History will attest that the birth of modern psychology was around 50 to 70 years ago. The era of personal growth was launched and, with it, 1,001 new and re-purposed modalities for achieving it.
I grew up in this era, having gotten my doctorate in psychology, and was proud to be among those pioneering new expressions of psychotherapy, transformational workshops, life coaching, mind-body approaches, online education, and spiritual psychology. These modalities grew up in an atmosphere where people took individual responsibility for personal growth—a commendable quest. Now, they are available in most of our communities, on our smartphones and computers. New frontiers such as neuropsychology and genomics are redefining human potential once again.
The language of pop psychology is currently a part of our culture, as are the names of new approaches that did not exist a few short years ago. As a result, countless millions attest that their lives, relationships, and ability to function with optimal effectiveness at home and at work have been positively impacted.
Looking back over the course of my life in psychology, however, I find myself asking, “What, in addition to the quality-of-life benefits for individuals, has personal growth done for society?” Will this be judged as a period of self-indulgent, baby-boomer narcissism that eroded our sense of social responsibility and concern for the common good? Or, will it be viewed as a time when innovations in personal psychology had value-added benefits for society as well? All in all, have we become the better versions of ourselves? Or the lesser version?
Many of us who’ve had the privilege of pursuing personal growth are entering the legacy years of our lives. This is a time when we realize that we’re not going to be here forever and to begin paying the good forward to our children, grand kids, and future generations. Taking social responsibility for the state of our families, communities, nation, and world is an honorable way to express our gratitude for all the good in our lives.
Here are a few ways you can turn personal growth into social responsibility:
- Use the high-level communication/interpersonal skills and convictions you have developed to connect in a more intimate, meaningful, and purposeful way with the people, causes, and things that matter most.
- Create a list of ten ways you might pay it forward, which could involve donating/volunteering your time, talents, knowledge, skills and/or financial resources for the benefit of others.
- Choose one of these ways of contributing, make a commitment to take action, and formulate an implementable game plan.
- Convene a meeting with your family, business or community to explain what you’re doing and why, and create an ongoing tradition/ethic of social responsibility.
Remember, we don’t get to play God or live forever, but we can selflessly pay the good in our lives forward, knowing we’ve done something commendable to make the world a better place. Translating personal growth into social responsibility is a ROI (return on investment) we can all be proud of.