Many of us have been brought up to think that there is only so much to go around and we must grab what we can before other people get our share. But there is another paradigm which insists on the importance of community, emphasizing our interconnectedness and interdependence. In this view, helping others, giving something of ourselves and reaching out are the keys to success and happiness.
Einstein wrote, ‘Only a life lived for others is worth living.’ This idea can sometimes be called adding value. Why is this way of looking at things so valuable?
- When you add value, the whole that you produce is greater than the sum of the parts which produced it. Unlike the ‘not enough pie to go round’ paradigm, the adding-value paradigm insists that when you enrich the life of someone else, the pie gets bigger and there is more for us all.
- It makes the world a better place for all of us. When you help someone, you add value to their life and you make the world a better place. Whether you’re a teacher who helps a student to pass an exam or encourages him to apply for university, or an author who writes a book that helps thousands of people, you make the world better for all of us, including yourself.
- You’re going to get a whole lot in return. This is not the reason for doing it, of course, but it’s a fact – when you give you receive. Maybe not in the way you think, but when you really try to add value with no expectation of reward, the rewards start rolling in. Life is strange like that!
- It makes you feel good. Steven Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks about an inner darkness which is created when you live a life without integrity. Living a life of integrity and value is the only way to truly feel good about yourself.
- It brings opportunity. If you become known as someone who always helps, always tries to find a solution, you’ll win friends and influence people. There are two kinds of person, my friend (can you guess the movie?), problem people and solution people. Which are you seen as? You future success could depend on being in the right category.
So how do we add value? What can we do to experience this rich and rewarding way of living? Here are some examples of how to make sure you are adding value in every situation as much as you can.
- Make sure you know what you can do. What are your skills? What are you good at? These are the tools which will allow you to add value.
- Do what you love. When you do the things you love, adding value comes naturally. Look at Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Madonna, or any number of rich and successful people: what do they have in common? They do what they love! And they are successful because they add value naturally.
- If you’re not adding value, get out! If you’re in a job where you don’t feel you’re systematically adding something, either you need to change the way you’re doing things, or it’s time to quit. You can do better.
- Adding value will guide you to the right job or enterprise. If you have a choice of two or more paths, be they career paths or anything else, always choose the one that allows you to add the most value. This will keep you in alignment with your true purpose in life and will, ultimately, bring you greater happiness and greater reward.
- Keep on learning new things and expanding your comfort zone. This is how you learn more skills which will enable you to add more value. Go on a course, do a part time degree, put together a website, write a novel – but do something new.
- Don’t be scared to fail. When you do something new, you’ll do it badly and you might even be afraid to do it at all. If and when you do fail, you might not want to go through the experience again. But if you push through that initial failure, pick yourself up and keep going, you’ll start to improve and eventually you’ll be good at what you’re doing.
- Encourage other people. Try to get the best out of people – encourage them to be the best they can be. This will inspire them to take their own risks and add their own value to the world.
So there are seven ways of adding value. I could have made a list of ten, twenty or even more. Perhaps you have more ideas?