in fear for their jobs so they did not communicate much.
- Growth – 2 out of 10. I did not feel that I had developed myself. I did not have to stretch myself much. I basically did what I was good at and there was no one there to look up to and no reason to aim higher. The norm was to strive for the average and I refused to take part.
- Contribution – 5 out of 10. I gave the kids lots – love, attention, skills, knowledge, fun, experiences and more. I had a great time with them. Unfortunately, having to do it it all by myself, in my own room seemed to be a threat to the other teachers. I had to hide the progress the kids were making because it was not welcomed by the other teachers. This impacted my ability to give them.
When I added up the points, I got 20 out of 60. No wonder I was not fulfilled. It may be impossible to get a job that rates 60 out of 60, but in my personal formula, less than 30 is out of the question. With my current job, as an educator, life coach, presenter and a director of a not-for- profit organization, I am just above the 50 and I am very happy with that.
It is important to know that some things we do can in fact fulfill all our needs (even if they are not so great for us). The more needs that are fulfilled, the more attractive the activity is. That is why gangs are so hard to fight. They fulfill many needs which is why belonging to a gang is so strong and attractive. In a gang, you get certainty from belonging to a group that will take care of you and give you love and connection. The activities you take part in are varied and give a sense of adventure (variety). You are not just like everyone else in the “rat race” and you feel special (significance). You learn lots about yourself and improve skills (even stealing skills are skills), which means growth, lots of growth. And you are contributing very much to the group – the gang.
Knowing about the six human needs allows us to measure our needs and make sure we fulfill them. It is easy to write a list of things we can do make sure our needs are met. If you ever feel a little bit lacking in one need, you can always pick yourself up by “borrowing” from others. For example, when I worked at the school, my certainty rated a zero. I had to fulfill my need for certainty some other way. I did this by writing, organizing my house, investing in my relationship with my family. This gave me lots of certainty and it helped me survive at a time when certainty was so lacking in my work.
Remember that people are willing to compromise on the things they value most if it means fulfilling their needs. Always attend to your needs!
Until next time, be happy!
This post is part of the series Six Human Needs: