Help Yourself By Doing More For Others (But Not For That Reason)

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For a long time I only really cared about myself. My focus was on my ‘success’, achievements and how I was viewed by others. I felt that if I was doing well in these, I was doing well in life.

During this time, I sometimes experienced intense difficulty with sustaining motivation. I could work hard for short periods of time but then experience a deep resistance that I couldn’t overcome.

On reflection, I think I struggled because deep down I knew I was lying to myself. I would bury my head in medical textbooks, telling myself I wanted the best exam results so that I could be a great doctor. But in reality I wanted to be the best to gratify my own ego.

My reasoning wouldn’t have stood up under a small amount of scrutiny, if I had actually subjected it to any. The level of detail I was learning and amount of time spent studying went far beyond that required to adequately treat future patients. If anything, the time spent studying when I could have been living my life more fully was hindering my development in other areas.

I went through a major transition a few years ago. A few things happened in my personal life and I had some intense emotional experiences which led me to question how I was doing things.

Gradually, I started doing more for others. I started actively going out of my way to help friends and family members. I started to critically assess my approach to work and use of free time and shift it more towards helping others.

I observed that the more I did so, the less I had problems with motivation depletion. Over time, the actions I was taking started to align more with what I believed deep-down I should be doing. I honestly believe that it is an innate human instinct to want to help others, but that this can often get buried for a variety of reasons.

These days, the more confidence I have that my actions will positively influence others, the more energy and motivation I have. When I have dips in motivation, it either means that I’ve lost confidence that my actions are going to have positive impacts or I’m focussing too much on myself. By deciding which one it is and remedying it appropriately, I feel reinvigorated and refuelled.

I am not saying I am now an entirely selfless person who only lives to serve others. However, I do believe that helping others is important in finding personal fulfillment.

What I’m describing only applies when actions are motivated by the genuine desire to help others, rather than wanting to help others with the ultimate intention that by doing so you will help yourself.

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Data Scientist + Junior Doctor in London, Cambridge medicine grad, striving to improve healthcare through technology and education.

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