The Gaining Strength By Choosing Something To Serve Approach

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People often gain strength by choosing to serve something greater than themselves. A person will aim to serve their loved ones and they may also choose:

To serve a spiritual faith, a set of values or a philosophy

To serve a purpose, a mission or a cause

To serve a vocation, a creative drive or a project

People gain strength from doing what they believe in. A person may choose to do work that gives them positive energy, for example, rather than take a job that has higher pay and status. They refuse to bow to society’s pressures.

People often want to serve a cause even though they may be not around to see the fruits of their labours. Doing what they believe in helps them to feel alive and able to give to other people.

E.B. White described how his wife Katherine embodied this spirit. Writing in the Introduction to her book Onward and Upward in the Garden, he explains that every year she spent days planning the year’s work.

Katherine continued with this loving ritual, even when nearing the end of her days. E.B. White wrote: 

As the years went by and age overtook her, there was something comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance on this awesome occasion – the small, hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed (garden) chart under those dark skies in the dying October, calmly planning the resurrection.

Katherine White

Looking back on your life, can you recall a situation when you gained strength by choosing something to serve? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have felt this when working as a volunteer, raising money for a cause, restoring a house, solving a complex problem, nursing people, fighting for justice or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you gained strength from choosing something to serve. 

Describe the specific things you did to pursue what you wanted to serve.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

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Different people choose to different things to serve. Here are some examples.

A spiritual follower may serve their faith … A nurse may be dedicated to helping people regain their health … A medical scientist may aim to find a breakthrough cure … A counsellor may serve the cause of helping people to manage problems successfully. 

An artist may serve their art … A singer may serve the songs they sing … An architect may serve their calling to make beautiful buildings … An environmentalist may make TV films that encourage people to appreciate the beauty of the Earth.

An educator may serve their vocation of helping students to shape their futures … A social entrepreneur may work to improve the quality of people’s lives … A mediator may serve the cause of finding positive solutions to conflicts … A trusted advisor may want to pass on knowledge that helps other people to succeed.

Different people choose different ways to serve in their personal and professional lives. Looking at the professional aspect, a person may choose to work as an individual contributor, a team member or a leader.

Robert Greenleaf focused on the concept of Servant Leadership. He believed that such leaders chose to serve a specific mission and their people rather than their own self-interest.

Below is a short excerpt from The Greenleaf Center website. You can discover more via the following link.

While servant leadership is a timeless concept, the phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:

The servant-leader is servant first … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.

That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.

Servant Leadership

A person who serves something greater than themselves is more able to withstand outside pressures. They keep focusing on what they really value in life. When in doubt, they go back to their inner compass and ask:

What do I want to serve? What are the values I believe in? How can I follow these values, even during difficult times? How can take steps to translate these values into action?

Such people also gain strength from recognising their tradition. They can look back at people who have served this cause in the past.

Bearing this in mind, they realise they are not alone. People have followed this path in the past and others will follow it in the future. They are part of something greater than themselves.

Being aware of this tradition can help people to feel humbler yet stronger. It can encourage them to keep following this path in their own way.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking to the future, is there anything you would like to serve? How could you gain strength from pursuing this route?

You may already have a purpose to pursue, a mission to fulfil, a project to finish, a legacy to pass on or whatever. You may, on the other hand, anticipate that it will be important to serve something else as you get older.

How can you take steps to serve this cause? How can you encourage yourself on the journey? What will be the benefits – for you and for other people – of serving this cause?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may gain strength from choosing something to serve.

Describe the specific things you can do then to pursue what you want to serve.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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