July 1, 2003
Be Selfish: Serve Others
It’s one of the basic laws of nature: Give and you shall receive. It’s a biblical notion, a spiritual cornerstone, and a moral imperative — not a material one. It’s about giving without expecting something in return. The idea is that you should give generously, simply because you can.
But even the most selfless giver receives a reward. Because every time you give of yourself, you also give to yourself.
A 1998 study of the effects of altruistic behavior on adults found that their self-esteem and sense of well-being increased by as much as 24% when they helped others. And they didn’t make major lifestyle changes or grand commitments to volunteer: They simply engaged in habitual acts of kindness, such as holding the door open for others, thanking their mail carrier or doorman, and helping the elderly carry groceries. These small acts made a marked difference on their own lives. Effort required: minimal. Personal reward: huge.
The only change required is a shift in attitude. Try being generous for three days and be aware of how it affects your personal and professional life. By being more giving and caring, you will give yourself a motivational boost. What greater gift can you give yourself than that?
In her latest book, Choosing Truth, Living an Authentic Life (Simon & Schuster; $22), Harriette Cole dedicates an entire chapter to the benefits of living in service to others. The author, who is the founder and president of Profundities Inc., a New York City-based coaching company, recalls following the lifelong example of her mother and maternal grandmother. Both women made it a point to offer help to those in need. “From the moment we were born, we were taught to share not only our possessions, but also our hearts,” Cole says.
When giving, Cole emphasizes, it’s important not to keep score. “Although we live in a capitalist country that prospers based on the buying and selling of goods and services, this cannot be the only way that you look at your contributions,” she says. “I learned years ago that you give because it is human nature to do so. When you are tied to the promise of expectation, you naturally weaken.
“When do you have the most power in negotiation? It is when you are willing to walk away from it. When you offer your effort, do it selflessly. When you [do], you will be rewarded with peace of mind, one of the greatest gifts you can receive.”
In Choosing Truth, Cole offers the following tips for adopting an attitude of service:
Assess your current attitude: How do you treat people? Can you improve your interactions with them? Do you notice when someone might need you to give up your seat, or simply needs an ear? Do you do your job with an attitude of entitlement — or of service?
Visualize a change: Imagine living your life so that every action is one of service. Visualize yourself at work, rising to the top as you maintain an attitude of generosity toward others. See yourself growing