The Need to Feel Like You’re Contributing

Last week I had guests on two separate upcoming episodes of the Better Me Podcast, and in both cases we talked about the need to feel like you’re contributing.  Contribution can look like a lot of things – waving to a stranger as they pass by your house, donating blood, developing a successful vaccine for COVID-19. While we can’t all do that last one, most people can do the other two, and many other things to contribute.

Feeling like you contribute gives you purpose, it makes you feel like you may be making a positive difference in the world. In times of great stress or mental illness, that sense of contribution may be what gets you out of bed in the morning.

There have been times in my work in education that I’ve felt like what I was doing wasn’t making a difference. I once spent several months working on a project I’d been assigned (at a previous job) only to have that project shelved because the stakeholders decided it wasn’t what they needed after all. 

Recently, my friend Mary, who works in the same field as me, but at a different institution, commented that it seemed like our entire careers had prepared us for this moment (supporting instructors and students to quickly transition to remote teaching and learning). While my work at the university has frequently, in the past four months, felt a bit like I’m a hamster on a wheel, I have constantly felt like I’m contributing. I’m needed and making a positive difference in the lives of others.

The Better Me Podcast gives me that same sense of contribution.  I’m recording the 25th and final episode of the first season this week and it’s been a wild ride. When I started I thought I’d try to put out two episodes a month, one of which would have a guest. I planned to talk mostly about mental health and productivity type stuff, but things changed rather quickly and I’m grateful for the 21 guests who agreed to be on the podcast this season and for all of the listeners. I’m grateful the opportunity that it provides me to share my stories and the stories of my guests about how we get through the struggles in our own lives and how we help others.

Even in these hard times, we can all find ways to contribute, to help make the world a better place. That might be you waiving to your neighbour, voting in upcoming elections, donating to a charity you care about, calling a friend on the phone, or maybe coming up with a vaccine for COVID-19 (really, we could sure use this one).

Whether your contribution is big or small, it matters. And I’m grateful that you’re doing it.

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