“Being a Contribution” -- and How to Jump Start Your Life!

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that no matter how much you did you simply couldn’t enhance or change the outcome so that you felt alive and purposeful? As a coach, I’ve heard this from people who are very able and successful in their careers, for example, but feel stuck in the quality of their whole lives.

So here’s a question for you-- What challenge can you give yourself that will move you out of a dead end into a place where your energy can move again?

Ben Zander-- co-author of The Art of Possibility and concert conductor-- gives his music conservatory students the following challenge to jolt them out of their attachment as to whether or not they’re playing well enough:  Each week they are to “notice how they are a contribution . . . and to cast themselves as a contribution into the week ahead. . . and imagine that everything they do sends ripples out beyond the horizon.”

So what does this mean in practical terms? Have you noticed how easy it is to get mired in your own expectations, pinning your happiness on your plans and accomplishments?  For example, “This has to be a wonderful trip” or “This relationship will be the one” or “I must do well in this profession-- I’ve invested so much in getting this degree.”

It’s so easy to forget the value of just being who we are and who we like to be--and sharing that with others.  And yet, holding the attitude of “I am a contribution to others and to this planet” can literally redirect your talents and your energy into areas with real potential for expanding and lighting up your life!

I inadvertently played the “I am a contribution” game some years ago when traveling for a while through England with a friend.  When my friend left and I was on my own, it was like I lost my inner compass and didn’t know what to do next, even though I had plans.  I felt absolutely stuck, and I had a number of weeks to go before returning home.

As I sat in my hotel room unable to decide what to do, I suddenly thought of the owner of the hotel-- a pleasant woman who’d talked with me in a friendly way about my trip, but with a look of sadness in her face.  I wrenched myself out of my own preoccupation and thought, “I wonder if there’s some way I could help her be happier.”  This thought moved me out of my room and onto the street where I saw a flower vendor.

On the spot, I bought a small bouquet of fragrant, though not exotic, flowers and presented them to the hotel owner.  I still remember how her face lit up with pleasure as she lifted them to her face to take in the scent of the out-of-doors.  Suddenly, I felt my heart open and a delight in life come back to me.  This small act of “being a contribution” freed me from my limited mindset to an expansive place of spirit, which turned out to be the unsuspected door to the possibilities of my own

As one of Ben Zander’s students wrote about “being a contribution”-- “I know now that music is not about fingers or bows or strings, but rather a connective vibration flowing throughout all human beings, like a heartbeat.”