Living a life of service

Queen Elizabeth II

The tributes for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II continue to pour in. Despite differing opinions on the institution of the monarchy and legacy of colonialism, the world seems united in celebrating a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to public service and who for 70 years was a stable, reassuring presence in turbulent times.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately of what it means to live a life of service. Ghandi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Most of us live a life of service in small ways, as parents, good neighbours and community members, and in some cases, in our career choices. Health care providers, first responders and elected officials all dedicate their lives to helping or serving others. But for many of us, the concept of living a life of service is not how we would describe our day-to-day life or even our purpose in life.

Living a life of service is different than having purpose. You can have purpose, a passion or focus that makes you happy and feel alive but doesn’t involve serving others.

The world and the people in it seem a bit lost these days. Perhaps the best way to find ourselves again is to be more intentional in leading a life of service.

Related posts:

Whistle while you work

Panda in tree saying he hates mondaysSpecial guest blog

I was joking around with a co-worker recently, pointing out that she has spent about 65,000 hours at work. Granted, she has been working for 35 years, but, when you actually see a number like that you realize–that is a lot of time.

Even the significantly smaller number of 8 hours (your average work day) takes up a third of your day and about half of your awake time.

So, what if you are unhappy at work? According to my numbers, about half your life will be wasted.

There have been times in my career when I was unhappy at work and counting down the 47,000 or so hours I had left until retirement. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the job, or the people, or the idea of contributing to society. It was that work got in the way of ‘real’ life. It got in the way of family and friends. It was time consuming.

So I made a change. I dismantled the wall between work and ‘real’ life. I realized I was wasting so much time and negative energy on something that, maybe, wasn’t so bad. I had to be there, so why not embrace it?

I did. The change was more than I expected. According to the numbers I expected to be 50% happier, but, in reality I became 200% happier. I’m not sure exactly why my happiness multiplied exponentially, but, now I wish I’d figured this out ten years ago.

What exactly did I do? The main thing was to change my perspective. I will admit, this is easier said than done. I guess for me I just accepted that work was part of ‘real’ life and I should treat it that way. I started taking things a bit more seriously. Not only doing what needed to be done, but, living up to the same high standard I set for myself at home.

I also broke down the mental barrier I had built up with the people around me. I used to be of the mindset that you leave work at work, and that included the people. But, when I started opening up and getting to know my coworkers outside of work (Facebook is a wonderful place to do that), that is when things got fun. Now I’m not spending a third of my day, and the majority of my adult interactions, with people I barely know, but, I’m getting to spend the day with friends.

My #HappyAct challenge is for you to reevaluate work. Find a way to get connected with your job and the people around you. Good luck.

Contributing author: Mathew is a very productive and sarcastic cubicle citizen who reads way too many Dilbert comics. He blogs about his life outside of work at

Ed. Note: Great post Matt and so true! Consider these stats from

  • Seventy percent of employees believe having friends at work is the most crucial element of a happy work life.
  • One-third of adults have met at least one of their closest friends through work.
  • Seventy-four percent of women and 58 percent of men say they would turn down a higher-paying job if it meant they wouldn’t get along with their co-workers.


The Happy Act blog

Welcome to my blog. This blog is a new adventure for me. Each week, I’ll explore something that makes me happy and issue a weekly challenge we can do together—one Happy Act that will hopefully help you feel happy too.

Confession time. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a Super Susie type, you know the kind of person that is so happy and positive all the time, it drives you crazy. I’m not even that great a writer.

So why should you embark on this journey with me? I can’t give you a good reason other than why not? If doing one happy act a week brings a bit more happiness into your life and into the world, then isn’t it worth it? Because happiness is not something we aspire to, it’s not a destination. You don’t find it. The phrase the pursuit of happiness is hogwash. Happiness is a state of being, and to be happy, you need to do little acts of happiness.

This week’s Happy Act is to call an old friend. Meet them for coffee, call them on the phone or send them a message on Facebook or LinkedIn. It will feel good to connect with them again. Here’s a picture of us catching up with some old friends who moved to Edmonton and who we hadn’t seen in seven years.

Catching up with old friends