It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and our circumstances. It’s human nature, actually, and I’m sure you can relate. Especially when facing tough situations, or when everything feels all sorts of wrong, my first instinct is to focus on me. What do I want? What do I need? What are other people doing that is inconsiderate to me and my feelings? What’s my opinion? How can I make this easier for myself?
I keep learning, over and over again (I’m catching on, I swear), that a life full of purpose and meaning is so much bigger than myself. SO much bigger. This is not to say that I think we should abandon our own needs, our own self-care, or our own happiness. What I am saying, however, is that we have got to widen our view to include the world, and the people, around us.
The first step in this is awareness.
While not overly complicated, awareness takes some work and it takes some practice. I’ve found it to be a huge stepping-off point in understanding and realizing the importance of getting yourself off your mind. It doesn’t even require you to act, really; the awareness itself is so revealing. You see, when I started to become increasingly aware of my self-obsessed thoughts, actions, behaviors, and desires, I started to see just how small I was playing in this world. Worrying about me, me, and only me, left me secluded in a tiny little bubble of self-absorbed living. How could I expect to do big, scary, exciting, impactful things in the world if I was held captive in my tiny self-centered environment?
In light of my self-centered mentality, I started asking myself a question, and I started to ask it often:
What’s one positive or helpful thing I could do for someone, right now?
Such a simple, but powerful question; a question that involves purposely shifting the focus from myself, and onto someone else.
I wasn’t asking myself, hundreds of times per day, to do something astronomically huge for those around me. I wasn’t asking myself to spend the whole day doing other people’s work, or to take care of their most stressful needs, or to solve a problem for them. In fact, I wasn’t always even in a position to do the one thing that I had come up with as an answer to my question. Rather, I was simply forcing myself to consider someone — anyone other than me — in any given moment.
It was easiest to start by asking this question when I would see someone that was struggling, frustrated, or dealing with a difficult situation. The obvious distress jogged my mind to consider what I could do to help or, at the very least, encourage them. A patient calling into my workplace, who is audibly frustrated because they’ve been transferred to so many different people and have yet to have their question answered. A coworker who is rushing around, trying to catch up on a task. My husband, on the night before an exam, who isn’t quite acting like himself as he carries the stress of a long night of studying.
As the question became less awkward and new, and more common and habitual, I found myself taking notice, in even the easiest and least-stressful of circumstances, to how those around me could be positively affected by a kind word, a helping hand, or even a warm smile. In taking notice to the fact that my world doesn’t have to revolve around ME, I have the opportunity to make a difference, an impact. Because by caring for others we create purpose and meaning in our own lives, while simultaneously making those that we care for feel that their lives have purpose and meaning. It’s so good.
Take a look around and ask yourself the question, What’s one positive or helpful thing I could do for someone, right now? Don’t get overwhelmed. Simply take notice and start small.