Working for the benefit of society

In a conversation earlier this week, a question was posed on Twitter along the lines of – surely this can’t be it? I have to do something useful with my life? It’s quite the question, and one I’ve been pondering myself for a while now too. There must be more that we can do in this life, than just go to work, enjoy our family and friends, and achieve personal ambitions…

Well, yes, there is more we can do. The question becomes more focused – what would we do? Well, when I think of this, it comes down to acting altruistically. True altruism though is hard, not many of us will ever achieve a state of life where we can help others with very little expectation of reward or recognition. It’s why I’m so interested in social enterprise. Doing work, from which the profits are poured back into initiatives that provide real help to those less fortunate than ourselves.

The Guardian ran an article some time back about people taking up studies on how to build a social enterprise. I love the idea. It marries the best of both needs and desires. We need to work, and have a desire to help others. I believe if enough of us are able to do such activities, we can build a better society, which has positive consequences.

So, what could we do? This is by far the hardest part of the question to answer. You have to have a solid business idea that you think can work. Let’s rent cars to folks who want it on a pay as you go basis. Fantastic concept, and applicable to so many people. Let’s use the profits to improve the surroundings of parks so people enjoy driving by them. I’m not suggesting Streetcar so this, or don’t, or that they are a social enterprise, but it’s easy to see from this example how you can formulate the concept quite clearly.

I haven’t researched enough to know if large organisations would do this. And I don’t mean through CSR activities, but actually taking upwards of 80% of their profits and ploughing it back into a set of initiatives that build a better society.

I’m still stuck on what my business idea might be. I know who I want to help – I’m in constant despair about the state of child welfare in this country and I want the situation to improve dramatically so children of any age are not neglected or abused. But I don’t know what my business idea is yet. I’m not forcing the thinking on this. These things take time, and you have to be certain it’s a path of want to go down.

People can seek help and advice from a range of sources. The government supports social enterprise and incentivises to it. Coaches can help develop the clarity of thinking. Investors could be convinced to part with their money for such noble purposes, and they could provide valuable advice as well as money. So there is good reason to think of it, and to try and make it happen.

This post is in part to help put my thoughts down on where I’m at, but hopefully to help others also think about what something like this involves.

>Being positive takes effort

>I write often about positive psychology and the very practical applications it offers to help people realise and understand how they can act differently if they wish to lead more ‘happier’ lives. Now, ‘happier’ is always a subjective term, and no-one can dictate to you, how happy you should be, this is a judgement you need to make for yourself. But, if you do wish to be happier, there are some very easy, very practical things you can go.

Before I launch into the different kinds of activity you should think about, let me stress this. This isn’t a one trick pony. In order to achieve a more positive state of mind, or be happier, it takes concerted effort, and you need a strong support network. Be that friends, family, work colleagues, or professional help, someone needs to help you on this journey. Without a support network this will be a truly difficult task.

Additionally, extensive research has been carried out into the tangible effects of acting in the ways listed below. The research shows positive changes in a person’s own sense of positivity over a period of time, how positive they are about others, and whether or not, the practices hold a lasting effect. I’ll not cite the various pieces of research as I’m in a rush. But, and I will hold my name to this, I would not be suggesting the things below, if I didn’t believe it.

I’ve written before about writing 3 good things at the end of the day. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see I try to do this, and you’ll also see how infrequently I do it. It’s a very easy thing to do for a short while. As a continued effort though, it does take practice before you remember to do it regularly. In honesty, I think about my #3goodthings most nights, I just don’t write it down. And that’s the hey part, because you’re articulating it rather than thinking it.

A gratitude visit is a very powerful way to raise your sense of positivity. This essentially entails you taking the time to visit one person and let them know why you’re thankful they’re part of your life. This doesn’t have to be a regular weekly or monthly activity, but it does need to happen at least once or twice over a long period of time. What this helps to do is raise your confidence in being able to appreciate those in your life, and expressing it in a way which is meaningful to both you and the receiver.

Act in small ways which are unselfish. It doesn’t take a lot to give someone the time of day, or to help answer a query. But in this busy world we fool ourselves into thinking that someone else will do it. Yes, maybe they will. But should that stop you from doing it too? No. There are few people I know who truly act without expectation of the same for them. And for that I will always hold them in high regard.

One of the most powerful ways to help you and others around you feel good, is by smiling. So much is associated with a genuine smile. This is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re not one for doing this, have a look at those around you who do, and consider how much of an impact they have on those around them.

And that’s where I stop. Four things you can do to help raise your level of positivity and how you think about being happy.