“Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth” - N. Eldon Tanner
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been procrastinated pretty hard on writing this post. Despite having already planned a topic that I felt was worthy of being discussed, I continued to talk myself out of putting thoughts into words. Yet, as life goes, the topic that has been on my mind continued to surround me.
As I entered the new year, I tried to look at myself objectively and ask an important question: How can I be better? This is a timeless question. We all aspire to be something greater than our present-self, and this drive is what fuels personal, professional, and emotional development. I believe that this is a question that we should ask ourselves until the end of our days.
For me, the answers all seemed to share a common theme. They all surrounded the idea of service. A concept that focuses more on the welfare of others than ourselves; ultimately, the impact that we as humans can have on other humans. It’s a very simple concept, yet it’s not something that many of us have been conditioned to do in our upbringings. As children, we are served by others, and for good reason; by no means did we have the capability to care for our well-being at such a young age. But as we develop, this begins to change. We become more self-sufficient, and suddenly, we’re cooking our own meals, driving ourselves places, and feeling like we’re on top of the world! Yet, this is also a stage of our lives when we are coined as ‘self-centered’. While this may be true, it’s an important stepping stone into adulthood, where we develop an understanding of our own uniqueness.
Some may struggle with discovering themselves. They believe that they don’t have a special gift to share with the world, and thus they’re better off serving themselves (often times minimally) for much of their lives.
Recently, I read Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. This book opened my eyes to the importance of service. He framed success as the impact that we can have on others. This led to the activity that I discussed in last week’s post, where you “begin with the end in mind” by asking what characteristics you would want others to describe you as possessing throughout your lifetime. No matter what your response was, the characteristics likely focused on making an influence externally. This vision of our future-selves is a great springboard into producing an instant-change for the self, and a lasting impact to those around you.
While goals may be all fine and dandy, the pursuit and achievement of those aspirations may not always be as easy as we’d like. Distractions present themselves, doubt creeps in, and the next thing we know, we’re fighting tooth and nail to prove to ourselves that we’re worthy of the gifts that we are provided with, muchless that we’re in a stable position to be giving to others.
This is truly where the battle is won and lost. The daily conversation that we have with ourselves to say that we are enough. And not only are we enough, but that we are so special that we should be fortunate enough to share our gifts with those around us. After all, service isn’t a choice, it’s an opportunity that we get to grab ahold of daily. We are all gifted with the opportunity to give and receive the single most rewarding aspect of human existence: love.
I believe that we all want to live a life of service; the act of spreading love and building prosperous connections with others is what makes us human. Yet, it seems that some people struggle more than others to do so. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to overcome this struggle. Rather, we should use it as a means to appeal to others in meaningful ways. For anyone struggling to serve others in their daily lives, I would recommend two things:
1. Serve yourself, first and foremost.
As Covey recommends in his book, ask yourself what one thing you could do (that you’re not currently practicing in your daily life) to make instant change. This could be as simple as reading for 30 minutes each day, adding more movement into your life, or practicing meditation to increase mindfulness. All of these acts seem overwhelmingly simple, but as you may have heard, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. So fill your cup, and fill it often, because doing so may just give you the confidence and security that you need to exercise your ‘yes’ muscle for serving others.
2. Be proactive.
Despite popular belief, we are not a product of our conditions, but rather we are determined by our decisions to act, and in the manner in which we decide to do so. Our ability to be proactive is the engine that makes the car go, so long as we have the engine on a car. If we are consistently proactive in areas of our life that don’t further our purpose (the pursuit of the characteristics mentioned previously), then we will be no closer to serving others than we were as children. So focus on how you’re spending your time each day, make changes when necessary, and be proactive in the pursuit of the goals that are central to your existence.
When we reflect on our true aspirations, it’s hard to look past the connection that these goals have to those around us. We are conditioned to give and receive love; and the act of service, as broad as this term can be, is perhaps the most meaningful display of love that we can show. Service is sacrifice, it is consideration, passion, and intent. Service isn’t easy, but it is rewarding, because it allows us to share in the human experience. I am writing this post because service is an area of life that I seek to improve upon, and I encourage everyone reading this to do the same. After all, who could deny the greatness of a world that is built off of true service to others?
- Austin Myers