Eric Karjaluoto


Source image: Narcissus by Caravaggio.

You want to lose weight. You want more energy. You want to find balance. You want to feel better about yourself. You want to be happy. You want to earn more money. You want people to like your company. You want fulfillment.

Ahh… you. You. You. You. You. You.

Worse yet, it’s the New Year. So, you’re setting goals, and making bold plans for the year ahead. “What strategies can I use to ‘crush’ it?” “Are there any books that will help me reach my potential?” “How can I make this my year?”

Now for the hard truth moment: You won’t. Nope. Write down a long list of things you want—by February it’ll be a list failures. Binge watch all Gary Vaynerchuk’s bullshit YouTube videos—and you’ll still be right where you are now. Buy a stack of self-help books—all you’ll get in return is 5¢ … when you sell them at a garage sale, next summer.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We live in a strange time. Instead of aspiring to be something, we want to be famous. Instead of forging friendships, we measure each other by our follower counts. Instead of experiencing the moment, we turn to feeds that make our lives seem deficient.

The problem with this is the self. Your fame. Your followers. Your FOMO. But your desires aren’t enough. No act you perform in your own interests will fill the void. The people of the world will not applaud your great triumphs with a ticker tape parade. You are not the star of this show—and you don’t need to be.

What if you took you out of the equation? Put another way: What if your purpose is to serve others—not satisfy your desires.

“Oh, I get it. This jerk wants me to give away my stuff and volunteer for the Peace Corps.” No. No. No. That’s not what I’m getting at. I’m not asking you to do something grandiose, be a saint, or start walking around barefoot. Nope—nothing like that. I promise.

“An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.” – Lydia M. Child

Try this little experiment: Make a list of those who matter most to you. (This needn’t be limited to people.) Then, ask yourself how you can serve each person/group in that list.

There are 4 people/groups in my list: my family; my business partner; my customers; and, my community. There are other people, groups, and concerns that matter to me, but these 4 are my priority.

As I look at each of these 4, my purpose becomes clear. I serve my family by offering my attention and enthusiasm. I serve my business partner, by working to build a stable business we can depend on. I serve my customers by helping them clarify their brands. (In doing so, they can discover success.). And I serve others who build businesses/organizations—by sharing what I learn.

None of the ways I serve others will change the world. I’m not correcting economic imbalance, solving climate change, or feeding starving children. That said, each of the ways I serve represents a way to contribute. The people I love inform these actions, as do the unique skills I possess. Admittedly, you will choose your own ways to serve.

By choosing to serve, you shatter the narcissistic lens most see through. You move beyond yourself. You become part of something greater. This shift also reframes your goals around ways you can contribute—rather than what you gain.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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