Why You Shouldn’t Be Of Service

The other day I got a text message from a friend.

She was visiting New York and asked if I was around to grab a tea. After a few back and forth texts, she shared that she had come into some money and was trying to figure out what to do with it.

Not in a frivolous way, but because she’s an amazing woman with lots of gifts and talents, she was trying to figure out how to use that money in order to create an impact on those around her.

She said, “Erin, I want to figure out the best way I can be of service.”

Right away, a little red flag went off in my brain.

Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about starting a business, following your passion and most importantly BEING OF SERVICE.

I don’t disagree with this advice, and really, there is something so rewarding and important about being of service.

But I do think when you’re getting started on something new, this idea can be a hindrance.

Speaking from experience, any time that I’ve been looking for my next project, or looking to make a decision in my business about growing or expanding, or even when I am figuring out my next life move, when I focus solely on “Being of Service,” I end up going round and round in a creative cul-de-sac.   

I almost feel guilty telling you this…

But I would recommend you NOT try to be of service.

Let me explain.

You see, there are SO many different ways to be of service. I can think of a list of 10 ways right now.

When I am so entirely focused on what I can do to help people who I don’t even know yet, the thought can be overwhelming. It starts to feel as though there is just SO much work to do.

Not only that, but if you are someone like me, who requires quiet time and inward energy in order to grow, thinking of serving hundreds of thousands of people can feel like a big responsibility when you are just getting going.

If I am being honest with myself, it can also feel really intimidating.

It puts me in the place of “But what if they don’t like it? What if I am not smart enough? What if they think it’s boring?”

These thoughts are never helpful when you are trying to figure out your next move.

Now I realize you might be thinking, “Oh Erin, this is sounding so selfish. Don’t you want to help people?” The answer is yes, I do.

But I want you to tune into yourself for a moment and notice if the thought of serving a bunch of people energizes you—or makes your head spin a little.  

Instead, I invite you to turn inward and put the focus on yourself for a moment by asking these questions:

  1. What do I want or need to learn?
  2. What do I want to make?

When you ask yourself “What do I want to learn?” you suddenly go from OUTWARD to INWARD seeking. You turn in towards your own needs and truths.

It is likely that the answer you discover is going to bring about some inspiration, because I’m guessing you’re like me—a life-long learner. It’s probably why you read my blog. You like the challenge of acquiring new tools and discovering new things about life.

Once you’ve answered that question, you continue by asking yourself “What do I want to make?” I say MAKE and not CREATE on purpose.

While it’s simply semantics, the word “create” sometimes feels really BIG. It feels like whoa, I have to do something really grand here.

But the truth is, the act of making something can start really small.

When I focus on the question “what do I want to make,” I immediately light up.

I think, “Wait, you mean I get to make something today? Like when I was a kid in school? I’m allowed to write something? Or make up a dance?” Or “Oh, wow, I can make a new set of workouts? That would be really fun!”

Yes, please! I’ll take it.

In fact, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the latest workout I made for you. These and others have come out of the questions, “What do I want to learn?” and “What do I want to make?”

Why You Shouldn’t Be of Service

My dearest, when you give yourself permission to be easy, playful, in the flow, filled with joy, and connected to YOURSELF, THAT is likely the time when you are most lit up and have the most energy.

And that’s the energy people want. People will be drawn to you like bees to honey.

Ultimately, I have some odd news for you. People don’t really want to be helped.

What people really want is to feel connected to themselves, the divine and others.

And only when you are connected to YOURSELF, the divine and others will you, yes, you guessed it, you be able to be of the greatest service possible.

So the next time you fall into a little lump sum of money, or maybe you’re just trying to figure out your next career move or business venture, I encourage you to ask yourself:

What do I want to learn or how do I want to grow?

And then, what do I want to make?

If this resonates with you, I would love to hear your thoughts. When you are trying to come up with your next move, does the thought of being of service inspire you or deplete you? How about when you focus on these other questions? Tell me how this lands, share in the comments.

And of course, if you have a friend who you think could use this message, please forward this along.

With love,
Erin

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23 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Be Of Service

  1. Krishna says:

    Thank you Erin-this is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I am starting a new project and and trying to get really clear about the offer and vision and have been feeling so overwhelmed with making sure my creation is of service. I will focus on what I want to make and trust that this authentic offering will attract the right customers Thank you!

