Most of us think that in order to be successful, we need to be highly educated, own a fancy house, drive a luxurious car, have huge deposits in our bank accounts and acquire the latest smartphone. Generally, success is confused with having huge material possessions that we can flaunt infront of others.
Do we not know people who have everything but lack a complete sense of accomplishment? And if that is the case, what do we think the perfect parameter to measure success should be?
For me it is our ability and tendency to contribute to the society. Contribution is something that we offer to family, friends, community and nation - either in the form of money or otherwise. Everybody contributes to some extent, but it could be either positive or negative. That is why we need to make a deliberate effort to make a positive contribution.
For many of us, contribution is the same as charity. But it is not. Rather, it is a tool that measures success. Personally, I believe the means by which we measure success is wrong. We usually consider people successful only when they acquire possessions beyond what they need for living, even if they never use these to create opportunities for others' and the nation's development. Hence, we let our children inherit this mind-set, making them continue to struggle in life until they reach the level where they are considered as successful.
Of course in a developing country like Ethiopia, most of us struggle to even meet our basic needs. This has led many to come to the conclusion that unless they bring themselves out of poverty, contribution is not an alternative.
They are often found saying, "I don't have enough for living, let alone to think about giving back".
Indeed they have a point. It is hard to ask people who cannot adequately satisfy three meals a day, a shelter and clothing to give back to society, at least financially. But there are parts of the society that could be helpful in this regard.
I have always wished to see successful business companies start to give back to their community continuously, through a regular channel by creating a charity wing, instead of only sponsoring a few events. I regularly see materially rich people, with more resources than they know what to do with, misuse it all for selfish reasons and on extravagant events. They concentrate only on their fancy living instead of giving a little attention and support for good causes within their community and the people around them. Therefore, we can surely say the problem is not related with the amount of resources we possess, but with our mindset.
Contribution is not something that comes by its own, instead it is an end result of the way we have been nurtured and the lessons we have learnt throughout the years, first as children and then as adults.
So, here comes the question for parents: how are we nurturing our children while they are still living with us? Are we conscious in our parenting? Are we nurturing them in a way that will make them ready to contribute back to the community? Are we leading an exemplary life so that they follow in our footsteps? Or are we just letting them lead meaningless lives without taking any responsibility and accountability in life, which may cumulatively bring tremendous damage to the nation?
I believe we all need to see positive changes in our nation, yet we do not make the little positive contribution that is in our hands. The sum total of our positive contributions is what will make our nation a better place to live in. It is not only important in terms of making our nation great, but it helps us get internal satisfaction and reach the level of self-actualization - the highest stage in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory.
We need to be the change for the changes we hope to see. The more we contribute to society, and lead by action instead of just talking about it, the more we would benefit our citizens. With enough societal teamwork, where one contributes to the other, a nation can grow and prosper.
Etsegenet Berhanu Has a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and Works As a Family and Youth Counsellor.