I am a volunteer (at the moment this article was written), part of the European Voluntary Service (EVS). EVS is a huge thing, from the European Union, an Erasmus+ program bla bla. I am not going to advertise it, you can google it on your own. I am here to talk about my experience. What does volunteering mean?
It’s work, without the financial reward.
A volunteer has no financial reward for the work provided. But the job fits into all the other standards a normal job has. That is a fix working schedule, attributions and also worker’s rights. The purpose is not to exchange time for money, but to get some non material outcomes. That is (and should, as the purpose of such programs is) to help realize the volunteer of the role of work in a society. There are a lot of questions one must answer for himself, for finding a suitable field to work in.
I believe we all have some amazing abilities. We love some activities more than other. The ultimate goal of work is to find the closest mix which combines:
- all that which makes you great and
- can also serve the others (that is, if you want to be part of the society, and if the answer is ‘yes’, then is no way around this).
It sounds complicated, but it’s not. It’s that thing we all struggle to find. Some refer to as “the perfect job”.
Or think about it like this: doing something you like so much, that doesn’t feel like work.
People need incentives to get stuff done, this is the way we were raised and the way the system teached us. Having no financial reward implies finding another component which can act as a reward. For some it can be the good of others, but most of us are not so altruists.
Maybe the best reward is personal growth and gaining another perspective over society, people and life in general.
Becoming a better you does sound like a good deal, right? Well, it’s there to take it, and it’s free as long as we are willing to accept the deal.
Focus on the social part
Removing the financial aspect, we are left to focus on the true purpose of the activity delivered:
- Is it worth your time?
- Do you enjoy doing that?
- Does it feel like a burden or more like a reward?
It can be difficult to answer these questions or to even think of it like this. It all comes to this very valuable exchange: does it help someone else (aka ‘the society”) to spend my time like this? Exchanging time for improvement. If the answer is “Yes”, then what can I do to improve it? What kind of skills should I acquire to perform better? Then it goes into planning and time management.
Having no money to motivate us, this can only be motivated by true desire of improvement. Think about the hippy communities (because that is the best example of genuinely faith in a greater future). Their motivation is the vision of a safer and easy-to-get-along society and a smooth process to get there. No money involved.
Nowadays people don’t think about their time as the prime resource. Most people place time second, after money. The society lives in this mirage, where money is a resource and spending hours every day to get as much money as you can, is an admirable behavior.
In the end, the feeling you have inside will determine if you are happy or not. The people around will be the ones to create the environment and set the reality you live in. The human nature is mostly driven by emotions, a gamble of emotions and reactions, which is mostly impossible to predict. The emotional part has nothing to do with the boring part of society, which is made by rules meant to stop you from thinking too much.
But there is one great part of this story (although most of the times we realize it a little late): We have the right to chose our reality, where to live, the people around us, our work and how to spend our time. That is a great news. Too bad most people are blind to see it.
Volunteering gets really personal and individualistic. Because a volunteer is doing something for others from the pure joy of contributing to the well being of the society.
It gets down to personal contribution and how this can also improve individual abilities as an alternative outcome. Hard stuff, most people I know are too lazy to carry on with this long and complicated process and prefer to let others dictate the rules.
I find volunteering a powerful tool, which can be use to discover.
On the first glance, it’s the surroundings, which are to be discovered. Sometime is the same place, but a different perspective over it, which is meant to be discovered. Sometimes is a complete different environment and social rules. The more far away that place is from home, the bigger and more obvious the discoveries are. Observe, react, learn.
It’s a good opportunity to place yourself in new situations. To observe own reactions and thoughts.
This is what will give more insight upon oneself, more than any theoretical study or psychology test. Learning to perceive these reactions as skills, qualities or flaws can require some study, but either way it is an improvement and personal growth.
I believe it is more important to know as much as possible about oneself, and use the knowledge in a constructive way. Knowing what works best, how to learn faster, what motivates you to learn, how to stay focused and what keeps you motivated. There is no strict list of ingredients for this, and it’s a different recipe for everyone. That is your best method to learn?
I recommend to take the time and find it out, to not waste your time later.
It’s new and exciting…
It’s something new, and that make people curious and engaged. Try to keep that feeling as much as possible and it will lead to new discoveries: about the world and about yourself.
Discovering is a process which starts the moment we are born and will stop the moment we stop breathing.