It’s not just about you
If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
This Chinese proverb emphasizes the fact that we can only live a truly significant life if we live beyond ourselves. One of the most significant figures in Africa’s history – Nelson Mandela – exemplifies this accurately.
Mandela was a social rights activist, politician, and philanthropist who became South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999. Mandela’s political consciousness was awakened at age 16 when he took part in the traditional African circumcision ritual to mark his entrance into manhood. In the ceremony, the main speaker talked sadly about the fact that the young men were enslaved in their own country. “Because their land was controlled by white men, they would never have the power to govern themselves”, the chief said. This sparked something in young Nelson’s heart and fuelled his resolve to fight for the liberation of his people. It became his lifelong mission.
In his 20s, Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942 and directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. He did this for about 20 years. At the peak of his life, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for political offences. During his trial in 1963, Mandela said; “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He later spent 27 years in prison! But this didn’t dampen his resolve.
After his release on Sunday 11th February 1990, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize for his effort to dismantle the country’s apartheid system and on May 10th 1994, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected President. As president, instead of seeking revenge for the many years of suffering, Mandela pursued peace and sought to promote the unity of all South Africans till he left office 5 years later. For generations to come, Mandela will be a source of inspiration for civil rights activists worldwide.
The life of Nelson Mandela supports the opinion of other great thinkers who have said that happiness is found in helping others. Whatever you do in life, always remember that your legacy is defined by the impact you have on other people. Ultimately, living beyond yourself takes the focus off your personal interests and puts it on others – to make their lives better. Wondering what it takes to live beyond yourself? Here are 3 things to bear in mind.
- It Requires Selflessness
Living beyond yourself requires that you put the needs of others first. Nelson Mandela is celebrated all over the world today because of his decision to live selflessly. He was committed, loyal and passionate about liberating his fellow South Africans even at the cost of his life. To live beyond yourself, you will have to endure some inconveniences for the benefit of others.
- It Involves Investing in Others
Nelson Mandela once said; “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” I believe he is so right. Wherever you find yourself, whatever you do – whether you are a lawyer, teacher, scientist, student or entertainer – you must find ways to use resources at your disposal to improve the lives of others. That’s how you contribute your quota to make this world a much better place.
- It’s A Long-Term Commitment
Living for others is not a short walk in the park neither is it a one-off activity. It’s a long term commitment. Like every other significant achievement in life, you will have to make a decision to stay dedicated to the course regardless of the inconveniences. For Nelson Mandela, it took about two-thirds of his life but his sacrifice remains a reference point for many generations to come.
So, do you want to live a truly significant life? There you have it, my friend. You’ll find that life is much more meaningful if you always ask yourself the question: “How do my actions impact the lives of others?
Remember, You Have Only One Life to Live, MAKE IT COUNT!