3 Life Lessons I Learned From Volunteering

How helping others can lead to personal growth and new perspectives

I read recently that the whole self-improvement topic is selfish because you focus on yourself. I’m not 100% agreeing because for me it’s about becoming the best version of myself for my future kids and family.

The goal or the intention behind self-improvement makes the difference.

I’ve learned that being selfless and helping people helps me grow more than reading a book. It’s active work and you practice in real life.

Deciding to volunteer was the best thing I ever did. Around 4,5 years ago, I started volunteering at my student organization. We are organizing paid internships abroad for technical students.

I’m committing a lot of time to this organization for cultural exchange and for meeting people from different countries. It changed my view of the world and my life.

Here are 3 lessons I learned from volunteering:

Everyone is different

Many people live in their own little worlds. People with different opinions are not allowed to enter. They work and meet with the same like-minded people every day.

That’s one problem of social media: the platforms show posts and stories based on your interests (what you liked or shared). So you will always see the same things: stories you like.

But the world isn’t your bubble. In there, you will never hear new perspectives, alternative stories, or new experiences. It can be disastrous if you don’t break out of it. Your perspective is affected by the things you hear and see every day in this bubble.

If you meet poor people with a poor money mindset every day, you will also have that mindset. You don’t even recognize it and the possibility of changing.

You know the saying: you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

Those 5 people are your bubble of comfort. You share the same interests, mindset, and views of the world.

Volunteering will get you out of your comfort zone and your usual environment:

  • You meet new people
  • You hear and see new perspectives
  • You experience new situations
  • You help others
  • You will change

Meeting new people from other countries changed my narrow view of the world. In my childhood, all I saw from the world was based on movies and TV series, usually made in the US.

I changed my perspective and my complete view of the world when I met my friends from Mexico and Shanghai. Reality is different from what’s on the news and in films.

My whole world changed again when I met people from Iran and Jordan. We all have the same problems of finding our way in life. But their path to success and a good life is harder.

Go out of your comfort zone

Volunteering is not just about meeting new people but also doing something completely different from what you are used to.

You will work in a team with the same goal of helping. You are doing tasks you’ve never done before and you have to learn some new things.

Going out of your comfort zone can be a challenge at the beginning. I know that but trust me: it’s worth it!

I’m doing presentations and I’m the head of meetings weekly, and I hated presentations in school. I was really nervous, and shaking and I didn’t like getting looked at.

I had to leave my comfort zone and now I’m used to giving presentations, meetings, or workshops. It’s one experience I had to do to become successful in life.

Improving yourself by helping others

Self-improvement is not about being selfish and working on yourself to become successful. That’s not how you get there.

It’s about growth, focusing on the present, challenges, and new experiences.

By helping others, you will improve yourself. The experiences and tasks will challenge you, and you will learn a lot about yourself.

The best thing I figured: you can try out something and you can fail without consequences. You are volunteering and you cannot get fired. You can push yourself, take on big tasks and grow with their highs and lows.

You will work with different kinds of people and it will improve your social skills:

  • how to talk with people
  • how to act around disabled or elderly people
  • how to network and small talk
  • how to work in a team

From my experience

I volunteer in an international organization and this gave me the opportunity to meet and talk with a lot of people from around the whole world.

It helps me reflect on my own values and circumstances.

Friends from Iran grew up in a suppressed environment. For their success they had to leave their families, move far away to a new culture and learn a new language.

Additionally to those experiences, I grew a lot from the challenges I faced.

I’m an introvert and it takes me a while to become comfortable around others. I couldn’t even imagine the things I already achieve because of volunteering:

  • Presenting without being nervous
  • Talking with strangers and networking
  • Giving workshops
  • Organizing big events with a team of 60 helpers
  • Having difficult meetings with the competition
  • Calling companies to do sales

Push and challenge yourself by volunteering! You will learn and experience so much.

Get out of your bubble and comfort zone and experience this beautiful world!

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(c) Karina Ahrer

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