Discover more from What is a Good Life?
What is a Good Life? #4
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter and for all your shares for last week’s edition.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections).
The key theme this week is helping others.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – helping others and trust
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Sarah*. Sarah oversees a large investment portfolio at a charitable trust. Sarah discusses the importance of trust, love and her mission in life – helping others. Sarah’s enthusiasm for her mission was clear and I experienced a real feel-good factor from talking to her.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
There are multiple facets, firstly, being able to have control over my life. If I get up today, and decide I want to do, or not do, something, it’s having the wherewithal to decide.
Secondly, I'm in a relationship for seven years, and we're in it just because we love each other, not because of the house, family, financial interests, nor that she or I are fearing being alone. Just being in a relationship because we love each other - that's a good life.
The final piece is more profound for me, it’s utilising the resources I have access to, to help other people. My purpose on earth is to be a conduit of the Lord's love, to really show people it's okay to love people, to trust. I mean, all these basic tenets of humanity that, nowadays, people are afraid to do because they've had negative experiences.
Can you talk to me about helping others?
It's about using your access, power, time and money to help others. The greatest high in life is the feeling of helping somebody you didn’t have to help. I love watching their excitement that something good came to them. Watching their brain go through all of the things that are going to be fixed, to see possibilities or seeing a better version of themselves.
What challenges do you face in experiencing a good life?
How people can doubt my intention, the times I found myself spending a lot of time building trust before I can even get to help. It bothers me so many people aren't able to just give trust away. For me, trust is something you give away, if somebody violates it, you have a conversation with them and if they continue, you take corrective action.
Many people withhold trust and require you to earn it. I understand people are shaped by their experiences, and people will do things to violate your trust – it’s just human nature. I'm not naive to think there's something wrong with the people that don’t give their trust - people can do really terrible things to each other. However, this is really disempowering - it allows previous violators of your trust to control how you live your life.
What has the biggest impact for others?
Encouraging someone to see their possibilities. At times, it may involve money, however, creating a space for them to be successful has the most impact. This is what people really want, for you to create the space and for them to be successful.
I told a friend, that I've always been afraid of fundraising. Last year, this friend of mine taught me how to fundraise. Afterwards, I told her, “This was a much better gift than writing me a cheque. You could have written me a cheque and helped my project, but next year, I would have come back for another”.
However, now I understand the tenets of fundraising, and the impact of her helping continues. That level of empowerment is amazing, people love to see themselves grow.
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Helping others was mentioned by over a third of participants in this project. The answer of helping others was given equally in an aspirational sense, as it was in a current practice sense.
The context for helping others was primarily brought up in a formal setting of contributing to a cause / charity. Most participants noted they wanted to do more.
Helping others was also popular when recalling moments of strong fulfilment – helping friends, family, teaching someone something or helping with an ad hoc problem.
“To know even one life has breathed easier, because you have lived. This is to have succeeded“ - Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on one of the weekly themes
If there’s one thing I don’t understand about myself, it’s why I don’t go out of my way to help others more consistently.
Since time immemorial, we’ve been told that there are few greater rewards in life than helping others. The Bible talks of giving is receiving, giving (alms) is one of The Five Pillars of Islam, and if a religious bent isn’t for you, there’s a slew of psychological studies to reinforce the point.
What’s more perplexing to me is there’s an instant gratification component to helping others, whereas other healthy choices in life often involve delayed gratification. Whenever I’ve volunteered or fundraised in the past, the impact on me was instantaneous.
Whereas diminishing returns apply to repeatedly buying things for ourselves, studies show that the return from giving to others only diminishes marginally, if at all.
Even if purely from a strategic or selfish perspective, helping others seems to be an underutilised tool in experiencing a good life.
“No one has ever become poor from giving” – Anne Frank
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life for you is
1. Think back to the last time you intentionally helped someone. How did you feel after?
2. If you could change one thing in your local community, or on this planet, what would it be?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.