When I do not focus my intention on self-improvement and contribution, I move into a getting-by-with-the-least-amount-of-pain mode. When I allow my life to become all about survival, or vacations and parties, eating and drinking, comfort and rest, I set myself up for big-time disappointment and frustration. Life often refuses to cooperate with these objectives, throwing stuff at us like sickness, financial struggles, uncooperative people, weather, unplanned events, and…ultimately, death.
Even focusing on accolades and achievements is a dead end if not connected to self-improvement and contribution (see cheating to get ahead, narcissism, or any other type of ends-justifies-the-means rational).
For me, the intent of radical self-improvement and contribution is about valuing every other being no less or no more than I value my self. Waking up every day with this intent changes everything.