This article was last updated on April 18, 2022
When we talk about self-improvement, we often focus on the self: what can I do to improve myself? How can I be better? While we are all responsible for the changes we see in ourselves, there is more to becoming a better person. Giving to others can help boost your motivation, and help you to become a better version of yourself.
Self-improvement is an age old concept, that we’re all chasing in some way or another. We often try to think about ourselves as ‘good’ people, based on what we think ‘good’ people do or are like. Is being kind to strangers enough to call yourself a good person? What about actually going out of our way to do something for someone else?
When we give our time, attention, and care to other people that need it, we’re actually improving ourselves in unique and powerful ways.
The power of giving: why self-improvement isn’t about you at all
What makes us want to help others?
When we see or hear stories about crises – whether that be in faraway countries, or about a terminally ill person only two towns away – it’s human nature to feel a sense of empathy, and to want to help. But what is it that actually prompts us into action?
The urge to self-improve has sparked recent booms in spiritual thinking. The aim to achieve certain feelings of peace and contentment, and a sense of control over life are seen as natural outcomes of self-improvement: for instance, we might try to exercise more to ‘balance’ ourselves, or take up a mindful hobby to help get our thoughts in order. These are great ideas, but are only half the battle. We might feel better, but the urge to act, to improve, still remains; to find that ‘something’.
We crave that ‘feel good’ factor; that confident sense that we’re a good person, and that the things we do are meaningful. It’s the desire to attain this feeling that is essential in pushing us to do something good.
The power of human connection
When we do something good, it makes us feel good. But there are different types of ‘good’ we can do: some that work towards the abstract goal of ‘the greater good’. When we do something for someone else and are able to see the effects of how it has helped them, we feel an additional sense of strength and accomplishment. We feel powerful that we’re the ones who have made that change, and enjoy sharing in the feelings of happiness and reward from the outcome. This is a natural confidence booster: acting as ‘proof’ that we’ve got the power to change and improve someone else’s life.
It’s exactly that feeling – that warm, decisive ‘yes!’ feeling – that’s an incredibly powerful motivator. And it’s that same feeling we take as ‘proof’ we’re a good person, along with an enhanced sense of empathy, and connection to others. We feel great about ourselves because we know we’ve got the power to do great things.
Generosity and success
Making a difference in others’ lives can help us out in the workplace, too. Research undertaken at the University of Pennsylvania showed that generosity can lead to success more than selfishness can. This was done through colleagues working together when compared to one person dominating a working challenge, proving that mindset and attitude play a pivotal role in hurtling us down the self-improvement road.
There is also plenty of research suggesting that giving to charity can give us the urge to help even more people. Statistics like these are bountiful: the happiness we glean from giving will never be in dispute.
There was even a large study showing that charitable donations improve your mental health.
The effects we see from charitable giving are also a motivating force in themselves. In 2014, the Charities Aid Foundation tells us that eight out of ten people participated in at least one charitable act.
Motivation is a key driving force of self-improvement, and comes from our own feeling that we’ve got the power to make change, and the power to improve other people’s lives. And this is what can help us be more optimistic, focused, confident, and successful in all other aspects of our own lives.
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