How To Find Happiness By Helping Others
In a previous post, I talked about the many ways that the ego can sabotage our lives. Today I’d like to dig a little deeper, and get the heart of what the ego really is, and how exactly it keeps us from being happy and content.
And, as always, some practical advice; some action steps that you can take to help shift your thinking, and open your heart to happiness and fulfillment.
But let’s start by taking a look “behind the scenes,” at the inner workings of the mind, and the ego. When we say “I” or “me,” what exactly do we mean?
Who Are You, Really?
The moment we are born, we are given a name. From that time on, we are taught to identify with that name, and how it fits into the larger story of our culture, our family history, our gender, race, religion, economic class… the list goes on.
All these things inform our sense of “self,” our identity, our concept of who we are. But the operative word here is concept. It’s not reality, it’s just an idea, a belief.
And that’s what the ego is – a concept, a thought form. It’s not real. It’s not you.
We go through life believing that’s what we are: a name, a personality, a being separate from all other beings, from the rest of the universe. But it isn’t true. Your true self is deeply connected to the Earth, the cosmos, the great web of life. We are not separate, we are intertwined and inter-dependent.
What you really are is much more vast and mysterious than you have been led to believe. It can’t be defined, because it’s totally beyond words and ideas. But it can be felt, and experienced. You can realize that empowering truth directly.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… more on that later.
Back to the subject of happiness, the real reason we find it so elusive is that we don’t even know who we are. We believe in a lie, a false identity. We spend all of our time and energy trying to make our “self” happy – but that self doesn’t even exist!
It’s an illusion.
The ego can never be happy, it’s desires are endless. As soon as one is satisfied, another arises to take it’s place. Like a black hole, it swallows all that you give it – money, pleasure, entertainment, thrills – and still it wants more, more, more…
The Science of Happiness
Now, what happens when you turn the tables, and start putting others first? Well, in addition to simply being a good person and uplifting everyone around you, you also become healthier and happier, too.
Researchers have found a number of physical and psychological benefits associated with charitable giving, volunteering, and other selfless behavior, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Better weight control
- Relief from chronic pain and depression
- Release of “feel good” neurotransmitters, resulting in what’s called “Helper’s high”
- Personal development & learning new skills
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Sense of belonging and community engagement
According to studies, people who regularly give their time and resources for a charitable cause are 25 percent more likely to be in excellent health, and more than 40 percent more likely to be happy and fulfilled in their lives.
So, as you can see, helping others just make sense. It not only makes the world a better, kinder place, it’s also a proven pathway to happiness and well-being.
A New Way of Looking
The ego sees the world as a kind of pyramid, with the people above controlling and directing those beneath them, and reaping the benefits of their labor. The ones at the top have all the wealth and fame and power, and the ones at the bottom are stuck in poverty and servitude.
So naturally the goal is to fight and claw your way to the top. Nobody wants to be a servant or a slave – they want to be one getting served.
But as we’ve already seen, this way of looking is all wrong. The system is broken. It just doesn’t work. Those at the bottom are miserable because they’re not at the top – and those at the top aren’t happy either! No amount of money or material luxury can ever satisfy the longing we feel in our souls.
We need a new way of looking at the world…
Not as a pyramid, where the many are exploited for the benefit of a few; but as a great circle, where each one plays a valuable role in supporting his neighbor, and sustaining the whole.
No one is exploited, because we are all serving each other – with joy and with dignity. The goal is not to get to the top, but to find where you fit in. To find your purpose, to be of service, to give of your time and your talent in a way that benefits the world and everyone in it.
Sounds pretty good, right? The question is: How?
How do we make the shift?
Making The Shift
Well, it starts with you and me.
It starts with each one of us looking within ourselves, and changing what motivates us, changing how we think and how we live our lives.
We need to stop seeing the world through the distorted lens of the ego. Stop chasing after our own desires, seeking pleasure and gain from every experience, trying desperately to fill that void that can never be filled.
We need to make the shift from our head to our heart, from ego to Spirit. Because that’s who we truly are, and that’s where peace, freedom and happiness is found.
Are you ready? Here are 5 ways you can start making the shift right now, today:
1. Look For Ways To Be Of Service
That shift in perspective begins with asking yourself one simple question.
Although we usually aren’t aware of it, the ego looks at every situation and wonders, “What can I get? What’s in it for me?” You can start to free yourself from the ego’s clutches by asking instead,
“What can I give? What does the world need from me?”
