How often do you actually go out of your way to help others?
It's obviously a powerful habit. Helping others can change the lives of those you help while adding meaning and depth to your own life.
It's a win-win that's dead simple in theory.
We know that any kind gesture—no matter how seemingly trivial, from smiling at a stranger to listening to a friend—adds a little bit of positivity to the world. And we know that if we all did our best to help others, the cumulative effect of our small actions would create a different world from the one we live in today.
Unfortunately, simple ≠ easy. Even though we know these ideas to be true we don't often act on them.
Why? Why do we frequently skip doing nice things that can add so much value at no cost to us?
One possible explanation is that ego helping others feel difficult even if it's not. Helping others often requires us to go out on a limb, to let people see how much we really care, to open ourselves to the possibility of rejection, which threatens our sense of security. When our security is threatened, we don't do new things and we don't do things for others, instead we focus on ourselves.
Fortunately, once you recognize what's getting in the way, you can break down the barriers and start to making helping others a habit.
Here are the mental tricks that help me to the right thing more often, and a few ideas on how you can start helping others today.
Automate Your Impact
Giving to charity is a great way to help those in need.
What's even better? Putting your giving on auto-pilot, so it happens automatically every month. That way, you can't forget and don't have the chance to come up with an excuse (like I did for years).
Many nonprofits, like charity: water offer a way to donate on an automatic, monthly basis.
To make an even bigger impact every month, you might try CharityX. CharityX helps you make your impact, grow it and track it, all in one place. In a matter of months you could be making an impact beyond what you ever thought possible.
Be the First
Someone has to go first.
Someone has to be the first to smile. To say hello. To give. To do the right thing. To help.
If you've read this far it means you care. Caring is essential but it's the easy—well, easier—part. The hard part is taking action. Taking action is hard because that's when we open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection.
What if they don't say hi back?
What if I startle the homeless person?
What if someone I know sees that I care?
But if you face your fear and take action, you unlock one of the keys to deeper hapiness. And once you experience a taste of this happiness, it makes it easier to take action the next time.
This is the first and most important you need to know about helping others: it's worth it, no matter how big or small the gesture.
But you have to lead the way.
Don't Tell Anyone
To me, helping others is a deeply personal choice.
It's about doing the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do. It's about growth, and connection, and feeling, and love.
It's definitely not about showing off on Facebook or even telling your friends. In fact, I seem to get a lot more out of helping when I don't tell anyone at all.
Watch this video and you'll see what I mean.
Think Before You Buy
One of the most exciting trends in giving is the influx of social-impact businesses, popularized by Tom's Shoes and others using the one-for-one model.
Today, you can buy almost any product and contribute to a great cause at the same time. Like:
- Socks: Subscribe to Sock Panda and provide a pair of socks to someone in need every month.
- Gifts: Give a That's Caring gift and provide a weekend meal for a hungry child.
- Soap: Get your soap from SoapBox Soaps and provide soap to communities in need.
Do the Right Thing
Not sure how to start helping others? Start by doing the right thing every chance you get; it almost always benefits others. And chances to do the right thing appear many times a day.
Do I pick up that litter? But it's not mine!
Denise looks sad today, maybe I should say hi to her.
Another 5k for charity? But I've already donated to five of these this year.
Doing the right thing might take a little more effort, but it is always worth it.
What to Do Now
Be the first!
A habit starts with one decision, and one action, so take action today. Do something nice for someone or start giving to charity. Remember, any time you're doing the right thing, you're helping others. No gesture is too small; everything matters. Take this quote about helping others from Winston Churchill with you:
“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”
And thank you for reading my post.