We’re always trying to figure out ways to get ahead (that’s why you’re reading this, right?)
We have goals and dreams and we want to not only accomplish those goals, but also get there in the least amount of time as possible.
But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if all this, “me, me me” is actually sub-optimal to a different method of making progress?
What if we need to stop thinking about ourselves so much and start spending more time helping others? Can this really help us get ahead?
By helping others, you will learn how to help yourselves.
– Aung San Suu Kyi
It might sound a bit unbelievable (at least, to those of us who haven’t experienced it), but new research has begun to show that the idea of focusing on helping others to get ahead isn’t that crazy.
How helping others helps us get ahead
A study recently published in the psychology journal Emotion followed nearly 500 participants over a six-week period. The goal of the study was to figure out if helping others is, in fact, good for us, with each participant being instructed to perform one of several actions, either an act of kindness towards themselves, a stranger, or a neutral act.
The results? The group that performed acts of kindness towards others ended in a far better state emotionally, displaying both more positive emotions and fewer negatives ones, than both of the other groups.
The study’s conclusion was promising:
People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves. Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they opt to treat someone else instead.
There’s even evidence that helping others can even improve our physical health as well.
Recent research has shown that spending more money on others as opposed to ourselves can actually reduce our blood pressure as much as exercise and traditional medication.
But the benefits don’t stop there. A program started in Israel called Sahi engages teenagers to perform acts of kindness towards others, regularly reporting the impact on the participants’ mental health. .
Surprisingly, the teens who participate in the Sahi program report feeling more optimistic and confident. In addition, they feel more empathy towards others, as well as a greater sense of independence (reportedly the greatest factor for happiness).
Here are a few ways you can start helping others, and help yourself in the process:
- Do a favor for someone you know: This could be something simple like babysitting, lending time or money, giving someone a ride, or just being there for someone when they’re in need. This not only makes you feel great, but it plants a seed for later, generating reciprocity in addition to the benefits we listed earlier.
- Pay it forward: You can also help random strangers. Paying it forward is the practice of doing something for someone else, such as paying for someone’s coffee in a Starbucks drive-thru or covering someone’s bill at a restaurant, without asking anything in return.
- Volunteer your time: Every day, there are countless groups in every community imaginable that need able-bodied people to help keep that program running. This is a great option because you can pick a cause you truly care about, therefore not only helping others but doing so in a way that is the most impactful to you.
The ways we can help others are limitless, so don’t feel confined to these. Start shifting your mindset from self-service to helping others and see how it helps you get ahead in a powerful way.