Taking Action

How to Enjoy Serving the World Around You by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Tim Marshall

Live fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problems and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect. Just be an excellent example of a human being.
— Tony Robbins

I have a confession to make- if you see me volunteering at an event, it’s probably because I’m getting into something fun for free, meeting cool people, or helping a friend in charge of something. I don’t volunteer or say yes because it’s something I SHOULD do. These are things I enjoy with the added bonus of supporting a thing that matters. Healthy selfishness about how we serve makes us more inclined to do it again.

There is a limiting story in our culture about how we make a difference in the world around us. I admire people who are able to juggle working at a soup kitchen every week, being on 3 non-profit boards, and still getting everything done in their own lives. But I have accepted that I am not built that way.

Generosity is a mindset and a habit without a lot of rules. There are many simple ways we can serve our communities on a daily basis: planting a garden, creating a work of art and sharing it, hosting a party, visiting an elderly neighbor, starting a meetup, cooking a meal for a new mom, or smiling at strangers. We can go to bed every night knowing that we made someone else's day better.

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your self-transformation.
— Lao Tzu

When we are listening to ourselves and to the needs of those around us, we get to solve interesting problems. We’re also happier and make a bigger impact when we know what we have to offer.

This requires us to practice more curiosity. Here are a few questions to help you clarify opportunities to be of service and create a better life in the process:

·         What do I want/need more of in my life?

·         What skills and talents do I have to offer? How much time?

·         What would I like to learn or improve?

·         What issues or causes matter to me?

·         What is my first step?


What Makes a City Happier? by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Drew Coffman

When we’re happy, we’re happy where we live.
— Melody Warnick

In Shreveport, my hometown, there has always been a significant portion of the population that doesn't like living here. But in the past few years, there has been a big dialogue about who we are as a city and who we want to be. Citizens are asking themselves about how we can become a better place to live. 

I love that we are asking these kinds of questions regularly now. This new awareness, unfortunately, often only leads to conversations about all of the things that aren't working. People get frustrated before they even get started. But if we as individuals aren't doing anything to solve a problem, is it reasonable to expect anyone else to?

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
— Carl Sagan

The more useful questions for us to ask ourselves are:

·         What can I do to make myself happier in this city?

o   What am I interested in? What issues or causes do I care about? What do I want to see, learn, and do? What type of people do I want to meet or get to know better? 

·         What can I do to make myself happier in my life?

o   How can I take good care of myself and make more time for friends/family? What do I want more of? How am I working toward my personal goals?

When more people in our community take the time to answer these types of questions for themselves, the more satisfied we'll collectively be with our lives here. But until that happens, what anyone else does or doesn't do won't really matter because this is something you can fix for yourself now. The more invested you become in your city and your own life, the more you'll enjoy living there.

There are many people I admire in our community who have the passion and determination to help us fix problems through all of the official channels. They collaborate with the various systems in place and take the time to understand complex issues well enough to actually solve them. But as individuals, we all have a role to play. 

Even if we’re not ready to be the ones making the fun stuff happen in our town, we can show up for the people who are. Go to the festival. Buy tickets for the play. Throw a buck in the busker’s guitar case. Notice the little things that make your town vibrant and support them. Like the right community brand, it can change your perception of where you live.
— Melody Warnick

We will always have less time, money, resources, and patience than we wish we had to improve the world around us. But we don't have to make huge commitments or overextend ourselves. We can get clear about what we want and find small, inexpensive, and quick ways to add value to our communities. We can show up. 

How to Experiment with Habits and Goals by Amy DeRosia

CC photo by Sonja Guina

There’s no magic formula- not for ourselves and not for the people around us. We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses, we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.
— Grechen Rubin

We often assume there is only one way to achieve goals or form habits- a skill we're either good at or not. Creating lasting change gets oversimplified- "just make a list and check things off" or "exercise more, eat less." But there is a difference between simple and easy.  The process of forming new habits is an ongoing experiment to figure out how we work best.

Most successful people make their own, personalized systems and rituals to reach their goals. Those of us who are trying to create change in our own lives copy others' methods and get discouraged when they don't work. 

We don't think twice about tweaking recipes until they taste perfect to us. The same thing can be done with systems of organization, goal setting, and building habits.

Ask yourself some questions about your natural tendencies. Such as:

  • What keeps me motivated?
  • How can I create the best environment for success?
  • What times of day do I do my best work?
  • What strengths can I use?
  • What setbacks should I plan for?
  • Do I prefer short bursts of action or slow and steady progress?

Gretchen Rubin writes a lot about using self-knowledge to build habits in her book Better than Before. She has a few free quizzes and resources on the subject as well.

I've been using her Better Than Before journal for a few weeks and loving it. In the past, I've gotten stuck on what I want to commit to for a full year and taken too long to get started. But this journal lets me focus on one week at a time. That feels way less threatening. I'm able to test habits out and see what I want to commit to for a longer period of time. You can measure your progress and adjust what needs to be changed as you go.

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
— Carl Rogers

Self-improvement, unfortunately, can feel like a "ways I'm not good enough yet" list. This doesn't have to be true. Remember that we're all doing the best we can and are fine exactly where we are. But part of living a good life is to continue to grow and evolve.  As we try new things, make mistakes, and learn from them, we get better.


What unique quirks have you found help you be successful with your goals?