Giving back

May 1, 2006
This journey called life is not meant to be traveled alone. We need others to walk beside us as we seek to find our way.

This journey called life is not meant to be traveled alone. We need others to walk beside us as we seek to find our way. Their guidance and teachings influence who we are to become. They help us to unleash our potential and shape our lives. The gifts they offer are priceless. Just for a moment, reflect on those who have walked with you, touched your life, and influenced your growth and development in a powerful way. Who would you be today if they had never existed ... and who are you now because they did?

Hillel the Elder was the great Jewish sage who lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod. His most famous quotation is, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I?” Hillel teaches us that we must believe in and stand up for ourselves. But he also tells us that to be complete human beings, we must reach beyond ourselves.

Look first inside yourself

What does it mean to “reach beyond ourselves”? What would we be doing? For me, it means giving back for the purpose of enriching the lives of others. We all have this capacity. The key is a passion and a willingness to be unselfishly available to others to help them activate more of their potential. To do this, you must first go deep within yourself to discover what you have to offer, and to believe that whatever you find has value.

What you find may be as simple as the ability to encourage, support, and affirm. Although words of encouragement may seem like a small gesture, they are often all that is needed to spur someone’s confidence and move that person past any barrier of self-doubt. If you have ever benefited from the gift of encouragement, you are well aware of the positive impact it can have.

You may also find a richness of talent and experience that can provide guidance, perspective, and hope. Lois Zachary says, “Human beings thrive best when we grow in the presence of those who have gone before.” Where you have gone can provide many valuable life lessons. This expertise need not be in the same field as the person you are helping. Your “lessons learned” can be applied to a variety of situations.

Defining who you can help

Once you commit yourself to others, you will find that opportunities to give back are all around you. Look for people who have gifts, talents, and other resources that they have either not detected or that they are not using to their fullest extent. Other indicators of a fit would be people who are at a crossroads in life, those facing significant adversity, or those who are not seeing or developing the opportunities already available to them.

To be an agent of discovery for others, it is important that you truly care about the people you help. You must believe in them and be deeply interested in their life journeys. They must, of course, be open to the possibility that with your guidance and support, they will be enabled to unleash more of their potential. You will then know that you have been successful when something of value is in place for the person you have helped ... something that did not exist prior to your involvement.

The unexpected gift

Please allow me a personal observation. Four years ago, I joined the Rotary Club of Parker, Colo. I was attracted by the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self.” At first, I was energized by a strong sense of duty to give back, but my Rotary experience quickly became more than that. Yes, I was fulfilled through contributing to the lives of others, but there was another benefit. I became my own agent of discovery, and I learned so much about myself. I uncovered personal strengths that I did not know I had. Because of my work within Rotary, more of my own potential has been unleashed. This was an outcome that I had not expected, but I am sincerely grateful for it. May you also find that the more you give, the more you become!

Doug Young, MBA, and his spouse Marlyn, MCC, have a professional speaking and executive/team coaching business in Parker, Colo. They co-author this column and share an interest in leading-edge business concepts, achieving personal and professional potential, serving patients, and improving how people work together. Marlyn’s insights into people and relationships and coaching skills complement Doug’s motivating and mind-expanding presentations. Contact them by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at 877-DMYOUNG.

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