The Power of Compassion for Overcoming Obstacles in Life

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
(Dalai Lama)

Happy Living has trademarked the phrase Inspiration Into Action, so I keep tabs on when, where, and how this phrase shows up online. A few months ago, I received this Google Alert:

“While he was still in prison, Leaf turned that inspiration into action, by helping other inmates who didn’t know how to read, learn to read.”

Intrigued, I watched the linked video of Ryan Leaf and Ellen DeGeneres on the Ellen Show. Inspired by his story, I reached out to Ryan through Twitter. That’s how I first came into contact with the team at Transcend Recovery and learned about the good works they do: helping men and women navigate their unique addiction or mental health recovery journey towards long-lasting health and wellness.

For today’s guest post, I asked the folks at Transcend Recovery to share the power of compassion in overcoming the obstacles life throws at all of us.

Ever heard the phrase “help me, help you”? It’s not just a great line in the movie Jerry Maguire; for an addicted or mentally ill person, finally allowing themselves to receive this supportive energy from someone who truly longs to help them can be the catalyst that changes everything.

There are so many times in life when we’re facing a problem, an obstacle, or an impossible task, and more than once, I’m sure we’ve all thought of giving up. That’s just when we could use a friend saying, “Help me, help you.”

When we’re ready to surrender. When putting an end to the stress is all that we really want. When our lives are so full of obstacles that we can’t see a way forward…help and compassion from others can be the lifeline we need most.

You can plan, scheme, and map the path to your every goal, but even the best trailblazers will tell you that success in large part depends on your ability to roll with the punches, and they’ll confirm that even the best planners sometimes get derailed. When that happens, we often need support getting back on track.

While there are tons of tips, solutions, guides, and words of wisdom out there to aid us in overcoming life’s obstacles, the most important ingredient to the recipe of adaptation is the giving and receiving of compassion, and that only comes directly from another human being.

What is Compassion?

Compassion is a matter of both psychology and social sensibility[1]…it’s the ability to truly feel for others. That’s about as simple as an explanation can get.  In other words, to be compassionate–to feel compassion for another human being–you must be able to both relate to their experience and to emphasize with their personal perspective on their own unique situation. Compassion is about experiencing life through the lens of someone else’s experience…letting go of all your own baggage in the interest of understanding what they are moving through and how to best help them through it.

It’s in Us

It’s our nature to be compassionate. Compassion is part of who we are as human beings. Part of how we’re built. We need compassion to thrive. It not only brings us together, but often defines us, too. While we may start wars and mark centuries of history with the blood of others, we also rebuild. We show our best nature through solidarity. We’re at our best when we’re engaged in diplomacy to further the interests of humanity.

It’s compassion that gives us hope for global peace and prosperity.

In our personal relationships, compassion is something we can offer to help each other every single day. And it feels good! When we give, when we do something for others – from cooking dinner for the family to buying a meal for a hungry stranger – we feel better. What’s more, it’s a positive cycle. Feeling better increases our capacity to receive compassion (help me) and also increases our desire to help others (help you!).

We are at our best, both individually and collectively (as families, communities, and nations), when we look out for one another and ask each other what we can do to help.

Changing our perspective of life from “what should we do for ourselves” to “what can we do for others” can improve the health and wellbeing of the world, one person at a time.

Living Compassion

So, how do we live from a place of compassion?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the first step is asking for help when we need it. We’re not meant to deal with our problems entirely by ourselves. In fact, many of our deepest personal issues and challenges cannot be overcome all on our own. Human beings are tribal beings, and we have a need to connect with and open up to others. The most powerful way to do this is by asking for help when we need it.

In addition to receiving support, we also need to actively support others through the challenges they face. It’s through this process, of giving and receiving support, that we grow, facilitate growth in others and together, and become better people. All of us.

In fact, Matt believes that Tom Cruise line represents the big why: why we’re here[2]. He says, “We are here to become all we are capable of becoming with the gifts we are given, so that we are able to give to others, lift them, and help them become all they are capable of becoming with the gifts they are given.”

Help me, help you.

Living Compassion is easy. You don’t need to empty your savings into charity or hug every stranger you meet to be more compassionate. All you need to do is live by the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It’s natural. It’s easy. It feels good. And, it’s the compassionate thing to do.

[1] What Is Compassion and How Can It Improve My Life?

[2] My Philosophy on Why We’re Here

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