It’s said that part of living a fully realized life is to do things for others. That doesn’t mean you have to rush out to the nearest soup kitchen or animal shelter and start volunteering. You can, if that’s what you’re moved to do. For me, that type of volunteering isn’t the right answer. What we have to realize is that the right answer is different for everyone.
So what’s my answer? It isn’t that I don’t want to help people. I actually really enjoy helping people. But what I love is sharing the things I’m passionate about. I want to share those things and pass my love fore them on to others. I have done my share of volunteering. However, the majority of my volunteer experience is made up of the over 90 hours of teaching swing dance for a non-profit organization in Moscow, Idaho. That total doesn’t include the half hour early I arrived in order to open and set up the venue almost every week that I taught, (and many weeks when someone else did). Dance is something I’m passionate about it and I love helping others learn it. Many of those people were inspired to take it up as a hobby and passion all their own. I continue to teach today, spending an hour and a half each week teaching whoever cares to show up for my small swing class at a local coffee shop. I do charge $3 a person, but I don’t do it for the money.
I also do my part through awareness of the people around me. I like to share the things I love with people I think will gain from them at least half as much as I myself did. One way I do this is through sharing books that have changed my life. It’s more than saying, “you should read this book.” Usually it’s, “here, have my copy.” and I simply order a new one. Sometimes it’s a link to an article to a blog or specific article that I think suits the moment or the person’s situation. Offer what you have, offer what you love and remember that it’s okay if your gift doesn’t inspire someone else the way it inspired you. When it does, it’s all worth it. But don’t be pushy.
Finally, what I’ve realized, and possibly what I’ve known all along is that I want to help people for a living. I want to help people connect and lead fuller, better lives. Until recently, I didn’t know how I was going to do that and I drifted through job posting after job posting unsatisfied with the offerings. Non-profits seemed like good causes, but weren’t the cause for me. And while I currently work in the corporate headquarters of a major women’s fashion retailer, just helping someone else make more money has never appealed to me. Yet it was here that I had the opportunity for exploration that helped me discover what I want to be doing: Applied Positive Psychology. I want to help organizations and the people in them work together to create an environment that boosts productivity through better leadership and better employee satisfaction. I’m even looking at a way to make dance a part of that. How awesome would that be?
I’ve found my calling and a way to help others that’s personally satisfying. There’s something out there for everyone. Don’t worry if you can’t bring yourself to march for cancer or ring a bell for the Salvation Army. Don’t beat yourself up if the Peace Corps isn’t the path for you. Find out what is it that you’re passionate about sharing and do it in a way that suits YOU. Every spark you light in a student or peer is a step toward a fully realized self. And if you make a living off it, that’s ok too.