The good news about how disastrously troubled our world is is that it needs so many sorts of talents and passions in order to help it that there is a place for every one of us.
In other words, if you care about world problems, you don’t have to fit yourself into someone else’s idea of how to do good. You can figure out how to direct your own particular talents and passions in service of the problems that concern you most.
That’s called becoming your real self to help the world.
The question is, how do you do that in practice? How do you know what your passions are? How do you know what concerns you most? How do you know how to be of service while staying happy?
Here is a process that I’ve offered to many people and that you may find helpful, too:
1. What Are Your Most Heartfelt World Concerns?
Take some time to write and write and write. Not for someone else to read. Just ask yourself, what are the many things I care about in the world? Then write as fast as you can. Tell yourself you won’t stop until you’ve written four pages. Don’t read it. Next day, do it again. Don’t read it. Do it every day for a week or until you feel you are done. Then read it and make a bullet point list of the things that seem most important to you in the world.
2. How Can You Be of Service in a Way That Will Make You Happy?
I’m not sure that personal happiness is life’s ultimate goal. I do know, though, that if you choose a route that makes you unhappy it can drain the energy that might otherwise be used to help others. So happiness is a kind of energy that, when we have it, can be used to help. Maybe it is not the ultimate goal but it is helpful.
So, what makes you happy?
Do another writing exercise. Don’t write what you *think* will make you happy. Research shows that we are very bad at predicting our future happiness. So, instead, write about the activities from your past have made you happy and fulfilled. The kind of experiences that have made you forget yourself while you were doing them.
What what were you doing? What talents were you using? What parts of your personality did you use?
Do the same thing as you did for your concerns: write four pages as fast as you can each day for several days. At the end, read through and make another list of important bullet points.
3. Determine What Life Conditions You Need
Do you need a lot of money or are you ok with just having your basic needs met (you are who you are so be truthful)? Do you care if you are in hot weather or cold?
The previous exercise was about what activities have made you happy. This one is about what circumstances make you happy. Are you ok being by yourself or do you need people around you? Again, try to stick with what you’ve experienced about yourself for sure rather than what you think might be true about you. Write your four pages a day about this for a week. Then make the bullet points.
4. Begin Looking for Situations That Fit All Your Criteria
When you’re done with all of the above, you have a list of the things your really care about, a list of what you like doing the most and the parts of yourself you like using, and the conditions you need in your life.
The next step is beginning looking for situations that fit all these criteria. When you’ve thought of the things that fit, you should get in touch with people who are already doing it. Then ask them whether it makes them happy and fulfilled in the way you want to be happy and fulfilled.
Remember though that you have to trust yourself throughout this process. It won’t work if you write down things that you feel you should like or things that should make you happy. Don’t write what you think your parents and teachers want. You don’t have to show this to anyone. It is all private for you.
(photo via tripatini.com)