“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
― Rabindranath Tagore

Not everyone is cut out to start a non-profit, install water purification systems in Africa, or tend to lepers. I am glad there are people who do those things - we need them, and they are among the most honest and altruistic servers you and I will ever meet. But most of us are not suited to those things. It simply is  not where we can best use our strengths, and not a lifestyle we are cut out for.

Then again, too many of us miss chances to serve the people around us every day. It is a matter of mindset.

Too often we are focused on what we can get, what we can earn, and what the world can yield for us. Our lives can have so much more depth and fulfillment if we, instead, focus on what we can do for others. I am not talking about giving away everything in some utopian gesture of goodwill. Rather, I speak of doing what you can, whole-heartedly, to serve others in all you do.

In business, whether you are an owner, executive, or employee, this can be as simple as doing your job - whatever it may be - with a spirit of service. If you wait tables, this is a simple adjustment to your mindset, because service is what your job is already about, and if you are good at your job, you already understand this at some level. If you are in another profession, however, it can be more difficult to find this mindset.

Allow me to paint a picture for you. Imagine an accountant, someone who is well-skilled with numbers and the technical aspects of his job. To be truly great at what he does, he must approach it with the intent to do well for others. This means always looking for a chance to go a bit “above and beyond,” working to get answers a bit faster than is absolutely necessary and looking for trends and opportunities where a lesser servant would simply "do his job."

Yes, I used the word "servant" there, but I want to remove the stigma that word carries for most of us. I am not talking about being subservient and inferior. I am using the word in its most literal sense: one who serves. This is not about giving in to another, but about seeking what is best for that other.

Think about the best interactions you have had in business, both as a customer and as a service provider. In most cases, these extraordinary experiences involve a good customer and a good provider. In these cases, both people make the transaction more pleasant, because each is aware of how his or her actions will affect the other. Each is making sure the other gets a good exchange. Everyone involved walks away from these exchanges feeling they got a good deal, and with a satisfying sense that the other person did, too. Business should not be about getting one over on each other, but about finding a place where each can serve the other’s needs.

This definition carries forward to other areas, as well. In any relationship between two people - be it romantic, business, or friendly - if each person is doing their best to make sure the other gets the greater benefit from the relationship, both people will find the relationship deeply rewarding. In fact, each person will likely feel that he is getting the better side of the relationship. You see, this is one of the paradoxes of serving: when you serve someone well, you feel that you have received something, as well. If the other person is actually doing their best to serve you, too, then that feeling is multiplied.

Put this in the context of a marriage, or any romantic relationship. The healthiest relationships are those where each person is taking care of the other, each serving the other. Mind you, this does not mean the same thing to both partners (read Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages, for an explanation of this). There is an important point here, and it carries through to other aspects of life: serving someone is not about the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you). You see, the problem with that statement is that it suggests doing for someone what you would like done. In fact, a pure service attitude is to do for someone what they want done. We do not all want the same thing, and you cannot serve someone else while ignoring what they really want.

Having a service attitude includes manners and etiquette, as well. I have heard people claim that these ideas are outdated, but these people have misunderstood the purpose of good manners. Etiquette is not about restricting what one person can do, but about knowing what to expect from others, and knowing how to be thoughtful and courteous. Without some basic rules - and I am not talking about the complicated Victorian etiquette of days past - we do not really know how to interpret others' actions, nor how to display respect in some situations. Understanding and following basic rules of etiquette makes it easy to communicate to others that we respect them, that their feelings and needs are important. Ignoring those rules can cause us to miscommunicate to others, offending and upsetting where we intend kindness or courtesy. If you want to show respect for others, start by simply having good manners. The best part: manners are actually pretty easy. Just consider how your actions might affect others, and act with consideration. If your conversation might disrupt others', then either lower your voice or take your conversation elsewhere. If answering your cell phone would interrupt a conversation you are currently having, let the call go to voice mail and check the message at the first opportunity.

Another aspect of the service attitude is simple kindness. One of the greatest examples of this was a woman I knew some years ago. She never passed an expired parking meter without putting in some change to help the person out. She often gave small gifts to people she barely knew, simply because she knew the joy it would bring to that person. One of my favorite memories of her was when a waitress at a diner commented on how much she liked my friend's purse. My friend knew she had another at home (she had liked it so much, she bought two!). She went home that evening, put the extra in a gift bag, and drove 20 minutes out of her way to give it to the waitress as a gift. How many times do we miss the opportunity to see that look of surprised joy on someone's face? I guarantee that is not a moment either of them will forget, and both are happier for the experience.

These random acts of kindness are a kind of service all of us can perform, and they do not even have to cost the pocket change my friend used to fill expired parking meters. Holding a door for someone (regardless of gender or age) , helping someone carry something to their car, picking up a piece of trash on the sidewalk, and writing a “thank you” note to a co-worker just to thank them for the good work they always do. All of these are free, and can mean a tremendous amount to those who receive them.

That same friend also gave some of her time to volunteer with charities. This is one of the purest examples of a service attitude, and something we should all do. There is a cause to fit everyone - something you can get behind with all your heart. And giving your time to that cause is a wonderful way to serve others. It may be packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, or donating your time to teach underprivileged teens how to run a business. Whatever your personal mission (you do have one, don't you?), there is a non-profit group that shares your mission, and would be happy to have you helping them.

Now, imagine for a moment a society where everyone is trying to serve others. We would fail at times, and our efforts would involve some compromise - we simply cannot do for everyone everything that we would like to. However, if we were all trying to serve one another, we would have a more cooperative, functional society.

Okay, so that is not going to happen. You and I both know there will always be those who choose to be self-serving and discourteous. There will always be those with an entitlement attitude, looking for what others can do for them. But if you and I both do our best to serve others, there will be fewer of those people ever year. Kindness does usually beget kindness. This is a small thing you can choose to do than can change everyone around you.

And here is a bonus: the most successful people I know carry this service attitude. In many cases, their level of success is directly attributable to this attitude. They built their business around providing value to others. Their focus is (was from early in their careers) on delivering real value far beyond what their clients and customers pay for - delivering a level of service to their coworkers, staff, and vendors than they must. They did not do this out of a sense of investment, expecting a return for their service, but out of a genuine understanding that their greatest level of fulfillment comes from serving others, including their followers.

Having a focus on service - on delivering value and helping others get what they want - has helped these people have success in so many areas of their lives. It is not just financial success. Their attitude has yielded abiding friendships, deeply loving marriages, and a sense of fulfillment in their lives. It can do the same for you.

So, go out each day and look for ways to serve others. Do your job, whatever it is, to serve customers, co-workers, and vendors. When you are with friends, family, and loved ones, look for ways to serve their needs, both physical and emotional. What you’ll find is that these acts of service will enrich the experience for all involved (including you). And if just a few of those people follow your example, you will have a few more people helping you out when you need it.
And that, my friend, is how you change the world around you.

Author's Bio: 

Gerry Seymour is a nationally recognized expert on business and personal growth. Gerry combines his experience as a management consultant with his proven skill as a coach to help you refocus your efforts in business, relationships, and other areas of life.

Gerry has more than twenty years of experience as a consultant and coach, and has men mentored and coached by successful people I several different industries and walks of life.

Gerry is based out of the Asheville, NC area,where he lives with his wife and many animals.

For more information on Gerry Seymour's products and services and to receive a free personal accountability assessment visit: http://gerryseymour.com/selfgrowth/