Be useful

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote

In my work, I get the privilege of speaking to and learning from different people every day. Last week, I was interviewing one of our executives, and I asked him if he had a mantra or a saying he lived by. His answer was, “Be useful”.

There is a lot written on the power of purpose. Motivational speakers like Oprah and Les Brown have built entire careers on it. Most of these speakers have a common message: to live a happy, fulfilled life, you must live a life of purpose or service. Being useful is the key to happiness.

The grand concept of purpose is a topic for another day. For some of us, it may be harder to see a clear path to what our purpose is for being here on this earth. But all of us can be useful.

We are useful when we plant seeds that will reap a bountiful harvest. We are useful when we take the time to listen to the cares and worries of a friend. We are useful when we make a special meal for a family member, or run the kids to yet another baseball game or practice.

A couple of years ago, I made it a personal mantra to do one thing every day at work to make my workplace a great place for people to work, learn and grow. Some days it’s buying a coffee for the person standing next to me in line. Other days, it may just be sending a note of thanks or appreciation to someone who helped me on a project. I realized the greatest way I could be useful was to help make my work a happy place to come to every day.

This week’s #HappyAct is be useful every day. Don’t worry about grand gestures. Focus on the little ones.

What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?

Hilary Clinton quote: You don't walk away from someone you love

This week’s post isn’t really a post. It’s a question, and I’m hoping all of you reading this will leave a comment to share your insights on this question.

Many of us may have someone in our lives who we love, but we don’t like all the time or approve of their behaviour. What do you do in these cases?

A few weeks ago, I read a Dear Amy column. It was called, “Mother seeks cure for daughter’s affluenza”. It was about a mother who found her daughter’s lack of reciprocity, insensitivity and self-centred attitude appalling.

Amy quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well.”

I’m not sure I agree with Emerson’s statement that our purpose in life is not to be happy, but I think there’s some truth in his belief that if you do the things he says should be our purpose, you will have a better chance of being happy.

Amy had some great advice for her reader. She said always make sure the person knows that you love them, even if you don’t like them right now or their behaviour. Loving without expectation, and through disappointment will liberate you from your harsh judgement and should lead to acceptance.

I’ll add one insight. Try to find common ground. In the world of behavioural psychology, there’s even a term for it, “pairing”. Focus on their strengths and what you do like about them.

And finally, never ever give up on them.

So dear readers, it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t like someone you love?