My thoughts today are a repurposing of a blog post I published in February 2017. I typically don’t look back at old stuff I published, but I’m coming up on what would have been my dad’s 74th birthday on December 9, and I found that these thoughts are just as relevant now as they were when I first shared them.
I should note that I wrote these thoughts as a reflection on the positive influence my dad had on my life, even though he was mostly absent. In particular, I see how much of his personality is in me. The most amazing gift I got from him was an unlimited supply of exuberance for life and a passion for having fun.
Those who know me personally know just how true those words are. Even though I’m 49, I still feel like a kid at heart… and even though I’ll jump at any opportunity to laugh and have fun, I’ve learned to balance my impulsive nature with the responsibilities of adulthood.
I can’t say the same thing about my dad. He spent most of his life struggling to balance his playful nature with the responsibilities of being a husband and father—and that struggle took a severe toll on him. The most important lesson I learned from watching his struggle was how to let go of “either-or” thinking and to just live joyously.
While I learned a lot from watching my dad, I still wound up forging my own path and making my own mistakes, and I can honestly say I made a large number of my mistakes within the last few years.
The path that brought me to where I am now started in late 2013, shortly after I took advantage of an opportunity to leave the corporate world. At first, everything was great, but I quickly discovered that I had a hard time striking a balance between commitments I made to others and the things I wanted to do. Perhaps my biggest challenge was answering the question: “How can I make a difference the world while taking care of myself?”
Like many people who overcome significant personal challenges, I decided that I wanted to help others facing similar challenges. I was infected by the “make a difference and change the world” bug. And, like so many others who’ve been bitten by that bug, I started going to workshops, seminars, and learning as much as I could about how to get my message out there.
What did I learn from all those books, seminars and workshops?
The primary motivation to do anything “big” should never be because I want to make a difference in the world.
Instead, I discovered that my motivation for doing something big should be because I want to. That’s it. Any other reason knocked me out of balance.
Why? For me, whenever I did something from a space of “making a difference,” I got frustrated. I would make it so far, and then I would shut down because I felt out of balance. Every time I focused on some grandiose need to make a difference, I started to feel crushed by the weight of being responsible for satisfying the needs others. I had to remind myself on multiple occasions of the First Tenet of Joyous Living; that I’m not responsible for anyone else’s “good feelings” but my own.
When I was thinking about being responsible for everyone else’s good feelings, I was sacrificing my own. The irony didn’t escape me. I live, breathe, and share the Tenets of Joyous Living every day, and yet even I need to be periodically reminded of them.
Another aspect of the First Tenet is that when I take responsibility for my own happiness, I discover the freedom to do my greatest good. I call it being mindfully selfish. On a very personal level, the application of the First Tenet of Joyous Living means doing something because I enjoy doing it. Period. If I add any other reason to the equation, the burden gets very heavy very quickly.
And so, as I reflect on my relationship with my dad, the lessons he taught me, and my own adventures, the most important thing I can remember right now is that by being responsible for only one person (me), I’m giving myself permission to do the greatest good with the least amount of expectation.
I’ve released the needs, the worries, and all the other baggage that goes along with making a difference. I don’t care if any of my posts go viral, or if no one reads them. I share what I share because I find great joy in doing so, and for no other reason.
As for the question, “How can I make a difference in the world while taking care of myself?” … I now have my answer.
By taking care of myself, I’m making a difference in the world.
A version of this post was originally published on AppioHunter.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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