I tend to be skeptical of advice that rhymes. No pain, no gain. An apple day keeps the doctor away. But I do like author Doreen Virtue’s rhyming wisdom: When you get nervous, focus on service.
Pretend for a moment that you were put on this planet for one and only one reason: to serve. And imagine that life is a big game that you can only “win” when you figure out how you can best relieve the suffering of others.
Ask yourself what talents you’ve been given. Are you naturally great at math, or a genius with a transmission? Are you unusually organized and responsible, or someone with uniquely engaging social skills? This isn’t about glamor, ego or prestige, but about an honest assessment of your natural gifts. What one thing are you absolutely the best at–even if you don’t enjoy that thing?
Now suppose you used this gift to relieve as much suffering as possible. Your math talent leads you to become an accountant at a non-profit you truly believe in. Your expert handyman skills prompt you to offer free home repair to the sick and elderly. So you follow your talent, your service mission, always realigning your behavior toward alleviating suffering. You don’t think much about money, or work hours, or health benefits, because you remember the only way to “win” life is to direct your energy toward helping others.
You don’t have to change jobs or re-enter the work force to adopt this orientation. Being a parent can be a profound act of service. So can being an accountant for the most “evil” of corporations. It’s not what you do, but how you do it. It’s not up to you to make people “better” people. It’s about alleviating the real and immediate suffering of people in your life, regardless what you think about their life decisions, personalities or “worthiness” as people.
But just to keep things simple, start with being selfish. How can you alleviate your suffering? Life and its never ending conveyor belt of Big Decisions can be stressful and demoralizing. So take yourself out of the loop, even if just for today. Set aside your wants and needs–consciously and intentionally, not out of fear or resentment–so that you can relax. Give yourself permission to step outside the race to “get ahead.” Hold off on your ambitious personal goals and just try being there, 100% present, for the people that need you.
Life opens hidden doors for people who serve others.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.