In Life Coaching

altruism and kindness quote

Today’s thought: Altruism Adds Meaning to Your Life

“I knew this problem existed, but it didn’t have a face until I went to the soup kitchen.”
– A High School Student

In the Character Strengths and Virtues by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, Citizenship headlines the chapter on strengths of Justice.

Both concepts have been the dissected and discussed with different ramifications since we learned how to make fires. Who gets to sit closest? Hey, while we’re at it, let’s talk about who gets to build the next one and who is invited.

We’ve come a long way since those primitive beginnings…

In terms of Academic Life Coaching, and the current series on cultivating each of these strengths and virtues in ourselves (consider it a modern day Benjamin Franklin project), I’m choosing to focus on the altruistic rather than the political activism or fire building sides of citizenship.

From the research I’ve done these past weeks on altruism and citizenship, one idea stands out: Citizenship has a direct impact on one’s happiness and sense of life meaning.

Human beings are made to help others.

Like most of humanity, I find it much easier to dismiss a problem if I haven’t experienced it myself or spent time around someone who experienced the problem.
It’s why most people try to avoid eye-contact with homeless people asking for money at stop lights. But what happens with the person asking for money standing on the corner has a name and a story?

Yesterday my six year-old daughter asked, “Dada, why does everyone pretend the homeless man standing on the corner is invisible?”

“Because they don’t know his name,” I said.

The quick interaction reminded me of the research conducted by Miranda Yates and James Youniss that pointed to how high school students gave themselves higher ratings in satisfaction with life and started to create increasingly positive conceptions of their abilities and confidence when they participate in volunteer projects.

When we give our time to others, we are happier.

Admittedly, it’s been sometime since I’ve donated my time to another organization. When I ask myself – why don’t I volunteer more often – the answer is that I really do consider the work that I do as serving a larger purpose. I believe that Academic Life Coaching, through education, has the power to be a positive force in the academic world.

But for the next two months, I’m going to put a name to the students I want to help. I’ve set up a project with Elevate Oregon in Parkrose High School, a school that graduates a little more than half of its students. For the next eight weeks, I’m volunteering three hours a week to go to the classroom and train students in basic Academic Life Coaching skills.

It’s time to put names and faces to the intangible mission of redesigning education.

I’m interested in the changes that happen in the classroom and in the lives of the students, and I’m for sure going to stay tuned to the changes that happen in me.

How does volunteering change you?

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Showing 7 comments
  • Richard Todd

    I really like the points that you make. I guess it’s kind of like karma type of thing too. When you put good into the world, it all comes back and you feel good about yourself. Great post!

  • Carol

    I have been really impacted by volunteering in my own community. Since I have been able to live a relatively good life I see it as my duty to give back to others. I believe that if everyone gave back, even just a little, many societal problems would be rooted out.

    • Benny J.

      I agree that a focus on the community could be the answer to a lot of problems our society faces right now but I think ACL’s focus on spreading happiness is the most important aspect of volunteering. John Williams mentioned that he didn’t want to focus on the activism volunteering with good reason for the discussion. I think that there is a place for individual happiness in ACL’s goal to alter education. Since they are trying to help build the confidence and skills of children, simply being proud about giving back is a step in the right direction. If we can build a generation more interested in what they can give than what they can get just think about the possibilities for global happiness!

  • Kenneth

    I’ve always been an avid volunteer because I believe that it is one of the most important ways to serve the community. I got my children into it young and I have been able to witness the influence it has had on their lives. It teaches important skills to children at a young age and can instill good qualities that others kids may lack from simply sitting in front of a computer or TV monitor all day. If there is going to be a revolutionary change in how children are educated I think Academic Life Coaching is going in the right direction by focusing on volunteering.

  • Rachel Hearst

    Feeling like part of the community is also important. When children are always surrounded by the opportunity to play video games and watch TV they are not actively engaging in life with their own community. Volunteering is a great way to get people involved and interested in the lives of others. My family volunteers at least twice a month at the soup kitchens or even just picking up trash outside. This has impacted every member of my family in a good way. We bond better and we are able to discuss the issues and perspectives facing others in our community. I would recommend volunteering to anyone and everyone!

  • Linda Langet

    “Human beings are made to help others.”

    I agree with this phrase and I’ll tell you why. Because ever since the creation of human beings people have lived in groups. They have formed their own communities because they know that in a group they can support one another. We are a species that relies on each other for nearly every aspect of life from food to happiness.

    Volunteering makes me whole as a person. If I can find the time to, I will willingly go out of my way to do something for someone else. I believe in altruism. In a world where there are people suffering in a worst situation than myself, I will always be there to help.

  • Betty

    Academic Life Coaching changed my life in many ways! But most importantly, it gave me the confidence to help people in a knowledgeable, confidant manner. I’ve used my gift of compassion, along with my love of people by volunteering my time with youths and adults as well. I’ve recently signed up with VolunteerMatch in hopes of discovering more opportunities to serve. I also look forward to my son this summer developing his character by volunteering for causes that will bring more meaning to his life and the lives of others. John, this Post was so on point and a beautiful, inspirational piece. Thank you for all the people that you continue to inspire with your kindness and passionate vision of developing others’ talents to benefit the causes and cures of Humanity. People are suffering and just need to know that someone cares.

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