In general people feel better when their lives feel meaningful and there is enough pleasure and health in their lives.
According to some researchers, maturation often continues in adulthood and middle aged and those in their 60s usually achieve ‘generative maturity’. At this point, they begin thinking about how to help others in the world. There are people who are already like this as children – some manage to do great things on a large scale. Others can’t and may feel stifled or frustrated but once they ‘unlearn learned helplessness’ – which sometimes requires reaching adulthood, they find they can do more and go ahead and do so.
More than once, successful people suffering from bad mental or emotional conditions despite their success have found great relief in devoting some of their time to helping others.
Taking good care of one’s self and experiencing healthy self – love, which is not to be confused with Malignant Narcisissm should not be left out of the whole process of being kind to others.
Formal & Informal
There are formal and informal ways that people can help others. There are leaders who can found organizations, and get things done. There are leaders who are also followers – such people may join an organization that already exists and serve that, and grow through activities they do within the organization.
There is no disgrace in being a follower unless one is really ‘cut out’ to be a leader, which can really happen. For naturally occurring or potentially excellent leaders, being kept as ‘followers only’ is a bit like hiding the Sunshine with a man made item and thinking that means the light isn’t there. Most folks start out as followers. Everyone needs and deserves trustworthy guidance. As a beginner, there is no shame in being a follower. Joining an organization already created by others is a great way for team oriented individuals to get involved as followers and grow from there. Some will grow into leadership positions. For others it will be doing volunteer work or getting paid working for a charity organization that will be ‘a significant change from engaging in activities that are limited to helping one’s self.’
Some people have a strong preference for one or the other. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
The problems I see with those who prefer informal ways of helping others:
- Harder to get the helping activity acknowledged in formal and official ways for example in college essays, job applications, beauty pageant applications.
- Mixed motives – one’s own motives may not always be clear.
- Inconsistent results. People may find that they are only effective some of the time.
- Difficulty developing leaders – it may be difficult or impossible to improve certain skills and to aid developing leaders without the structure of a formal organization.
The problems with formal ways of helping others:
- It can be impersonal. For example – filling out forms in an agency may not be heartwarming the way interacting with the very individuals receiving help might be.
- It can be harder to help the way one wants to. With formal helping one normally joins and organization and can only choose from the options available.
- Corruption – one can discover that the organization one is working for has become corrupt and does not provide as much care as was originally intended.