The Happiness Connection  

Spock wasn't always right

As I sat in my car waiting for the traffic light to change, the licence plate holder on the car in front of me caught my attention.

Service before Self.

I think I understand the message it was trying to communicate, but honestly, I didn’t like the wording. It turned my smile upside down and started me thinking.

In my head there are two very different meanings for service.

You serve because you believe it is your job, or duty.
You are of service because you want to help other people and the world.

People who have difficulty creating boundaries or saying no are frequently embracing the first definition. You feel it is expected of you. Even though you know it will launch you into the land of overwhelm and you will grumble about it, you still say yes.

Our society has perpetuated the idea that a good person puts everyone before themselves.

When I was young, my mom was involved with the Joy Club. Joy stood for Jesus, Others, Yourself. That was the order of priority you were supposed to live by.

This is a belief many people still hold.

I’m not suggesting you should be selfish and ignore the needs of others. There are times when, as Mr. Spock put it so eloquently, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

But that doesn’t happen every day.

Instead, you want to involve yourself in win-win-win activities. The things you choose to help with should serve you, serve others and contribute to the greater good.

If you are only concerned about the needs of others, you are likely to become exhausted and/or resentful. Not everybody has the same value or beliefs about serving.

It is easy to judge someone who can easily create boundaries and say no.

The more exhausted you get, the less helpful you become. You aren’t doing anyone any favours by taking on more than you can handle.

The second definition involves seeing the big picture and where you fit into it. You choose to help because it is the right thing for you and others, not because you feel you should.

Even more importantly, you recognize that sometimes saying no means that other people get an opportunity to say yes. Give that statement another read if it is something you haven’t considered before.

Sometimes saying no means that other people get an opportunity to say yes.

It’s easy to assume that no one can do what you do. In my experience, someone almost always steps up to help if you can’t. If they don’t, then maybe it is time for a change in how things are being done.

Service is important. It is one of the precepts for happiness that I teach. But be aware that being of service is not the same thing as being a servant.

This conversation is especially important as the holiday season approaches. If you are a person who feels compelled to do everything for everyone, remember that although service is important, so are you.

  • Carve out some self-care time.
  • Practice saying no to things that don’t serve you and that you don’t want to do.
  • Before you say yes, check to see if you have a win-win-win situation. If the answer is no, either say that, or see if you can tweak things enough to find a triple win.

The next time I notice the licence plate holder on the car in front of me, maybe it will say – Service as well as Self.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories