Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Going The Extra Mile

At the end of August each year, I always get a burst of energy from the success of Operation: Back Pack.  I honestly cannot name any one specific thing that is more gratifying to me than helping kids in need and I would struggle to name anything more inspiring to me than the fact that we have been able to build our school supply program to its current level almost entirely through our patient base; so many of you travel far and wide from different communities yet still find it within your hearts to help children in the Kernersville community.

My personality is such that I tend to do a lot reflecting and, via my studies of self since opening the Triad Upper Cervical Clinic seven years ago, I have determined that at no point at any given time during the year am I happier than right around Labor Day.  Some of that credit should go to the start of college football season, as my wife would readily point out :-) , but a lot of the credit goes to the back pack drive.

Napoleon Hill, vaunted author on personal success, would call my post-Operation: Back Pack surge of enthusiasm the result of “going the extra mile,” a basic principle stating that, whenever you volunteer your energy, money, or time to helping others, it improves your life too.  Hill provides an excellent example of this principle in action in his book, The 17 Principles of Personal Achievement; a young salesman working at a Philadelphia department store in the early 20th century waited on a woman drenched from head to toe who told him she merely wanted to escape the pouring rain and, instead of ignore her (she had no intention of buying anything), he brought her a chair to sit in until she was ready to leave.  It turned out that the woman was the mother of Andrew Carnegie; soon after, the young salesman became a high ranking executive in the department store.

Hill, himself, when tasked by Carnegie with compiling the common traits of the world’s most successful people, was not actually paid for his work, but he had so much passion for the project and such a strong desire to help people help themselves that, despite having a family to support, he poured everything that he had into it.  He went the extra mile and it afforded him rewards later (and often); and he was much happier in the long run.

Psychological studies have verified the extra mile-happiness relationship, suggesting that the people most likely to describe themselves as content in their lives volunteer in some form several hours per month.  By volunteering, they also increase their overall sense of purpose and have a higher view of their self-worth, especially when entering phases of their lives less defined by parenting and/or their careers.  The effect of going the extra mile is not just a psycho-social phenomenon either, but is also a harbinger for the release of hormones that offer physiologic boosts.  Doing good deeds, like giving someone a hug, just makes you and other people feel better.

As happiness is a reflection of a positive mental attitude, harkening back to attitude/constructive stress management skills being one of the five basic tenets of healthy living, helping others therefore also improves your health.  People who go out of their way to help others manage stress better and, consequently, have lesser tendencies for depression, heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain.  One particular study suggested a statistically-significant 40% decrease in heart-related health problems as a result of volunteering for 200 hours or more per year.

Going the extra mile does your body good.  It also inspires others to follow your lead.  They say that “you are who you hang out with,” so if you surround yourself with people who enjoy giving back to their communities than you will, in turn, be more likely to do the same and then your friends and your kids (who tend to perform better in school and develop better self-images when they volunteer) will gravitate toward altruistic acts as well.  

Hill is prone to stating in his works that if you are having some sort of problem, one of the best ways to solve it is to help someone else solve their problem.  Most self-improvement authors and documentaries tend to point toward the Law of Attraction, which has been heavily featured in many of my own newsletters over the years.  Another Law to be familiar with that closely follows the ideology of Attraction (what you think about, you bring about) is Compensation.  The Law of Compensation states simply that you get what you give.  So, just as you would, in for example being judgmental about other people and their intentions, be more likely to act like a magnet for people who would in turn be judgmental of you (the Law of Attraction in action), you would also, in for example by consistently going the extra mile for your co-workers, community, family, or friends be more likely to find them in turn go the extra mile for you (the effect of the Law of Compensation).

Each day, when we pay attention, we are provided opportunities to help others.  I encourage you to look for them and to remember that the old saying that “you reap what you sow” can have a powerfully positive impact on your life and your health.  I thank you for being you and I encourage all of us to collectively strive to inspire each other to be even better.

Sources: Napoleon Hill (various works); National Institutes of Health

Thinking good things for as always,

Dr. Chad

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