Many of us want to improve the world and be remembered as a hero. We see injustice and suffering and eagerly want to remove the pain in other people. However, we have a self-absorbed society where everyone is compared, judged and rated has transformed us into being more egoistic. It is very easy for us to only focus on our own problems and aspiration that we easily forget there are other dreams and needs in the world. We have to strive for a society where we are more altruistic.
First of all, what is altruism? According to the article Altruism - A case for Human Goodness, written by Noah Berlatsky (Pacific Standard, Dec 11, 2014), altruism can be described as “feelings and behavior that show a desire to help other people and a lack of selfishness”. One can state that an altruistic person is someone who cares about other’s happiness and is willing to help other individuals. Berlatsky refers to neurobiologist Donald Pfaff, who believes that humans are innately caring and have accomplished to develop an advanced society by working together. Furthermore, Pfaff believes that people can naturally put themselves in someone else’s shoes because they can easily recognize themselves in others. Most of us agree that altruism exists and that humans have a sense of compassion for anyone in trouble. It could occur between close relatives, such as a mother’s protection of her kids. But it can also take place on a bigger scale. Many ideologies and religions promote altruistic actions, such as volunteering, living environmentally-friendly or donating money to charity. We have to come to the insight that we find a purpose with our lives when we help those in need.
Further, it is significant to know how someone can become more altruistic. At the individual level, each person can do much to become more caring. One can follow the five principles for personal growth made by Pat MacDonald, the author of Narcissism in the Modern World. Those principles are “gratitude, modesty, compassion (for self and others), mindfulness and community”. Being grateful, staying humble and accepting awards with modesty can make someone less selfish and self-oriented. However, MacDonald believes that it is equally important to have self-satisfaction because it is one of the most vital conditions for establishing positive relationships with others. In addition, meditation and mindfulness can help us feel compassion for others. Mindfulness can help someone turn off their destructive thoughts and see the world in other perspectives. These five principles can help many to become less selfish and come to the realization that one person has the ability to reduce other’s suffering.
At a society level, our community can do a lot to increase the well-being of every individual. David Brooks states in his article The Power of Altruism (The New York Times, July 8, 2016) that assuming that people are selfish can decrease the likelihood of people becoming more altruistic. For example, he mentioned an incidence where some fire commissioner had set a limit on the number of days off. The idea of helping others was transformed into being forced to follow a plan, so fewer fire-fighters wanted to work during the holidays. Hence, institutions have to expect altruistic behaviour to receive it. Moreover, society has to promote donations and voluntary work so that more people become willing to help. But you have to know where you should invest your resources. Effective altruism is an international movement that tries to focus on the charities that make the most of the donations. Our community has to identify a number of good organizations and invest in charities that have a greater impact in our world.
In conclusion, we have to become less selfish and more altruistic to make the world better. There are a lot of goals we have to achieve fast, such as eliminating extreme poverty and reducing animal suffering and climate change in the long term. We can become more altruistic by following MacDonald’s five principles and encouraging unselfish behaviour. Staying grounded and believing that everyone has the potential to help others have always motivated me to become more altruistic. Personally, I have always believed that the meaning of life is to make the world a better place. But we have to be effective with how we help others. We can help much more when we are informed about organizations that can to greatest benefit. To put this into practice, you can consider joining an effective altruism movement in your area. Never forget that we have the ability to improve other’s lives.