In an article written with Arthur C. Brooks for The New York Times, the Dalai Lama explains how the desire to feel needed may be what’s causing anxiety, anger, and fear in so many of the world’s most prosperous nations.
Today, there is less poverty, hunger, and illiteracy and a greater recognition of women’s and minority rights across the world than ever before. Despite this, and the fact that most of the world sees wealthy regions like America, Britain, and Europe as safe and prosperous, feelings of discontent have increased recently in these areas.
According to the Dalai Lama, the phenomenon can be explained by a simple human truth – that people need to feel needed. Those that help others and serve society are more likely to report being happy. One study showed that seniors who didn’t feel useful to others were almost three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did.
The Dalai Lama claims that people in these prosperous countries aren’t feeling useful, needed, or connected to society. Today in the United States, three times are many men are outside of the workplace than 50 years ago. Feeling unneeded can lead to social isolation and negative emotions.
To combat this discontent, individuals should begin their days by asking how they can appreciate what others give them. Leaders should create opportunities for meaningful work, and educate children in both ethics and practical skills. People should work together to build a society that takes into account the desire to be needed and useful.