What is the Greater Good?
When I was studying ethics last year as part of the work that accompanied a teaching fellowship I was awarded, we had bi-weekly discussions of concepts such as ‘the greater good’ and questions like ‘what is virtue?’ We looked at applied ethics and normative ethics. For me, my sense of ethics (morality) boiled down to right action and my discernment about what constituted the greater good.
For too long we’ve used profit as the measure of whether or not something serves society. We see where that’s gotten us. Nowhere good. Trust me.
“In terms of power and influence you can forget about the church, forget politics. There is no more powerful institution in society than business… The business of business should not be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.” ~ Anita Roddick, Business as (Un)Usual: My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profit With Principles
As we make our way through the paradigm shift that is currently underway, thinking about the greater good seems particularly apropos.
We must act responsibly, collaboratively, and collectively for the good of the planet and everyone on it. There’s no longer the option of treating the earth as though her largess is without end. We cannot frack and drill and dig and fish rapaciously with no end in sight. Profit motivated pragmatism can no longer be the order of the day.
Moving forward, collective good must be the driving force in all our decisions.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ Buckminster Fuller
I recently heard Vishen Lakhiani of The Mindvalley Academy talk about the difference between ‘means goals’ and ‘end goals’ and the reason we need — as a society and as individuals — to stop focusing on means goals, and instead focus on end goals.
“Begin with the end in mind.” ~ Stephen R. Covey
Means goals are short-term material goals. They might include our desire for a house, a particular car, a certain type of job, or an amount of money that seems like it would more than meet our needs.
End goals are completely different.
End goals revolve around our need to ‘make meaning’ in our lives. End goals are the goals that encompass what we truly want out of life.
- Experiences: Who do I want to spend my time with? What do I most want to experience? What places to I want to see?
- Growth: What do I most want to learn? How do I want to grow as an individual during my life?
- Contribution: What do I want to do to give back to the larger world? What sort of contribution will I make with my life?
“If the world were to agree on a vision of the common good, what might it be? Frances Hesselbein argues that to some extent such a vision already exists, one that embraces healthy children, strong families, good schools, decent housing, and work that dignifies, all in the cohesive, inclusive society that cares about all of its people.” ~ John C. Knapp in For the Common Good: The Ethics of Leadership in the 21st Century
A Cohesive, Inclusive Society
“No decisions should ever be made without asking the question, is this for the common good?” ~ Michael Moore
So, how do we build a society that actively supports and works for the greater good? A few places we might start?
- Teaching civics, ethics, and empathy in our homes and schools.
- Teaching the value of compassion, collective good and giving back.
- Teaching that creating value (not money) for yourself/society is more important than personal gain.
- Teaching ourselves to collect experiences rather than stuff; to live simply, so others can simply live.
If we focused on these ideas and on the idea of pursuing end goals: experiential goals, goals that grow our souls and our minds, and goals that stem from a sense of collective good and contribution, we will, without a doubt, transform the world.
Here’s a very poignant example of doing things for the greater good: http://www.lifebuzz.com/thai-commercial/
© 2014 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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