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Updated: Sep 1, 2022

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I have been reflecting on the term ‘Contribution’ and what it could possibly evoke in us.

We probably all have, at some point, thought about what we want in our lives. Maybe you have been reflecting on how you could contribute or add value to others. Or, possibly even how you want to contribute to make the world a better place. The answers to these questions are often a reflection of our values, or our deepest desires and attitudes about the world, other people, and ourselves.

Research shows that understanding our values, strengths, and the things that make our life meaningful are valuable in helping us navigate challenges, support our well-being and align ourselves with a cause we feel we could contribute to.

Knowing our values is important because it helps us make decisions, take action, and focus on moving towards the life we want to live.

Identifying our values and taking committed action towards our values – even when it is uncomfortable or difficult to do so– is how we live a life of vitality, meaning, and fulfilment.

We all have our own set of values, and only you can determine what those values are. No one else can define this for you. We also attribute different meanings to the same word. Therefore, if ‘contribution’ is one of your values, it is important to reflect on what the word means to you.

One of the meanings in the Oxford Dictionary describes ‘contribution’ as, the part played by a person or thing in bringing about a result or helping something to advance. Another definition explains ‘contribution’ as something that you do that helps to achieve something or to make it successful.

It is a common human desire to feel that we matter, that we contribute something notable and significant, that our existence adds value to the world. I remember one of my early mentors, Dr. Francois Hugo imprinting on me that everyone has the ‘need to add value’, and that this need, overlooked, often cause problems in the places where we could contribute - our families, our communities and our workplaces.

Difficulties often occur when we try to work out if our contribution is making a difference. How do we know whether our contribution is good enough?

• Is it about the recognition we receive?

• Is it about whether we felt happy?

• Or is it about the difference we made to others?

It can be easy to use external measures and believe this is the route to success and happiness, but losing our connection to the deeper personal meaning of our values can cost us the opportunity to be our best selves. A more helpful way to think about our values is to consider the personal meaning they have to us and develop our own internal measures for success. In the case of ‘contribution’ as a value, this means we are thoughtful about the actions we take, even if they only are ‘little moves’ aligned to how we want to contribute. How we show up as the person we want to be and how we want to contribute becomes much more important than external measures.

Furthermore, when we measure success by whether we’ve lived our values and whether we were the person we wanted to be, the more likely we are to live a rich and meaningful life. And, when we consider the value ‘contribution’ from this perspective, and we are truly connected to its personal meaning for ourselves, the greater our potential is to influence and contribute in all areas of our life.

I personally believe I can contribute every day by helping others realise their potential. Whether I work with groups in organisations or individuals; whether it’s big system interventions or everyday encounters - I want people to believe in themselves and see their own power and strength.

How do you define your contribution?

References and further resources:

Collis, R. (2021). How to Choose Your Values and Why it Matters. Working with ACT.

Hayes, S.C., (2020). A liberated mind: How to pivot toward what matters. Penguin.

Liberate Your Mind With Steven Hayes | The Psychology Podcast




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