Doing Something For Others

Helping others while struggling may give people some satisfaction because midst life challenges, they still manage to help and have a positive impact on other people's lives.

Trudy Boyle explains why it is vital to do something for the well-being and benefit of others.

Nick: This one, I think, is extremely important. Because we can often become the victim, when we are diagnosed with an illness, when tragedy strikes. And your chapter title is “Do something for the benefit and well-being of others”

And to quote the Dalai Lama, who you quote in your book, when I think he was asked by someone on what should you do when you're sick, or you receive bad news? Or you think, you're going through a really hard time. He says: “Find someone worse off than you and help them.” 

So this is probably the last piece of advice you'd want to hear. But it's very powerful. So why is it at a time when we're struggling with illness? Are we advised or should we turn our attention to others?

Trudy: You know, I'm just going to slip this in. And you may not agree with me. There's so little opportunity for me to really read in English about ikigai and the original idea, but what I've gleaned is that ikigai  goes beyond just what lifts my spirits. 

It's also something about how we contribute, right? How the impact that we have on other people in our community and, and how we can leave something to be helpful for others. And when I think of this third guideline, I still think of it as having a real ikigai impact. 

Because we're now looking at: I'm miserable, I'm sick, I'm having all of these things done to me and for me, and I'm being asked every day to do something for somebody else. And it's not, there's not a list out there of what you should be doing. 

You make up your own list, you get to decide, maybe you could write a thank you letter to your neighbour who's looking after your dog or your lawn, or maybe you could call someone, and who's also going through a bad time, and not talk about yourself, but ask about them. 

Because one of the things, when you have cancer, especially your caregiver, can be suffering from other things, but you've got cancer. And so they can't really mention what's going on for you.

Just like you didn't want to mention that you had cancer to your mother, it's perfectly understandable. But so one of the things that Dr. Itami would say is that: you do whatever you can do, if the only thing you can do this day is to actually make a cup of tea for someone you're living with, you do that, right?

Or if the only thing you can do is have a, like just a five minute conversation with somebody, that's fine. You don't have to do big things, they can be little. And there's many, just a thank you sometimes just a recognition of what it went through. 

I know that because of my spouse, who was my caregiver, and, you know, there were many things I could do and didn't always do. And I know that it makes a difference to be able to do that. 

Not only that, it gives you a modicum of control in your life, too. Because we're now at the mercy of all these tests, and all this receiving;  we're receiving help every single day, even if we don't notice it. 

And so to take an active role in doing something for others, we're executing some control over our own behaviour. And you know what, we feel better? Yeah, the science shows that, right? It's why volunteers do better, because when we help other people, it helps us.