Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Deep Caring XXVI: The Motivations of Generativity Four

Deep Caring XXVI: The Motivations of Generativity Four

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The sense of obligation only goes so far, for there is something much more to Senior Sages when it comes to motivation. The fire must be burning bright with a warm and spiritual glow. Volunteer community service has to “feed the spirit.” Even if they don’t initially know what it means to have their spirits fed, Senior Sages soon discover they are being nurtured by their civic service. And this suggests a different kind of generativity. Senior Sages are usually those who have worked for a living throughout their adult lives, so the question might be posed this way: “Why do they do this if they’re not being paid?”

The answer is not that they “owe” someone this service, but that they come alive through civic engagement and find new meaning and purpose in their lives. These Senior Sage leaders are getting “paid” but with payment to their spirit rather than their bank account. And there is payment to their physical well-being as well. As we have already noted, research indicates that senior citizens tend to live longer when spirit, mind, and heart are all being fed. Our own Senior Sage leaders often confirm this conclusion:

The benefits I get from my civic involvements are personal fulfillment and self-actualization. But there is also the benefit that comes from generativity, the desire to want to leave something behind of lasting value. We have to connect with the young. They need us and we need them, and we have much to learn from one another. And there is another benefit: sound physical and mental health. Our civic involvement in the organizations we love helps to prolong our lives by keeping our minds sharp and by fighting off the anxiety and depression that often come with the awareness of pending death.

 So, for most Senior Sages, giving back is much more than a sense of duty. It is contributing to social good because the personal rewards are so great. Senior Sages find rich fulfillment in the work they do and in the results that they can achieve—especially in collaboration with other members of their community. Many Senior Sages get involved in the arts and witness the great pleasure others take in attending a play or musical event. Many also see differences that they are making in the lives of women who are seeking shelter, or in helping children who are in need. These are tangible rewards that Senior Sages can readily observe and feel firsthand. In many cases, the Sages had a career in business and were motivated by that success. They now find it is fulfilling to succeed at something that benefits other people in their community. This becomes a “double-barreled” success.

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