This can lead to some serious soul-grinding along the way. However, as I’ve come along I’ve discovered there is a way to free yourself from this seeming paradox.
I’d suggest a first step at understanding these two approaches is to start looking at their similarities. If we wade in comparing differences, we’re headed for a long walk in dark woods. Unfortunately, this is where the bulk of the self-help and success literature falls. We often pit one way of life against the other, service-to-self vs service-to-other. Lots of books get sold this way. The truth is whether you’re serving yourself or others, the process of growth looks the same.
Each requires; asking, listening, adapting, and then giving. Giving, as well as sharing, are essentially actions. These are the fundamentals needed to grow and make progress, or find fulfillment. Let’s break these down by looking at service-to-self first.
Typically, for those that see themselves on a spiritual journey, or the “the road to authenticity,” this process begins by turning inward or looking within. This is the ask. To get answers to the big questions we have to learn to get quiet.
Then comes the practice of listening. Wisdom tends to be a whisper, so we have to learn to lean in. And this is important, because there’s alot of noise bouncing around in our head’s. Noise meaning we live in a world of information, advice, and agendas, and that includes our own internal judgement and expectations. Most of what’s in our head’s wasn’t consciously put there, it was swallowed. So the discipline of turning inwards and fine tuning is important. It helps us filter out the noise but also connect to truer source of guidance. Inner guidance.
Once we’ve made a connection, we then have to make adjustments. Many of our decisions in life are based on assumptions drawn from information. So adaptation a key step. Without the adjustment, we’re like planes stuck perpetually circling the airport.
Give it away
Finally, the last step is take what we’ve learned through the process and then share it with the world. This is the critical leap where a genuine contribution is made.
Now this process and steps are the same for those who live in service. The big difference, of course, is that they focus on helping others first. Or in other words, they start by turning their attention outward. When a person serves others, they work their way from the outside world in. So, instead of turning inward to ask as a first step, they ask the world, etc. In today’s business cultures the lingo is “value-driven.” Business, on the grand stage, sets up systems that operate in this way. They automate this process.
So, no matter your preferred path, if you learn to see life as an invitation to create a healthy conversation, things get better. Life is a good chat, or can be. The moment we stop listening is the signal we’re headed for trouble. Grace disappears, and things get sticky when we end up there.
I’m a huge fan of Glennon Doyle. Here’s a woman who for 10 years hid herself in a closet at 4:00 am to find the time and space to write. She began with a simple dream, an honest, heart-felt intention to reach out and touch the world. And she did! She started a truly magical conversation through her blog and then books. But then she remained open to continuing the conversation along the way. She shared her changes out loud because she made a commitment to not hide from life. Then later, when she decided to divorce her husband and then remarry another woman, despite being touted as an acclaimed “relationship expert,” she maintained her integrity. How?… She walked the narrow path. She didn’t listen to the noise and advice of those with agendas. She exercised her integrity. The art of integrity comes with knowing where you’re headed, and accepting direction along the way. The direction she accepted, of course, came when she learned to listen to life. She’s mastered the art of the conversation. Here’s a great article where Glennon talks through her decision to walk away from her marriage.
So, I guess I’d end by saying we’ve all been tasked with discovering a new way in life. We can call this “our way.” Whether we like it or not, there’s no way around the fact that we will create something brand new. The life you live will never be repeated again. Learning to celebrate this by staying open to change and embracing the process is a powerful thing. You’ll inherit a life filled with integrity and grace. Just keep the conversation going!
Watch the video and listen to the episode associated with this post.