I believe to be truly successful and live a legendary life you must be in balance with all aspects of life and being of service is a big part of that balance. This means being of service to others in whatever way fits your lifestyle. Whether its mailing a check to your favorite charity, donating time to the homeless, or assisting in your community as a mentor; it’s as important to you as to those you may serve. Contribution beyond yourself keeps your life in check, where you form a good foundation to build your successes upon. When you just take from the world you live in and choose not to contribute to it, it keeps you in a state of surviving no matter how much you have or how much money you make.
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs…
Much of the world still lives in survival. Even in the United States, because of the standard of living, too many are just surviving from paycheck to paycheck. It may seem that compared to most of the world, we’re thriving but we must compare that to what our standards are and what our surrounding is. As you can see from the picture, jumping from survival to success is a mistake and will land you back in survival. However, when you contribute beyond yourself at each stage of progression, you are consuming and contributing which creates balance. Contribution doesn’t happen at the top of the pyramid, it occurs throughout every stage. If you make it only about yourself, you won’t stay in success or significance and feel fulfilled. Success does not always mean making lots of money alone so keep that in mind. Success includes having all aspects of your life working together. Job, family, faith, and your place in your community.
People say things to me like, my goal is to have my home paid for, I just want to own my own home, or I just want to have a nice vehicle that is paid off. But the challenge is then your neighbor gets a new car, you may have the desire to compete with them. After a certain point, when money no longer becomes a factor, then we’re left with ourselves.
We all have periods of happiness in life, but then we reach a point of saturation, no matter what we’re doing it does not feel like enough. For example, I can say I will pay you one million dollars and all you must do is once a day go out chop some wood and bring in some water, and I’ll pay you a million dollars. It’s not likely that a single person out there would refuse this offer unless they were mentally ill. Yet, even after accepting the deal, there’s going to become a period where you say or feel… there has got to be something more to life. You may be stable, but you have not reached being successful, you get frustrated and do something that allows you to fall back to survival again. Perhaps you have heard of the lottery winners who within a couple years are broke again. Lottery winners go bankrupt at twice the rate of the broader population over 5 years (Marketwatch March 2011). Those people have not learned how to climb the pyramid in a way to reach the top and stay there.
When somebody has been successful in business, when somebody has been successful in their relationships or in their fitness, we always want more. The reality is for us to be truly fulfilled and not just have moments or periods of fleeting happiness, we cannot just be self-serving, we also need to be servant leading to be truly fulfilled. When we’re service supporting, we get out of the focus just being about ourselves. When we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There gets to a point when we become altruistic and make it about others. Which by the way, when we redirect that focus to others we’re still being very self-serving. Because serving other people is a different vehicle to make ourselves feel good. Just like when we buy ourselves that fancy new car, a new smart phone, or a new whatever it is, that’s just a vehicle that makes us feel good about who we are. But at a certain point we need that next high. And when we can serve other people, we are not only able to see outside ourselves but we are able to see the beauty and good that brings us beyond ourselves. For anyone to have true fulfillment, we must continue to grow, we also must be willing to make it about more than just ourselves.
There are so many ways of being of service… Maybe you’re talented in your business, you could mentor students at your local community college or local university. Perhaps you could volunteer for a troubled youth program. For others, maybe it’s being involved in a choir or something within their religious community. How about joining the local organic farm or Japanese garden and doing some work there? It’s about volunteering in a way that honors you. I hear many successful people say… you’re so busy just write a check, and go for whatever is going to get you the biggest exposure or tax write off. If writing a check is the right thing for you and it aligns with your values then do what fits your life. There’s nothing wrong if your time allotment or your lifestyle happens to be where sending a check is what you can do or want to do, it isn’t any bigger or less than going and volunteering someplace.
Where do you say yes and where you do say this is my limit of what I can do? I can do it x number of days or x number of hours and then I need a break. Maybe it’s bringing your entire family to a soup kitchen, ringing the bell at the salvation army every year or participating in a Secret Santa. But, frequency is something that YOU must decide. Pick things that align and fit within your life and overall isn’t a burden or it will have the opposite effect and will build resentment for the time you spend.
Once you start thinking of others you can get addicted to being of service very quickly and find it makes you feel so good you become better at everything else including work, family, even your health can improve.
Also remember being of service is about being realistic for your lifestyle.
How do you find things of interest to you that will keep you happy and fulfilled in service opportunities? Do a quick checklist. Is this choice allowing me being able to feel like I support myself and others? Is it going to allow me to create energy or am I sucking energy?
The second piece is to ask yourself, does this fit? So, we can use F.I.T.S. as an acronym that was created by the Navy SEAL’s. The F is literally the word fit, f-i-t. does this charity, does this opportunity fit your lifestyle, fit your budget, fit your time capacity? Is it going to be the best use of your time and your talent and your energy? What would it cost you to engage in this charitable opportunity? And does the return on investment make it worth the effort?
The second letter is I, Important… How important is this donation or charity to your broader purpose or your overall mission in life? If you’re a business, what affect will it have on your competitors? This may be a competitive edge. I personally don’t find anything wrong with serving other people and personally gaining from it. That’s called alignment.
Third, is the T, Timing. Is the timing right for this charity? Are you too early or are you possibly too late? Are you ready? See, we can have a desire and say, “oh I want to go build a house for charity.” But you may not be ready for it, you may not have the skills or the time or the money to pull it off. When we look at a TV program where, they would come in and tear down somebody’s house and then make build another house in a week’s time. Here is what you didn’t see or didn’t hear about where the people that got these homes then couldn’t afford the new taxes from the improvements made. Many people ended up being out of the home because it wasn’t a good FIT. In some cases, they jumped on the pyramid from survival to success and skipped stability and feel back down. If they had built something based on what they already had that was new clean and pretty, their taxes would have stayed about the same.
And then fourth letter S, Simplicity. Looking at when we donate beyond ourselves is Simplicity. Is it simple and clear? Is it something that you can achieve without degrading your reputation, your future capacities, or are you moving you away from your purpose or your mission? You may see on TV that people in a distant country need to build water wells, but how would you be able to participate? Is there already an organization doing this or would you have to figure out how many people, money, the politics of the country and time you would need to travel to your destination just to make one well happen? This might not be a simple task no matter how well our intention.
For me, I take mission teams to other countries and I build missionary adventures. It takes a lot of work but it F.I.T.S. my life purpose and core values. When I go to Guatemala, I am part of a founding Board for a foundation in Guatemala. I build teams and take them there every year. It may be a lot of work, but the benefit is that people who go on these trips have these amazing experiences. I find when I take somebody down to a third world country, they realize how good they have it in the US. They suddenly receive gratitude for what they already have. When they return home, they are more charitable within their own communities. For me when I go, I it serves as a lasting memory that I have a very good life. Sometimes we forget about what we have because we get so stuck in our routines.
I can also see that it transforms people who go with me, it doesn’t just inspire or motivate them, it transforms both their lives and the people in Guatemala. It quiets that ego that sometimes ends up running our lives.
It’s extremely important to do the F.I.T.S. process, because if your service isn’t giving you that kind of benefit, then it’s not going to help your personal success so you climb the pyramid and stay at the top.
For more on how to live a Legendary Lifestyle go to http://chadecooper.com
Originally published at medium.com