Every change starts with awareness. To begin with, you must simply become aware of the needs of others around you, and the many opportunities you have each day to help someone, in some way.
From the moment you wake up, til you close your eyes to sleep, ask yourself, “How can I help? How can I be of service?” This will retrain your mind, and help look at your life, and the world, differently.
Stop looking for ways to entertain yourself, little amusements to pass the time. That does nothing but distract you momentarily, from the boredom and the emptiness you feel. Deep down, you know that.
Give meaning to those idle moments. Look for ways that you can make a difference in the lives of those around you. You’ll find that this is endlessly more fun and fulfilling than watching TV or scrolling through your Facebook feed.
2. Do Something, No Matter How Small
Opportunities to serve are all around us, every moment of every day. Practicing step #1 will prove that to you in no time. The more you look for them, the more you will see.
Step two, of course, is to act on it. When you see someone who could use some help, help them.
This doesn’t mean you have to become some sort of crime fighting superhero, and single-handedly solve all the world’s problems. You don’t have to do everything – just do something.
No matter how small.
Give your partner a foot rub, or a back massage, after a stressful day at work. Give a total stranger a smile and a compliment. Buy a cup of coffee for the homeless guy you pass on the way to work.
If someone is in crisis – in the middle of a divorce, or eviction, for instance – you can’t solve that problem for them. But you can sit and listen to their story, show them some kindness, give them a word of encouragement.
And you have no idea how much that can mean to someone, at a time like that.
3. Expect Nothing In Return
We’ve all been the victim of a gift “with strings attached.” Sometimes kindness is little more than a thin disguise for outright manipulation. You know how that feels, and it sucks.
Other times, it’s much more subtle. Like when we give with the best of intentions, and our act of kindness is not met with gratitude, but with entitlement, or even scorn. The sadness, disappointment, or anger that we feel in that situation is a result of a hidden expectation…
We expected them to be grateful.
“Expect nothing in return,” means exactly that: nothing. Not even thanks or acknowledgment. If you expect others to react a certain way to your kindness, you are setting yourself up for a let down. Some people are too hurt, too angry, too proud, or too bitter to say “thank you.” They’re more likely to curse or spit at you.
Help them anyway. Help them especially – they’re the ones who need it most.
Be kind just for kindness sake. This is perhaps the hardest to put into practice, but it’s essential to cultivating the spirit of true generosity and self-less giving.
And enjoying the happiness and freedom that comes with it.
4. Be Mindful.
Probably the biggest obstacle we face when trying to make the shift, or make any change in our life, is our tendency to go through life on autopilot.
You know what I mean. We do the same thing all day, drive the same roads, talk to the same people about the same old things… it’s so repetitive, that pretty soon we stop paying attention.
We zone out, drift off in our own thoughts and daydreams. I would say that we are “asleep at the wheel” more often than not!
Every once in a while something shocks us, grabs, and pulls us back to our senses, back to the present, back to reality. But usually just for a few brief moments, then we’re gone again.
But in order to help others, and be of service, you’ve got to be awake and paying attention.
Practice mindfulness throughout the day. (To learn how, click here!) Not only will you be more aware of others, ready and able to lend a hand, you’ll also be more aware of the depth and richness of life, and all the incredible beauty that surrounds you.
You’ll be more present in your relationships, more focused at work, more alert to opportunities for learning, growth, fun and adventure.
The world is a wondrous place – when you’re paying attention.
Remember when I said there was a way for you to transcend the ego, and realize your true self; that you can know and experience that for yourself? I promised I would come back to that, and I’m a man of my word.
You want to get past all the ego’s petty fears, and discover who you truly are, deep down? I’ll tell you how:
Meditation is the key to unlocking your inner world, realizing your spiritual perfection, and unleashing your highest potential. Do it every day, twice a day or more.
Don’t know how? Read our in-depth, how-to guide, absolutely free.
Are you too active, too high-energy to sit still? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out this list of 8 different ways that you can practice meditation in motion.
Meditation is the path that will take you beyond the ego, beyond your little “self,” and show you a new and boundless perspective, a new way of living and being in the world.
It will help you remember that we are all connected. What happens to other people (and plants and animals, and all living things) matters because they are a part of you. Your true self encompasses all beings. Their well-being is your well-being.
Helping them, you help yourself.
When you live from that place, happiness comes easily and naturally.
“In the joy of others, lies our own” – HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj
Great quote — thanks for sharing 🙂