  2. Steve says:

    This is so true, Erin. All those projects that end up going nowhere…it’s so often because we tried to “serve everyone”.

    This inspires a twist on a favourite saying of mine from Oscar Wilde, who said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

    New version, “Be yourself, it’s what everyone else really needs.”

  3. Marianne says:

    Thank you for these words! They arrive at a very good time for me. Yes! I get totally overwhelmed by the efforts of being of service. “Is my desire to create/design kitchen gardens really what people want? What if they don’t like my ideas?” These and other thoughts bog me down completely. What you said really hit home for me and I can see how it’s played out in my life as you described. Thank you again. I feel much lighter and, just like you said, “lit up”. XOXO

  4. Madison Frederick says:

    Hi Erin, I totally resonate with that. And it is interesting to note that in the grand scheme of things it’s right on point with the energy coming to the planet next year.In perspectve to it going to be the year of the Rooster in 2017. That energy is all about going within and taking care of yourself. In the past few years the energy has been about the collective. This being a fire monkey it has very much been about monkey see monkey do. A lot of people have been on the fear bandwagon. Just look at the mess we have had with the elections. Many people jumping on that train of confusion. Thanks for the post.Blessings

  5. Olivia says:

    Hi Erin I loved this blog, I ve always aimed for being in service but your way of looking at it is fantastic. I’m considering training to become a Marisa Peer hypnotherapist but alot of negatives from others are confusing me. I feel it’s a great fit for me and will really assist clients to overcome their own barriers in life but taking the view what do I want to learn helps me make the 1st step. Thanks so much for all your inspiration and amazing energy.

    Olivia

  6. Mary says:

    Yes! This! You nailed it. I had been down a path of creating a coaching business to be of service and after lots of massive resistance I learned it isn’t really what I want to do, right now anyway. Maybe not ever. Right now I just want to have fun, tune into me, make something, pull out the metaphorical scissors and glue and paper and just make something for the sheer pleasure in doing it for me, for the experience of it. Along the way I may stumble upon my next adventure.

  7. April says:

    Thanks!
    I totally agree and it is good to hear it from someone else. I love to be of service, but trying to make my decisions based on this, to do the things I want and make them fit into service somehow, or worse – to choose service when it isn’t what is right or comfortable for me; well I am completely depleted by that and I end up doing nothing as I get so lost in the bigness of being of service that I ultimately freeze.
    Being of service has become so prevalent in society today it is hard not to get caught up in it and feel selfish and guilty all the time. As an artist and maker I sometimes question how this is of service and I worry about contributing to the consumerism mentality, but I don’t see how switching to something I have no true passion for and that drains me will be of use either. That can’t be a good energy to be putting into the world.
    I think what you say is bang with regards to being connected to yourself means you are able to be of the greatest service.
    One last thing in this already lengthy comment – I think we often forget all the little day-to-day ways we are of service -sharing a smile, a compliment or a kind word, opening a door for someone loaded down with bags or strollers, letting someone with only one item go ahead of you in a line… this list is endless and these small, kind gestures often have giant impact (and they tend to come even more naturally when you are coming from your own connected place ?)

  8. Janet says:

    Erin you are wise and I thank you so much for sharing. I am currently in a period of transformation and I keep finding pearls of wisdom which help me refocus and ground myself. After years of contemplation, I chose to leave a career I loved, but which had run its course in many ways. I am now pursuing two areas of learning which I am excited about, but the change can be a bit bumpy. I have been so grateful to be able to lend a hand in service to my extended family since I have had the luxury of extra time in my schedule, but at times those efforts seem small in the grand scheme, even though they are very meaningful to people who are close to me. I will keep your key questions in mind. Focus on learning and creating. Thank you so much for writing what I needed to read today!
    Sincerely,
    Janet

  9. Julie Naranja says:

    Really great reminder and insights! Thanks!

  10. Bevan says:

    I just wanted to thank you Erin for your willingness to be so honest and vulnerable in what you said. Every part of it resonated with me on a deep level and felt like being given true freedom. I’m not really much of an internet user, but on this occasion I am deeply appreciative of the fact that your words from across the pond have reached this tiny remote village in Cornwall UK. They have Blessed me in beautiful ways and have been what I have ben seeking to hear for months now. Thank you xxxxxx

  11. Monique Le Ray says:

    Brilliant!

