Experiencing Happiness in Helping Others

“Not the maker of plans and promises, but rather the one who offers faithful service in small matters. This is the person who is most likely to achieve what is good and lasting.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Many people view life as a pyramid with those on the bottom serving those above them. They envy the people at the top believing joy and happiness is obtained by being served. And thus, they strive. They passionately seek the top of the world’s imaginary pyramid. They reach desperately for the money, fame, or power that would seat them higher in the world’s affections. Unfortunately, they often don‘t realize their pursuits are misplaced until they have already sacrificed countless good gifts and simple joys along the way.

Life is actually more fulfilling down below.

Choosing intentionally to help others flips life upside-down. In helping others rather then seeking our own gain, we find great freedom. Service to others results in liberty. We are able to say no to modern culture‘s games of promotion and authority. We live lives of less stress, less anxiety, and less frustration. We begin to feel more fulfilled, more complete, more alive. Living for others completely abolishes our need for a pecking order. It becomes a great weight off our shoulders when we no longer seek power and mastery over others. Real joy is found not in being served, but in choosing to serve.

And experiencing this unexpected happiness and freedom is not as hard as some might think:

1. Open your eyes to the needs around you. People who need your help exist all around you—in your home, your neighborhood, and your work place. The first, most important step is to simply notice them.

2. Do something to move them forward. Even if you don‘t have all the answers or facts, jump in and help as best you know how. Refuse to use the excuse, “But I don‘t know what to do” or “I can help tomorrow.” Assess their need, offer some help, and follow through right away.

3. Joyfully pay the price. Service to others always costs something—sometimes money, sometimes time, sometimes reputation, and almost always energy. See the price. Pay it anyway. And enjoy the return on investment.

4. Do not expect something in return. Remove the what’s-in-it-for-me question that motivates so many people today. Help with no expectation of repayment. And you will be repaid with joy and fulfillment in countless other ways.

Those who constantly strive for the top have misplaced their pursuits. But we don’t have to. We can rush today to experience the lasting happiness of helping others.

Image: Nicholas T

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    I have always had a hard time with #4 – do not expect something in return. Having been raised in a culture, that is always based on scarcity, as my parents were from one of lower castes in India, I was always told to squeeze every possible bit from everyone around me. Even though we now have enough, I still have remnants of my culture and caste with me, which means, I have to try harder in order to give without expecting anything back. Thank you for the post.

    • Alison shepherd says

      Meditate on love and abundance. Cultivate self compassion. When you have fed your
      soul it is easier to nourish others. Nothing wrong in being good to yourself. It can be practiced simultaneously with compassion for others. Thank you for your honesty

  2. says

    #3 is something I’ve just been realizing.

    So often I look for the best deal, the discount codes, the bargains…. and was in this mindset when a friend and I were talking about car repairs. She made an offhand remark about how “everyone has to earn a living” and that statement changed my view on paying for the needed repairs I had done at a local (small business) garage. Now I read your encouragement to pay for services joyfully. You’re exactly right. Thank you for that.

  3. says

    Great post.

    I left my academic career in July because it made me unwell. Now, I’m working on a helpline for a human resources company, and I love it. I’m helping people in the corporate world, but still, it feels good to be able to help, and make their ‘striving’ a little easier. I have no desire to strive for the money that they earn. instead, I like helping them. My academic career was always focused on my competition with others around me, and not believing I was any good, destroyed my self-confidence. I’d had enough of trying to argue that my ideas were good ones.

    It is so true what you say, and I’ve been going the extra mile at work, even though I get paid peanuts for it, because I want to. I spend the energy to make that one person’s day a little easier. it’s great.

  4. Teresa Chalmers says

    I really enjoy this post. I really liked # 4. So many people give with the expectation that someone needs to return the favor. If you are going to give, give because you truly want to. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  5. says

    Hi Joshua,

    ‘offer faithful service’ has a nice ring to it, and sounds so much more rewarding than striving to acquire more money or prestige.

    I loved your fourth suggestion–do not expect something in return. That’s probably the hardest thing on the list, but it seems like a good life practice and, paradoxically, very likely to give us much in return!

    Thanks posting this.

  6. Patricia says

    A fun exercise: pick an attribute you want in your life (generosity, humility, gratitude…). Do something every day that expresses or embodies that attribute (generosity or Do not expect something in return: clean the water around the bathroom sink; dust when no one is home; toss your neighbor’s newspaper from the sidewalk to the porch; pay the toll for the car behind you. After 30 days, it’s yours. Writing it down daily is a great way to remember to do it.

