Adopting a Selfless Service Mindset – What’s Reasonable?
As I’ve built my business, I’ve noticed that selfless service has two very common misconceptions.
- Selfless service means giving 100% of your time, energy, and money until you have nothing left.
- Selfless service means giving just so you receive.
Both are wrong.
The first incorrect definition is usually common in people with truly pure intentions. While a selfless service mindset requires you to focus on others, that does not mean you should ignore your own needs. Service burnout is very common if you don’t pace yourself. I’ve seen plenty of individuals try this, give more than they can sustain, and lose their faith in the process because they were unable to fully accept the understanding that there may be little to no appreciation from the other party for your efforts. A good book to read on this topic is Give and Take, by Adam Grant.
As for the second incorrect definition, by keeping tabs on who you’ve served and the worth of that solution, your soul will never be fulfilled—you’ll never be truly selfless. True selflessness comes from removing your benefits from the equation. Your acts should be driven by the need for change in someone else’s life, not the changes within your own. If you’re asking yourself “what’s in it for me?” or telling yourself “if I do this for them, they will do this for me in the future”, you’re missing the point.
You Can’t Fix Them
Your intentions should be driven by the desire to see someone succeed and guided by the needs of that individual, but you can’t invest everything you have into every single person you meet. Give what you can to others, within reason. If you haven’t already, you will come across people in life who are willing to take all that you can give but put no effort into the relationship. Because of people like this, service-oriented individuals, at times get taken advantage of.
To avoid this trap, ask for effort from the other party. Lovingly question the individual about what truly would make a difference in their life. Dig into their problem until there is an actionable solution for you to take upon yourself. Ask the individual to help you determine the right plan of action and to take an extra step to help set you up for success.
There’s no “fixing” anyone else’s mentality. If your willingness to help is being abused, let the relationship taper off, however, you should never regret serving that individual regardless of their actions. Whatever you give to others will come back somewhere.
Need an example?
You have a friend named Mark who is a financial planner at a local bank. Mark tells you he needs more customers and asked if you would be able to help. Ask probing questions to help narrow down the ways you can serve him. It’s important to do this step first to avoid wasting efforts on the wrong target audience.
After narrowing down Mark’s target audience, you may find that Mark is looking to connect with young, first-time home buyers who are in the market to buy a house in Scottsdale, Arizona. It just so happens you’ve connected a handful of that exact persona on LinkedIn. To see if Mark is invested in the relationship, ask him to do research about which of those individuals he would like your help connecting with and why. If Mark is not willing to take the extra step towards making you are successful, let the relationship go. This type of behavior often means that the relationship will be on a take-only basis.
Reverse Engineering the Person
Problems are not always obvious. Solutions are not always clear. Because of this, you may need to reverse-engineer the person. Rather than looking at the person, their role in a company, their job title, or any other outward characteristic about a person, focus on their psychographics. What matters to them? Go one step further, what matters to the people they care about. How can you serve those people? Often times, by making the life of their loved ones easier, that can be the most effective way to serve.
Need an example?
Your acquaintance Jennifer is a family-oriented person. Jennifer’s eight-year-old son Toby has always wanted to be an astronaut. While you probably can’t say you’ve been in space, you do have a strong relationship with a colleague who is an aerospace engineer, and lucky for you, the aerospace company is hosting Space Camp for Kids next month. If you can get Toby an invitation to participate in space camp, you’ve effectively served Jennifer by serving Toby. Giving Jennifer’s son something unforgettable can make more of a difference to Jennifer in the long run than any number of flowers, treats, or dinners.
Serving others doesn’t need to be hard and the gestures do not need to be grandiose, they just need to be genuine. Put some thought behind your actions and always lead with how you can best serve that person, even if that means going outside of your professional abilities.