When I wake in the morning, I make a wish to be useful to others. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
To me, this is a desire to be helpful, to assist others. I don’t think it means to be at the mercy of the whims of others. I don’t think the activities should be degrading, humiliating, or painful. However, I do believe we all have this urge, from time to time.
This is a way of serving humanity, to be useful to others. To provide what assistance you can to those in need, whether it be something as basic as the need for food, to helping someone find a book at a library or reach an object on the top shelf. Needs are identified, and people attempt to fill them.
This is also the more enlightened way to do business. In exchange for providing a useful service, you get some cash. Everyone is happy, because everyone gets what they wanted, and it’s a win-win situation. At least that’s how it goes in theory.
Why is being useful to others important?
This is another way of saying that you want to help other people. And the best form of helping people is to help them get what they want. Have you ever been able to get something for someone who couldn’t reach it because it was too high, too low, or in an awkward location for them to reach?
I have and the gratitude they radiate when they thank you could power the world, if only I could figure out how to bottle it. Have you felt a warm feeling like that as a result of helping someone? If you haven’t you really should try it, because it’s a great feeling.
But that’s just what you get out of being helpful. The other person is getting something useful out of the action as well, right? And it gets even better. Both of you feel better, but is that the only action you will ever take to help others, or will you enjoy it so much you make a habit of it?
Where can I apply this in my life?
As usual, I prefer the crawl before you walk stratagem, so I’m going to recommend that you start by being useful to your family and friends. That could be as simple as showing up when they need someone to talk to, or as tough as moving furniture. There are probably a few intermediate levels of usefulness between them, but I think you get the idea.
Take a moment and think about the ways you can be useful within your family. What can you do to help out? Please note that being useful is not the same as doing other people’s chores so they don’t have to, unless it’s a special occasion.
The point, to me, is to assist them in doing things, so that the work is easier or goes faster. Do you have some ideas? Now consider how you could be useful to your friends. We’re starting to push out into more distant circles, so you might have to ask what you can do to help.
The next circle out would be social groups. To what clubs or other kinds of organizations do you belong? Does the softball team need someone to take the balls home and wipe the worst of the dirt off them so they look at least a little white for the next game?
What does the club or group need help doing? Does they need someone to greet new members and introduce them around? That would be a great way to be useful both to the social circle (the club) as well as being useful to the next circle out, strangers.
What can you do for strangers? Unless they are having an obvious problem, like trying to get something off a shelf that they can’t quite reach, you may have to gather the courage to ask them if there is anything you can do to be of assistance. For some of you, that might not sound too scary, but for a dedicated introvert like myself, it’s a bit more daunting.
Take a moment and consider each of the four groups we’ve looked at so far: family, friends, social circle members, and strangers. What are the similarities in how you would try to be useful? What are the differences? Do you see a need for more interaction to get ideas the less you know of a person? That might be something of which you might want to remain aware.
Now come the hardest two groups, opponents and enemies. These are people who don’t want the same things you do, and the people who are actively trying to prevent you from getting the things you want (at least in some parts of your life).
In these cases, being useful to them does not mean assisting them in their efforts to thwart you. To me, it means attempting to educate them as to why you do what you do, and to invite them to explain themselves and their motivations.
In the discussion, you might learn a few things about them, and why they have the views that they have. You might even convert them. Changing an enemy into a friend is probably one of the most useful things that I can think of to do. How about you?
Being useful to others, helping them out, makes you feel good. When something feels good, you want to do it again. In this manner, a simple act of helping another, of being useful, can be as a snowball, growing and growing as it rolls down hill. It sounds like fun to me! Who else is in?