“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I stumbled upon this concept by accident.
When I was younger, it was about the resume. When I grew older, it was about setting an example for my kids. But when I really learned this idea, really integrated it into my being, it was from watching my oldest son who struggled with the depressive side of bipolar disorder during high school.
I watched him volunteer at a suicide hotline even though he could barely drag himself out of bed. I watched him coach kids at the local Y, kids that said he was the best coach they’d ever had. He found a purpose for living in those young smiles. Later in college, I watched him write grants to send high-risk teens at the drop-in center to a camp because that was their dream. Not only did he win those grants, he trained all the counselors and put on a camp for these otherwise neglected kids, many of whom lived on the streets. That was when he was only 21.
His amazing sense of helping others taught me just how real Emerson’s quote is. This service side literally helped him move into recovery. And it carries over in all areas, including weight loss.
“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.” —Zig Ziglar
After I let go of my 85 pounds, I didn’t have a preconceived idea that I would go on to help others do this. That hadn’t crossed my mind. But when people started asking, and I remembered the example I had seen in my son, I knew that was something I wanted to do. When I started working on my current WIP, Bigger Than Me: When Physical Transformation Becomes a Metaphysical Makeover, I interviewed over 20 people who had lost over 100 pounds and they told me the same thing I had discovered. The more they served other people, the more successful they were in keeping their weight off. When people lose weight, it’s usually self-focused.
At the maintenance stage, when it becomes other-focused, and you have set up a system where you are connected with others, there seems to be a check-and-balance system that helps keep the weight off. Perhaps this explains why on the program I coach, Take Shape for Life, 90% of coaches keep their weight off vs. only 15% of the general population. That’s a good secret to know, right?
It follows, then, that whatever you are trying to reinforce in your life, whether it’s your healthy weight or your health in general–or your soccer skills, find someone else you can help and mentor them. In this way, everybody wins.