The best way to find yourself
is to lose yourself in the service of others. -Mahatma Gandhi
As a child growing up in a family of doctors and nurses I watched those around me helping others through their work. My parents and our extended family were also actively involved in local charities, mentoring youth, fundraising for events, and even running for local political offices. I remember my mom taking me to the Junior League thrift store where she volunteered and reminding me that our purchases helped others in need (also a clever tactic for convincing her teenage daughter to buy second-hand clothes!) Last month I took my own two daughters on a trip to Nicaragua to donate clothing and supplies to less-fortunate families and to show them how many other people in the world live. They both said it was one of their all-time favorite vacations.
It feels good to give.
I learned early on that being of service to others creates positive, rewarding experiences in life as a giver. So why is it not always so easy to stay in the mindset of giving?
If you were to read a transcript of your thoughts over the course of a normal day, you’d probably find most of them center around serving yourself. As children we are told to share and not be selfish, but survival and dominance eventually emerge as underlying themes as we strive to get ahead and succeed in life. The ego takes charge. Ironically, the shift from What’s in it for me? to How can I be of service to others? has the greatest potential to help us improve both our personal and professional lives. It gives us the purpose so many seek to discover.
Here are some things to try if you’re feeling “out of service”:
Inventory your skills. Take a moment to write down a list of your top 5 strengths. Next to each one write someone or something who appreciates them or could use your skills. If you have a hard time doing this on your own try Gallup's Strengthsfinder online test. It's a great self-assessment tool when looking for a job or place where you can be of service to others.
Volunteer. This might go beyond what you do in your child’s classroom to what you can do to help your greater community thrive. If you have a special talent or interest, someone out there needs you and donating your time and presence is the key to feeling a connection to others and creating good karma. Find an individual or organization that needs people like yourself, even for a short-term project. There are many volunteer matching organizations to help you get started.
Gratitude journal. Keep track and count of all that you are blessed with daily. Wanting to have -the prevalent attitude in our culture – is a pattern of thinking that arises from our belief in separation from others and lack. If we feel that we are not complete, that we need more, we lean towards wanting to have rather than wanting to give.
Meditation. One of my favorite mantras I use in meditation is simply how can I be of service? When you direct yourself away from an ego-centered focus, to one of alignment with a divine greater purpose, you will receive messages that guide you toward actions that will help you find inner peace.
I am planning to take a group of individuals to Guatemala to do a service & exploration retreat in January, 2016.
Corporate group volunteer trips can also be scheduled now through Inspire Solutions. Would love to hear from you if you're interested in joining us. Contact me for more details.