  7. says

    I think having time to help others is such a luxury. When I worked full-time I resented giving my time to others – I was too busy to even notice if people needed any help. Now because I work less I have more time for myself and to give to others. This is worth so much more than money or status.

  8. Wayne E. Salvas says

    I lived my life with the basics only, my wife the same, never asking for more than we needed. We have been through 34 years together happily married. Now health issues for both of us have cropped up, her issue a failed diskectomy in her neck, that left her disabled. Mine being disabled most of my life due to age onset Parkinson’s disease, and now the bombshell. I have been allowed to slip through the cracks buy the best money grubber doctors in Las Vegas; who failed to inform me for 2 years that I was pre-cancer, and now the bigger meaner even more aggressive money machine ruthless docs @ UCLA for oral/nasal cancer are taking what little we have left. These people do not care what your tiny little issues are they just want MONEY bottom line. We have had to go the Los Angeles UCLA med center several times for me to be measured for a jaw replacement prosthesis, that our insurance will not cover, they claim it is not medically necessarily. So I guess eating is non needed also. This basically means due to my choice to remain humble and live small, I now will die early, & be burned in a cardboard box and my ashes placed in whatever urn my wife can afford. Sad note in a world with so many uncaring rich people. I even have to make a will so that my own wife will not have to fight Nevada probate for anything I have left in this cold and impossibly greedy world. We have always helped others, paid our tithings to our church, been sealed to each other and donated everything we could to disabled vets. Despite bankruptcy and huge medical bills we with selflessness have always help others in any way we could.

    • Katie says

      Your story is awful and has really touched me. I’m so so sorry you have been through all of that, you and your wife. I know that in God values and esteems those who are poor and broken in spirit, and you will be rewarded for faithful service, but sometimes that is not much consolation in the moment of deep suffering. If I had money you would have that, but as it is you have my prayers.

  9. says

    Well, not expecting anything in return, sure, it depends of the context.
    If you help people online or directly in the frame of your work, that’s fine. Helping your neighbors, all the time, but not getting anything in return, well, not good. You might not have a community. I believe in exchanges.

  10. says

    The purpose of life is a life with purpose and what better purpose than to helping someone or contributing to the society in whatever ways you can! Loved your post :)

  11. says

    I’ve decided to make ‘helping others’ one of my life goals, as part of the 7-life system. I’ve always enjoyed helping others, but I haven’t done it often, it’s only been spontaneous at times. I think for me, focusing on body language is an important thing which is closely connected to #1. I’m sure most people can tell when someone else is in pain, or unsure of something, it’s just about getting past that ‘observation’ stage and actually wanting to help.

    It’s definitely not an easy thing helping others, it can take its toll as well, but it’s all worth it in the end if you’ve helped someone out right? :)

  12. Laura says

    It’s so great to find the words I think (and feel) but could never find the right way to write them down. Thanks for posting this, and you’re completely right – helping others can truly bring us much happiness, and it’s so uplifting to make a difference in someone’s life, even if our acts are small. Sometimes, our own wounds can help others who have gone through the same bad experience, or at the very least give them a sense of hope and make their day brighter. This is especially true this time of year for those who have lost someone they loved deeply and must now face the holidays without the one person who meant everything to them. :(

  13. says

    Following #4 is always the most difficult. Even after trying to avoid what’s-in-it-for-me question, and thinking that joy and fulfillment in other forms will come my way, the patience expected in waiting for that joy and fulfillment is sometimes just beyond me and my capabilities.

  14. Sensible says

    Great article. I find one of the primary requirements is being mindful. With mindfulness we notice things (needs of others) that we did not see before. It does give great satisfaction when we provide a service. However, even expectation of satisfaction of service has to be dropped to achieve the full benefit of what we do.

  15. thoughtful says

    I don’t agree that helping others is always a good route to happiness. I decided on this course as a philososphical and life goal a long time ago. I work with unemployed adults on training and motivation and have been doing so for seven years.

    The exhaustion and pressure that come with my work far outweigh the benefits of altruism and the pleasure in helping people succeed. I often feel depleted by it rather than renewed, despite my pure desire to be of service and socially useful.

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. this went thru my mind | | November 29, 2012
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