  12. Pauline says:

    Erin, wow! Incredible advise and perfectly timed. I needed this so much. Thank you!!

  13. Merle says:

    Erin, this is so true especially with information overload age we are in. Love your insightful ways at looking things.

  14. Holly says:

    Really loved this piece. I’ve definitely been thinking quite a bit abut what you’re talking about. I love my job and at the same time I’m trying to expand into a new area of work and it has been weighing on me a bit as I’m not sure what is right for me. THIS has helped clarify my thinking and I couldn’t be more excited for the assistance with the reflection.

  15. Jan says:

    Thank you Erin – a brilliant article and just what I need to hear right now. Feeling back on track. 🙂

  16. Dana Kennedy says:

    Thanks Erin. I really appreciate when people are able – and willing – to say the things that are not always easy to say – and that stop us in our tracks because it might not be exactly what we want to hear.
    This was such a helpful reminder for me as I continue to develop my Adventure company. I can find myself “bogged down” in the “How do I serve” mentality at times. So much so that what what I am creating can start to feel burdonsome and forced rather than uplifting, fun and inspired.
    Words I needed to hear. Thank you.

  17. Kim says:

    Yes! To answer your question Erin, this resonates with me! Thanks so much for “making” the stuff you do! It’s fantastic. I’m so grateful for what you’re doing, keep up the good work!

  18. Jason Bowers says:

    I salute you for being honest, proves that you really care for clients safety than helping them to earn more money. Around of applause for you!

  19. Christa says:

    People have often gotten angry at me for doing exactly what you’re suggesting. They tell me I’m selfish, that I don’t think of anyone other than myself. They try to make me feel guilty, like I’m a terrible person. But I know I’m not. And besides, it’s too late, it’s a habit! I explore and learn and do almost exclusively the things I really want to do. I find joy and reasons to be excited everywhere. It’s nice to just be delighted by the world and people around me, rather than expecting certain things to please me in exchange for my “service”.

  20. Kevin Decoteau says:

    Hi Erin,
    I somewhat agree with you about being of/in service to others. I do think that many people forget to take care of themselves first. Lets face it if your “tank” is empty and you try to help others, well you hurt yourself more than help them. We want to bring the best of who we are are to any situation and proper self care is important, but I don’t let it go too far or forget why I am taking care of myself, comes a time to get up and get out, and it takes courage and challenging the fears in your head. So, after you are doing proper self care, get out there and help where you can.

  21. Ayako says:

    THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH, Erin, for this post. I just stumbled into it as I was checking your new website (which by the way looks awesome!). That’s one of the reasons (besides fears) why I haven’t been able to take the very first step to start my own business. After taking a great marketing/entrepreneurship course online a year ago, I got a sense that I have to have a grand vision of helping others through my business even before starting the business – I’ve got scared and overwhelmed, like how could my little virtual assistant business idea help starving kids in Africa or building schools or bringing fresh water to remote villages… I’ve tried to believe that being in alignment with my true self by doing what I truly want to do or believe in is enough and the “helping others” part will appear naturally. Your post breaks it down for me and allow me to believe what I always felt it is true. I’ll keep this post close to me and come back whenever I feel overwhelmed with the idea of “being of service.” Thank you!

    • erin says:

      Ayako- I am so glad it resonated as I know the idea can be a bit controversial. But I think when we look within first, we often DO help those around us. Can’t wait to see what you create! xo

  22. Michael Ye says:

    Thank you for this. After I read what you wrote on not making things so complicated, I went to the boxing gym to let out some stress and do work on the bag. Then these girls came in out of nowhere and just started playing music and dancing. For some reason I just joined them and it was fun and hilarious!

    It’s kinda sad, but I haven’t had fun like that in a long time, or really connected with people that way in a while. It’s weird, because I used to be silly and carefree all the time. I still miss that part of me. I noticed that when I’m relaxed and happy, I end up helping more people anyway. They like being around me when I’m happy.

    When I focus too much on being productive and trying to help anyone else I feel inadequate and become an anxious mess for no reason. I feel like I was neglecting my own needs too much. I need to connect with myself more, so thanks for showing me that.

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