It is hard to go through life without looking out for your own well-being. No one else is likely to do it for you. At the same time, an exclusive focus on self is likely to lead to disappointment and discontent. An outward focus can bring fulfillment that is achieved in no other way.
The following are some specific ways in which you can actually focus on others and win in the bargain.
Everyone, including your family and friends, want to be heard. They want you to listen. Really, truly listening is a skill that must be thoughtfully developed. Listening is not being quiet while someone else speaks so that you can formulate your next argument. Listening requires mindfulness, that you attentively listen to understand what is said. You validate and give importance to other people when you listen thoughtfully and ask questions that demonstrate your concern.
It may seem drastic, it may feel difficult to you at first, but giving money is really the easiest way to focus more on others. By donating to a cause or giving money directly to someone in need (homeless advocates would discourage your giving cash to panhandlers). What you’ll find over time is that if you consistently give your money to a cause or charity, you’ll find your attention will eventually follow.
Everyone has the same 168 hours in a week. Rich or poor you have the same opportunity to give an hour or two of service to a cause or charity. If you give your time to the same charity you give money, you’re likely to see an increase in your focus on the cause and those you are helping. You’re also likely to have a greater impact on the cause and to be recruited to do more to help.
In order to really begin to focus on others, you need to believe that thinking about, caring for and doing something for others will ultimately make you happier. It may be selfish to serve others only to feel happier, but it is far kinder to serve others to be happy than to serve only yourself in a futile attempt to be happy.
Be sure to spend time with other people each day. In our hyper-connected world it is easy to believe that we are with other people when we’re on Facebook, but the interactions there are incomplete. Healthy interpersonal communication requires that you be present. Make time for other people. The irony, of course, in making time for other people is that you are making other people make time for you.
Some of life’s greatest joys will come from simply being there for another person. Listening or even just being with someone will bring great joy. I recall being stuck in bed for weeks as a teenager and the people who came to visit and spend time with me. I’ll never forget, for instance, my grandmother who came to play Scrabble with me. As she loved playing Scrabble as much as I, chances are we both won that day.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to really focus on other people without ultimately getting more of what you want.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.