Through developing the website, www.happiness-after-midlife that I co-founded with my ex business partner, Dr. Frank Bonkowski, something got triggered in me.
The site deals with the issues around happiness as they relate to people who are in the “Third Age,” those of us who are roughly between the ages of 45-75. A characteristic of people in that age group is that we want to give back to society in some way, a phenomenon known as “generativity” (generativity is a struggle against stagnation that ascends during adulthood. Generativity in the psychosocial sense refers to the concern for establishing and guiding the next generation and is said to stem from a sense of optimism about humanity- Wikipedia). This is where I find myself. Even though I have no children, I’m not okay with leaving a default legacy for the planet- “going down the tubes.”
This experience of wanting to make a difference isn’t unique to midlifers and beyond but is present in all age groups. For the most part, it’s suppressed.
When I was participating with The Hunger Project in the 1980s, I came to see how one person could make a difference whatever their circumstances might be. Confronting big issues like hunger, climate warming, poverty, crime and conflict to name a few, can be overwhelming. We may say to ourselves, “I’m only one person. How can I make a difference?” We then end up taking no responsibility for the situation and no action- we put ourselves in a situation in which we’re powerless. We end up being resigned. Our lives become mostly about “getting by,” about focusing on what’s going to make us happy.
At its beginnings (1977), The Hunger Project, as well as other organizations claimed that the planet had all the resources to end hunger and poverty. The only thing missing was the will of individuals to make a difference. It’s mission was to enroll individuals into taking a stand for ending hunger- the appropriate actions would follow.
It used the example of President Kennedy in 1961 declaring that by the end of the decade, there would be a man on the moon. All the scientific evidence was against this happening. Yet in July, 1969, a spacecraft landed on the moon.
While hunger remains a major issue, the trend over the last 35 years is that the world Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), the number of deaths of children within their first year per 1000 births (a measure of hunger) has been declining.
I refer to this process through an earlier post in which I share the “BE-DO-HAVE” model of how things come into existence. Rather than getting the circumstances of life to line up with what we’re out to accomplish, the starting place is in the domain of being, in which through our speaking (declaration), we say how things will turn out- just because we say so. This also applies to what we say about ourselves. It could sound like, “I make a difference, because I say so. That’s who I am,” regardless of what the circumstances look like- I don’t need any evidence.
One example of that in my own life is that I failed my final year of dentistry because of a visual impairment. My confidence was low. I repeated the year and I still wasn’t granted my degree. My clinical work wasn’t up to par. I was given one more chance by working at the summer dental clinic. Something shifted in me in that I said to myself I was going to pass the requirements to graduate. It happened at a cellular level. I let go of the fear of not making it– I knew I was going to pass and I did. In a way, that was too bad because I really wasn’t meant to practice dentistry!
So, if you’re a small business owner, which is the group I’m really addressing and you’re concerned about giving back and making a difference, you may want to take on the commitment for yourself that “who I am makes a difference.”
Check out this inspiring video…