A recent op-ed by The Dalai Lama and Arthur Brooks discussed the benefits of feeling needed. Studies show that Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives.
Yet their central argument was that the fear of being unneeded is driving much of the anger, fear and darkness that we see around us.
So what gives?
The reality is that we don’t make it easy for people to feel needed, go into service or help others.
Consider the following examples:
- Undervalued. Who should get paid more – someone whose life work is to prevent heart disease (e.g. President of the American Heart Association) or someone whose work helps create it (e.g. McDonald’s CEO)?
- Under appreciated. We say we appreciate our teachers, policeman, social workers and public servants. So why do we stereotype or second guess them so much?
- Unseen: What percentage of the stories in your Facebook feed or on the evening news are about someone causing a problem versus someone coming up with a solution?
His Holiness and Mr. Brooks quote Buddhist teaching that says “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
Yet as a society, what are we doing to fuel these flames?
In the last several months, I’ve visited towns where teachers, EMT workers and nurses could not afford to live in the very communities they served.
I’ve conducted a survey among almost 700 public service leaders, of which only 11% say they feel that their fellow Americans respect their efforts.
And I’ve talked to a doctor from Flint whose reputation was attacked for trying to bring attention to their water crisis.
If you’re tired of the darkness that surrounds us, you don’t always have to light your own fire – just find a way to help someone else’s stay lit.
In other words, instead of just cursing at the darkness, run towards a light. Not only will you like what you see, but I bet you’ll be needed.