What makes a successful life? Is it money, power, or perhaps a combination of the two? That would have summed up my definition if you asked me ten years ago. What I’ve experienced since has given me a different perspective.
I’ve learned that a successful life is defined not by what we have but by what we do. I used to be focused on the prize, and I forgot about the purpose.
The truth is that I didn’t feel I had created a successful life until I began giving without expecting anything in return. I found my purpose through volunteering and later through working with volunteers in a professional capacity. The first time I volunteered was a fluke. I was invited by a friend to serve lunch at a soup kitchen because her husband couldn’t make it and she didn’t want to be short. Although not terribly excited about it, my need to please people prevented me from saying no. So, I went.
When I got there, I marveled at the genuine happiness that beamed across the volunteers’ faces. These people had inserted themselves in the middle of other people’s unfortunate situations. I thought, “how in the world can they be so happy?!” It struck me that there must be some secret sauce in volunteering. After jumping in to help, I quickly realized there was. The recipe is based in love, sweetened with a dash of connection, and finished off with a generous pinch of compassion and gratitude.
That day, I discovered that purpose had been the prize all along. What I got out of volunteering was more than a shiny new car or a corner office (although those things are nice too!). I found the richness of life comes from our connections to the people around us. There’s true meaning in helping others. There’s safety in building a community of people who support and care for one another. There’s no greater purpose than to put to action our ability to make something better. In return, we make ourselves better too.
This community isn’t an exclusive club. The great thing about volunteering is that it’s available to anyone at any time, and volunteers are in high demand, so don’t be surprised if you become very popular overnight. And as a hot commodity, don’t be afraid to be choosey. Pick a cause that you’re most passionate about, trust me, it makes the relationship that much more rewarding. The secret sauce of volunteering that puts purpose in your life’s menu is ready and waiting for you. You just have to be willing to find it. So, what’s stopping you? After all, you have success written all over you; go out there and jump in!