Make The World A Better Place And You’ll Live Longer

This blog could be tagged with words like self-improvement, quotes, inspiration and motivation. There are a lot of blogs, books, DVDs and so on out there with a similar theme. Naturally their focus is generally on the self, and how to improve it. You could say they are inward looking. They examine the self and find ways to improve it and make it better, and they are a good thing.

However, on it’s own, this is not a complete approach. Self improvement is something that should include an outward focus.

Mother Teresa helped people, Steve Irwin helped animals, Al Gore helps the planet. I’m sure all three have room for improvement, but would they be better off spending time on self improvement? Or are we glad they chose to try to make the world a better place?

The Golden Rule, which is found in varying forms in almost all cultures and spiritual traditions, is very much outward focused. I bet anyone who lives the Golden Rule to the very best of their ability is someone who is really developing themselves – far more than someone who is dwelling heavily on their own inner workings without regard for the world around them.

By focusing on the world around you, you are engaging with it. It’s give and take – you share in it’s sadness, but also in it’s joy.

There have been various studies conducted into the effect of volunteering on volunteers which all point in the same direction – “volunteer work does help people live longer”. This study attributed this mainly to the fact that volunteers are actively engaged in their communities which boosts their mental well-being, which in turn improves their physical health.

So by helping others you also help yourself.

This isn’t really a surprise is it? The great spiritual teachers have all said this: Buddha said “Action and reaction are opposite and equal”, Jesus said “As you sow, so shall you reap”, and many others have said similar things throughout our history.

At the end of the day – what goes around comes around.

9 thoughts on “Make The World A Better Place And You’ll Live Longer”

  1. Beautiful Post! I love that it is dated Feb 17, but it’s only the 16th here. It’s like a glimpse into the future! =-)

    I once attended one of the Dalai Lama’s teachings, in Costa Rica of all places, in which he said,”Compassion is good but it is not enough. What is needed is compassion in action. Mother Theresa wasn’t great because she was compassionate, but because she DID something to HELP those who were suffering.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course, and from a translation from Tibetan to Spanish to English; but you get the idea.)

    I think personal development and introspection are a good *beginning*. We need to come to know ourselves to realize that others are just like us: they would also like to suffer less. From this understanding, compassion is born. But let us not forget to DO something with this compassion… help someone else.

  2. Perhaps people help others in order to help themselves. People sometimes improve themselves in order to help others. This reminds me of the story of the man who in his deathbed told his loved ones that when he was younger, he tried to change the world, no luck. As he got older, he tried to change his country, no luck. As the years went by, he tried to change his community, no luck. As he laid there on his deathbed, the realizes that had he started by changing himself, perhaps by example, his family would change, then the community, then his country, then the world.

  3. We get bombarded by so many external forces that we find comfort and happiness in focusing inward. When we first do this we see a massive improvement in how we feel but these gains eventually slow down.

    I’ve found that outward focus doesn’t taper off like this. Helping people just makes you feel good.

    Great post Julian. Love your work!

  4. @Kevin
    You’re right people sometimes help others to help themselves Kevin and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t help other’s without being affected/changed by it. Bill Wilson started Alcoholics Anonymous as a way to help himself recover and that organisation has helped countless people around the world.

    I appreciate the point your story makes, it reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote “Be the change you want to see in the world”, but Gandhi was also someone who devoted his life to helping others and I think this is what makes him great.

    @Gwynn
    That’s a way of looking at it I’ve never considered before Gwynn, cheers!

  5. This is a good point that the blogging world doesn’t really make often enough. Yes, it is true that in order to help others, you need to be able to help yourself, but people aren’t going to be that motivated by how much you have helped yourself. People want to know how YOU can help THEM. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Hi Julian,

    This is a great post and you make an excellent point. That self improvement should be focused outward. I’m going to start writing more from this perspective. Thank you!

    Cheers,
    Jeremy

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