Updated: Dec 21, 2018
When the “True North” of your purpose doesn’t just lead back to you, you are grounding your self-worth in creating a better world for others. It is what psychologist Erik Erikson called “generativity.” Simply put, it means giving to the next generation.
As society becomes ever more insular and virtual pleasures replace real-life hardships, it is understandable why most people are tempted to put themselves first.
However, with this self-obsession comes a serious mental health warning:
If you are only concerned with yourself, you cannot impact the success of others (and you cannot consequently take pleasure in their successes).
This, for me, is what makes life worth living.
I find it interesting that so many senior professionals come into interviews and talk about themselves for the majority of the time. They view their careers through a lens of personal achievements and failures, and they sadly fail to appreciate the impact (positive or negative) that they have had on others along the way.
In a world where so many leaders in high-pressure environments are experiencing chronic mental health challenges, it seems to me that an attitude (or even awareness) of “generativity” would go a long way to helping them find some balance.
The fear of not hitting a certain target could be replaced by the passion of helping countless others to reach their goals.
The stress of the long “to do” list could be avoided by delegating to others and passing on knowledge along the way.
You are far more than your achievements. Ask any parent.
When you base your self-worth on where you are in this life, the outcomes can only be a rollercoaster ride – no one path is ever smooth. However, when you consider the myriad of impacts that you continue to have on those around you, the path smooths out a little and you sense that there is indeed a sense of balance.
In a disruptive world, seeking to live for others helps people to remain grounded – never to rise too high or to fall too low. When you find this balance in others, it is possible to find in yourself. It also tends to be a reciprocal existence. When you live for others, they will do the same for you. When you only live for yourself, no one else will care about you.
Opportunities to make a difference to others come along all the time – when we have lots of people in our circle, those windows of opportunity come along more often than chances to help just ourselves. Living an unselfish life simply means making the effort when they come our way.
For me, that is the meaning of generativity. You don’t have to go out there to help people – opportunities to help will materialise, and you simply need to say: “Yes, I want to.”
That is a far more meaningful existence than polishing the trophies of our own self-worth.
I know that I need to live a more “generative” life.
How can I contribute more to you?
Email me your thoughts.