“I will live so as to remember that I was born for others, and will praise Nature on this account: for in what fashion could she have done better for me?” – Seneca
A good life. The best version of ourselves. The highest ideal we can hold ourselves to.
All of these have a single thing in common, they are all accomplished by putting others before ourselves. This can mean that we sell all of our possessions, give the money to the poor, and then dedicate our lives to service of one kind or another. And that would be admirable and that would lead to a good life. But it doesn’t have to be so extreme.
Instead, putting others first could mean, seeing that another person’s needs are met in every interaction we have. Maybe that means being sure that a coworker has the support and resources necessary to complete their job requirements without any added stress, maybe it means being sure we are present and available for our spouse. Or our children.
The place to start with these skills – and putting others first is a skill like any other – is general and broad. Like landscaping a lawn. The first thing to do is a general cut, so that you can see what else needs doing. Similarly, the first thing we should do when adopting a life of service is to develop a mindset that thinks of others’ needs first. We should start asking ourselves what each person in our lives now or who come into our lives in the future actually need from us. And then we should do our best to give it to them.
And we should repeat until we are good at it. Then, once the lawn is mowed and we have that part down, we can focus on the more detailed aspects. We can develop our ability to anticipate needs, or to actually sacrifice our own needs for others.
And we repeat and repeat and repeat. Until it is over.
virtus fortis vocat