Ten years ago when I was applying to nursing school, I’m sure my family was confused about my motives to become a nurse: I didn’t like hospitals, shift work and being around sick people.
The primary reason I became a nurse was that I enjoyed learning about the health of the human mind and body, and I felt that the opportunities in nursing would be limitless. In other words, I didn’t become a nurse solely because I wanted to help people.
Let me explain…
Throughout my life I’ve always struggled with doing work, tasks and jobs that aren’t meaningful to me. And, that every single time I’ve prioritized someone else’s agenda at the expense of my own values, beliefs and well-being, I’ve ended up doing mediocre work and feeling miserable.
I believe it’s true that whenever anybody does work solely for the sake of others – our employers, bosses, clients, colleagues, or our selfish egos – we inadvertently offer services, make things and create solutions that aren’t all that helpful to the people we hope to serve.
Consider textbooks. If textbook authors actually wanted to help us learn and apply what we’re learning, I don’t think they would write impractical, hard-to-read, five-pound, 2000 page books. But – if textbook authors truly thought about the kind of books they needed as nursing students, or the kind of book they want or need to write, then we might start seeing work that’s helpful to us.
Best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert says she wrote her famous travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love to help her understand her journey in life. Even though it helped thousands of people around the world, her sole motivation wasn’t to change or help others. She wrote it for herself.
This blog might seem like a self-help guide to some of you, and if it is that’s amazing. However, my primary intention with blogging is that it helps me make sense of my experiences in nursing. I need to learn, write and create, and this outlet is a great way to feed my soul and keep me sane. Helping others is a side effect of this work.
There’s no need to be embarrassed or ashamed of the reasons you do your work if helping others isn’t your first priority. For the most part, your work should be enjoyable, healing, exhilarating or relaxing. These reasons are good enough.
If the thought of helping people doesn’t get you out of bed in the morning, that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. What should get you out of bed in the morning is your desire to do work that matters to you.
Do what makes you the best version of yourself, because that’s what the world needs.
If you do what you love, eventually it will become help.