Helping Others: A Theory
This post makes me bummed my website traffic is minimal. Hell, let’s be honest: nonexistent. Posting on a more consistent basis will bring in all the critics and haters which I am ecstatic for (not sarcasm). Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy stirring the pot.
Another thing my friends will tell you is I am one of the most self-confident people they’ve ever met (probably not in a good way). Today I’m going to talk about my angelic-like quality of my love for helping people. And really, I’m writing about it so everyone knows how great I am. Queue Muhammed Ali, anyone? Okay, that was sarcasm…
The honest part about this is I hope by taking my experiences and applying them to your own life you become happier.
Quarter Life Crisis
This part isn’t to make you feel bad for me, look at my position which I will try to explain as objectively as possible.
In the words of Eminem:
I guess we would have to walk a mile
In each other’s shoes, at least
What size you where? I wear tens
Let’s see if you can fit your feet
I also believe in taking personal responsibility in everything that happens negatively in my life, so I don’t make duplicate errors.
I am in the middle of a divorce in which should be just about over. Luckily, it wasn’t too ugly and was mutual. I recently finished with the whole child custody thing with my daughter as well, that was a blast and super cheap (actual sarcasm). I was medically discharged from the military for some phenomenon they couldn’t explain in 2016. So their answer? We have to med board you, aka medically separate.
The business that I started in Pennsylvania was flipped on its head and had to readjust to this little town of Danville, Virginia a couple of years ago, which admittedly I haven’t figured out yet. I decided to work on attaining clients remotely which seemed like the best option at the time due to the economic shortfalls of my current area, and the mentality businesses have here.
“But what does this have to do with helping people, and what’s your theory?” I’m getting there.
Have an Anchor
Your anchor needs to be selfish and self-sustainable.
Let’s break that down quick: it’s not relying on anything, or at the very least minimally from outside people. If you’re VERY happily in a relationship, maybe you can say it’s sitting with your significant other at the end of the evening and watching a movie. Perhaps it’s just you playing some video games, journaling, or visiting your favorite website while you’re alone (if you catch my drift).
The anchor is the most integral piece, and a part I was missing for a very long time. I always lived by helping anyone whenever, wherever. The issue was I never did anything for myself. While I felt good doing it, I was never great at accepting gratitude. That always had to come from me. Just ask my Cross Country and Track coaches from high school and college and their memories of me cursing as myself and throwing my spikes (racing shoes).
When I was married, I tried to help and do whatever I could. Cook, clean, take care of the baby (when Alena was a baby), etc. The thing is, I never was joyful at the end of the night, and that played into the outcome of that relationship. Anyone close to me knows I do a horrible job talking about things bothering me.
Bringing it Together
Now that we’re a solid 500 words into this thing I think it’s time for the point to be made if it wasn’t clear yet. And based on my storytelling ability I’m going to assume that’s a hard pass.
Simply put: You cannot be happy solely by helping other people.
We are told that performing acts of kindness will make you feel better, more accomplished, and happier. While the first two may hold true I don’t believe in the latter due to personal experience.
It requires a significant amount of balance and dedication to take care of yourself, well, at least for me it does. We live our lives trying to make someone happy. When we’re young it’s our parents – if they’re happy, you’re happy. Your boss – if they’re happy you still have a job. Your significant other – happy wife happy life, right?
The issue is, those precedents are absolutely terrible and unhealthy habits to create. Relationships need to be mutually beneficial whether they are professional or intimate. If only one person is a giver, that person will get drained.
Relationships need to be mutually beneficial whether they are professional or intimate. If only one person is a giver, that person will get drained.
Pick Your Crowd
That directly shifts us into how you are affected by who you surround yourself with. Be honest with yourself, are you the friend that’s always taking from the others? Are you the only one giving? Is there some sort of balance even if it’s not 100% equal?
This plays into your overall happiness. While I’m terrible at accepting gratitude from others, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear the words, “thank you.” I like to know that they feel I helped them because otherwise, I was probably just in their way. However, when I shovel out a doctors car and he slides a $20 bill in my pocket, I’m not thrilled about it.
Whatever that person does for you is personal to you. I am arguably the opposite of a gold standard for relationships. The point is when I don’t like when strangers put green paper in my pocket that doesn’t mean its something you should dislike as well, in fact, you could love it and that’s okay. It’s about understanding yourself.
What if I’m Terrible Helping People?
There is another side to this, and that’s the side where you are a taker all the time. You know exactly what makes you happy, but you’re missing the personal enjoyment of helping others. Perhaps you feel guilty.
The best advice I can give is make it a commitment. “One thing one day,” or something corny like that.
Go to your nearest office supply store and pick up a journal for yourself. If you need to be more productive check out Project Evo which is a new planner that came about that works with your brain type. I just started using it at the beginning of 2019 and I can say I have been significantly more productive.
That’s not an affiliate link and I’m not being paid for that plug, it’s just an honest early testimonial of using the product and I was skeptical. It will help you set goals and if you use the app in conjunction with the planner you can set monthly rituals, so for example’s sake it could be, “Find one random person to help each day.”
If you miss a day or two that’s fine, but honesty is critical, and if you keep it in a place where it remembers you forgot (like the Evo app or your journal), you’re more likely to make it a successful change over time.
Wrapping it up
Happiness is a tough cookie for a lot of people. They hate their job, their marriage, their weight, and the list goes on infinitely. The biggest piece is accepting and loving yourself, or you will never have the rest of it. I’ve seen it up close a lot in my 26 years.
Architecting a balance of selfishness and selflessness is hard, but once you have a system, it will be natural. You won’t notice you’re doing it unless you take daily notes, but you will be happier.
Helping others can lead to significant happiness changes, but without that anchor, you will falter. You will be drained. That can lead to awful situations ranging from mood swings to suicidal thoughts. Many people battle their inner demons every day, but the truth is the world is harsh and you have to take care of yourself.
With that said, think about how much it means helping the person out with a walking cane put groceries in their car next time you’re at the grocery store.
No more can we expect someone else to recognize and understand our own pains. Our digital world is changing things, and as humans, we have failed to adapt collectively. That’s not a knock on technology. It’s a knock on our adaptation abilities. Too often we are closed minded and resist change, even when it’s inevitable like our kids using iPhones.
The takeaway is the current generation of kids will be significantly more advanced than any age. As much as I talk about my fellow millennials we aren’t that bad. We just have a different way of doing things, and we are in the middle of the technology shift where we were raised relatively old school, went outside to play pick up basketball games, ride bikes, and play with water guns in the summer, but come our mid to late teenage years we started embracing the technological takeover.
We always have to continue learning about ourselves and our motivation. A device doesn’t make you happy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t supplement happiness. Maybe you use technology to help people. I don’t agree with the mindset that we’re more connected with technology than we’ve ever been, but also more divided because of it. That’s pure nonsense.
I think we truly are more connected purely. We simply have a hard time processing that information and the number of connections we have are overwhelming. Also balancing those elements is something we’re just beginning to learn.
The largest YouTube earner the past year (2018) was 7, and he created toys showing videos to other kids. He has effectively combined helping people and what makes him happy. He loves playing with toys. He’s 7 and he’s doing better emotionally and monetarily (22 million in 2018) than most likely anyone reading this post.
Don’t stop pursuing your dreams, don’t forget about yourself, and be a giver!
Please let me know in the comments how you feel about balancing giving and being selfish. Also, do you have any favorite books related to this at all? The one I connect with most is “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.” I already had this mentality before reading the book, but Mark Manson is a better, funnier, and a more experienced writer than I am.