Enlightened self-interest is the idea that we should do things not just because they benefit us directly, but also because they lead to a greater good. In other words, it’s the recognition that what’s good for society is also good for the individual. This may seem like a counterintuitive concept, but it has been endorsed by some of the most successful people in history.
One of the most famous advocates of enlightened self-interest was the American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In his 1889 essay “The Gospel of Wealth,” Carnegie argued that the rich must use their wealth wisely to benefit society as a whole. Specifically, he advocated for using one’s resources for “the improvement of mankind,” such as by funding education, medical research, and infrastructure projects.
This concept is particularly relevant when it comes to building wealth within a community. For a community to be prosperous, its members must not only look out for their own interests, but also work to benefit the community as a whole. When everyone works together for the common good, everyone’s individual efforts add up to create a greater whole.
Giving Back to the Community
One of the best ways to practice enlightened self-interest is to give back to the community that has helped you succeed. This can take many forms, from volunteering your time to donating money to charities. Giving back not only benefits those in need, but also strengthens the community as a whole. When you give back to your community, you are investing in its future. You are also sending a message that you care about more than just yourself; you care about the welfare of others as well.
Helping Others Can Make You Happier and Healthier
One of the best reasons to give back is that it can make you a happier and healthier person. When you give of your time, money, or expertise, you get an infusion of good feelings—called the “helper’s high.” Those good feelings can lead to increased happiness, life satisfaction, and physical health. In fact, one study found that volunteering just two hours a week can be enough to increase your overall sense of well-being. So if you’re looking for a way to boost your happiness and health, giving back is a great option.
Giving Can Create Opportunities for Networking and Career Advancement
Another benefit of giving back is that it can open up doors for networking and career advancement. When you volunteer or donate to a cause that’s important to you, you’ll meet like-minded people who can become valuable contacts. As your network grows, so does your potential for finding new job opportunities or advancing in your career. And since many employers value employees who are actively involved in their communities, giving back can also make you more attractive to potential employers.
Giving Back Can Enhance Your Sense of Purpose
Giving back can enhance your sense of purpose in life. When you dedicate yourself to a cause bigger than yourself, you’ll find new meaning and satisfaction in your life. And as your sense of purpose gets stronger, so does your motivation to achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life. So if you’re looking for ways to add more purpose to your life, look no further than giving back to your community.
Investing in Education
Enlightened self-interest dictates that we should invest in education not just for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of society as a whole. A well-educated population is better equipped to solve social and economic problems, and thus create a better world for everyone. Inequalities in wealth are exacerbated by a lack of educational resources. By making sure that everyone has access to quality education, we can help level the playing field and create a more just and prosperous society.
Promoting Economic Development
Promoting economic development is another way to practice enlightened self-interest. When businesses thrive, they create jobs and generate tax revenue that can be used to fund important public services like education and infrastructure. A thriving economy also benefits consumers, who have more money to spend on goods and services. By promoting economic development, we can create a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity that benefits everyone.
Supporting Social Welfare Programs
Social welfare programs like food stamps and Medicaid provide vital assistance to low-income families and help reduce poverty. But these programs also benefit society as a whole by ensuring that everyone has access to the basic resources they need to live healthy, productive lives. In addition, social welfare programs promote economic stability by preventing people from falling into desperate circumstances. By supporting social welfare programs, we can show that we care about more than just our own interests.
Investing in Local Businesses and Entrepreneurs
By supporting local businesses, you are not only helping to create jobs and grow the economy, but you are also keeping your money within the community. This creates a positive feedback loop in which money circulates within the community, benefiting everyone. In addition, investing in local entrepreneurs helps to create new businesses and promote innovation. This is good for the economy and good for society as a whole.
Creating Opportunities for Others
This could mean mentoring someone who is looking to start a business, offering internships or apprenticeships at your company, or even just being a sounding board for someone with a great business idea. By sharing your knowledge and expertise, you can help others reach their potential and contribute to the community as a whole.
Supporting Community-Based Organizations
Many organizations work to improve the lives of those living in poverty or otherwise marginalized communities. By supporting these organizations, you are helping to ensure that they can continue their important work. In addition, you may be able to volunteer your time or donate money to these organizations. Either way, you will be making a positive impact on the community.
Promoting Social and Economic Justice
Enlightened self-interest also leads us to fight for social and economic justice. We cannot create a prosperous society if some members are left behind. By promoting policies that help those who are most vulnerable, we can create a more just and equitable society—one that benefits us all. Enlightened self-interest is a powerful force for good. By looking out for the interests of others, we can create a better world for everyone.
Enlightened self-interest is an important concept for anyone looking to build wealth within a community. By considering how our actions will impact others, we can make sure that we are not only working in our own interests, but also in the interests of our communities. When everyone works together towards the common good, everyone benefits—and that is what enlightened self-interest is all about.