Do you like to be helpful to others? Of course you do.
Do you know why you like to be helpful? Probably not.
Diligently questioning our own motivations is incredibly helpful and important.
Maybe it’s a middle age thing, but as I go through my days lately I find myself really asking the big life questions like “what’s our ultimate purpose?” and “What happens after we die?” Some cultures, like Hindu sociateies, are so unafraid of death, they burn corpses of loved ones right in the center of their town and everyone participates in rituals which help to elevate the soul of the person to the next realm. But here in North AMerica, we have done everything we can to avoid the idea of death, even its inevitability. So, we all go around with a small secret fear that speaks quietly and insistenly, making us choose directions in life that may not optimize what we are capable of doing. Many people view talking about death as morose, but really if you think about it, it is death itself that gives us the best and truest perspective on living.
The questions surrounding death ultimately bring you back to the question of your purpose, and I concluded that my (and everyone’s purpose) is to discover their highest creative capacity for good and do that. “creative” in this case means making something that hasn’t been here before. A sound, an image, a machine, an action, a decision, a direction, an interaction. Everyone has a skill, a passion and a talent. One day our societies will better support our ability to excavate what those talents and passions are and follow those through during our lives even as they shift and change.
Ultimately I think everyone wants the same things. We are all finding that we have great similarities to each other as we grow and expand in our connection through the internet. Social media, as much as it is causing a pervasive kind of loneliness and isolation in the world, is also disseminating information at lightening speed, and the best stuff we are learning, ultimately, is about each other.
Generally – We all want the basics – food, shelter, some form of daily safety. We all want love, companionship, purpose, acceptance and appreciation within a group of people (community). And at the very bottom of it, we all want to be purposeful and helpful. I believe this is the basic nature of people, and that all the rest of what you see are layers of illusions that have to fall off before they discover this essential nature.
Some of the most difficult illusions that cling to us include our self-image. This is one of the toughest to overcome, as our self image is the highest form of protection we carry around with us – like a turtle’s shell. We fall back onto “who we think we are” with every decision we make.
Knowing why we make choices is the key stone to excavating our greatest inner resources. This means becoming fully honest with ourselves about our inner motivations when we do anything.
Take, for example, a person who goes around helping everyone, and then complains that no one is appreciating them. I bet we all know these kinds of people – the ones that go through the world gifting people, helping people, driving sick people around, making food, taking drunken friends late night phone calls and entertaining their suicidal ideations. The door-mats. They complain about not being repaid in kind, not feeling the gratitude they should, not feeling any reciprocity.
I am only in a position to discuss this unconscious insanity because I lived in in for so long. It was a part of my upbringing to believe that the more helpful you were to people, the more they would want you around. It was a big deal for me to realize that i was running around helping people and feeling like “no one appreciated what i did for them”. What I learned about myself, when I got brave enough to dig deep, was that i was afraid “I” wasn;t enough and that to want me ijn your lfie I ahd to be doing somethign for you. Ugh…exhausting.
A very smart friend once told I was attracted to needy people. I discovered it was how I validated myself. Deciding you are going to be helpful when you are doing it because you REALLY want to be helpful and not because you are looking to gain anything(including your own sense of self-worth) from that other person, makes for MANY different choices – and some beautiful outcomes. You will find your life will start changing: relationships that have been around for a long time may fall by the way side, but if you don’t fight the changes, then you will discover more honest relationships, higher levels of energy, more joy and peace and a feeling of security in your own self care.
**A word of caution – be extra gentle in your “appraisal” of your motivations: the kinder you are to yourself, the more you can be to others.