Are you in service or servitude?

By Peggie Arvidson

Are you in service or servitude?

In the land of hand analysis there is a particular set of fingerprints that translate to being in The School of Service.

There are four possible life schools here on Earth: Service, Love, Wisdom and Peace. Some people are double-majors but many have one school that they’ve come to master here.

What does that mean?

If you went to a college you were asked to declare a major. All the classes you took throughout your years in school were focused on that Major. When you took electives, you likely selected electives that would enhance your Major or at least could be interpreted through the lens of the Major. In other words, if you majored in accounting, you took a different English class than if you majored in Theater, right?

Each school (or life Major) has their own upside, what I call the “master” path and down side, which I call the “grasshopper” path. The good news is that once you’ve identified your life school, you have unparalleled awareness of when you’re on each path and have the option to course correct any time.

Going back to the school of Service, recognize that the highest and best version of being in this school means that you choose to serve with joy. The service you choose is less important than the consciousness with which you undertake the journey.

People in the school of Service are excellent “do-ers”. They tend to have their plates full of tasks that they shouldered, often at the behest of someone else. This could be taking on extra assignments at work to ease someone else’s workload, or it could be taking the “assignment” of making your adult, college-educated children a hot dinner every night at the expense of taking that art class you’ve been eyeing.

A common lament among the people in this school is “I wish I could, but I have to take care of something else first.”

This kind of statement is a tell-tale sign that the person is busily running along their grasshopper path, without a thought to other possibilities. They have come to define themselves so closely to what they do for other people that they hardly know who they’d be if they didn’t have to take care of everyone else.

When I suggest that they take an hour off from doing for others to sit back and figure out if they’re doing from a place of joy, they look at me like I have three heads.

Then the rationalizations begin. Take the mother with the able-bodied, college educated son who has moved back home while looking for a job – she insists that she has to make him dinner every night. When questioned further, she sheepishly admits that she’s never actually asked him if he expects her to make dinner, but she does like making sure he is getting a good, healthy meal.

Asked to define her self without discussion of what she does for her kids, she’s at a loss. This is where the good stuff begins. There is no innate problem with doing things for others; in fact, completely selfless acts of service can bring great joy. The challenge occurs when you define yourself solely by what you are doing for others, as though you do not exist unless you are doing for them. In the extreme this is an act of co-dependence.

Often clients come to me to regain a sense of self after a big life change – divorce, empty nest, retirement, or regrouping after a serious illness. When we begin our work together, I look at their fingerprints and use that information to create a personalized plan to clarity and healing.

If the client is in the school of Service, we being the journey of re-defining what it means to choose to serve with joy, rather than saying “yes” to requests out of obligation. The rewiring is rarely complicated but it’s far from easy. A lifetime habit of putting yourself last doesn’t change in a week!

I’m happy to report that over time, each client redefines service in a way that reflects her higher purpose on the planet.

Here’s how you can begin your journey from servitude to joyful service. The next time someone asks you to take on a task that’s not part of your “job description,” stop and breathe. Breathe in and out three times before responding. In the time that you’re breathing, ask yourself if you can say yes and perform the task with joy. If the answer is a resounding yes – go for it! If the answer is clearly no, but you feel obligated, take another breath and say, “no”. Remember NO is a complete sentence! If you feel uncomfortable saying “no” right away, ask for some time to think about it and then get back to them in the timeframe allotted to let them know you are unable to perform the task.

Don’t beat yourself up if this doesn’t come easily. Make a commitment to practice and see how you feel as you shift from servitude to service!

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