Find the Sweet Spot:  Serving Others and Oneself to Achieve Balance

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

In my 2014 post about Adam Grant’s “Give and Take,” I pointed out that the best networkers are those who are generous with their time, information and resources.  They care not about what’s in it for them.  Networking is about developing long-term, meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships.  They know, in the end, the rewards they will reap will far surpass whatever they have given.  It’s good for them.  It’s good for those around them.

The next year, I wrote a piece, “Be Your Truest Self,” in which I offer a Venn-diagram-based illustration to show the place where home, work, and community come together to allow us to behave our most authentically wherever we are.

With those concepts as the backdrop, imagine my delight when they were brought together by my friend and kindred spirit, Adam Haigler, who beautifully describes the intersection of what’s good for me and what’s good for others as the “Sweet Spot.”

As Adam reminds us, we are each concerned with living a meaningful and impactful life.  Like most humans, at various points in our lives, we will be faced with the question of “what path to take?”  With so many options strewn out before us, choosing a path is enough to elicit anxiety in even the most stoic among us!  We hear the wisdom of our sages urging us to serve others, rebuke material gain, and make an impact.  Meanwhile, our current dominant culture often endorses opulence, 70-hour workweeks, and worldly power as the right path.  These seemingly conflicting messages can sometimes paralyze us in our search for purpose and make determining the “right” path quite daunting.

In his work as an educator, Adam endorses “The Middle Way” that keeps us from sliding too far toward either end of the spectrum.  He uses the word “good” to describe activities and philosophies that yield fulfillment, joy, justice, health, and vitality.  You may find that over time, things that feel undoubtedly “good” to you are those that promote these values in the wider community, like eating sustainably farmed food, exercising, spending time in nature, and cultivating mindfulness.  Identifying those things that are truly good for you and for others will take ample experience and reflection, but it is integral to the process of choosing a life path.

In his model, sliding too far to the “Good For Me” side of things can lead to a life of self-absorption and greed.  On the flip side, sliding too far to the “Good For Others” side can result in a lack of self-care and eventual burnout. When we find the activities and interests that rest in the “Sweet Spot” intersection and focus our energy on those pursuits, the world tends to conspire on our behalf to reveal open doors we never noticed before. 

Why might this be?  According to Adam, humans are inspired by those leaders who have devoted their lives to an altruistic pursuit, but still take the time to cultivate health and happiness in their own lives (like Adam Grant’s “Givers”) – tending responsibly to their internal flame so they don’t burn out.  These on-lookers can become collaborators by offering their help along the way when you are in need.  Living a life in service of others and that honors your own needs is a tricky endeavor, but it is certainly possible and is the most direct path towards a sustainably positive, balanced lifestyle. 

Ready to discover your own Sweet Spot?  Take a moment to draw your own version of the diagram.  What interests and options fit on one side or the other, and which ones fall in the “Sweet Spot?” Often, it takes a leap of faith and a good deal of effort to re-orient our lives towards the Sweet Spot, but this effort is well worth the pay off.

With appreciation to Adam for his wisdom and insight…  Happy Networking!

Adam Haigler is an educator dedicated to transforming education and empowering students. From his early experiences teaching in Costa Rica to co-founding innovative programs, Adam’s commitment to innovative education is unwavering. With accolades as a teacher and author, he leverages his experience as the Co-Founder and COO of Open Way Learning, a non-profit committed to fostering equitable and learner-centered school cultures. @adamhaigler

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