Late Learned Lessons

I’m not a social worker. I went to school with the intention of becoming one and now I joke that I use my hard earned and overpriced degree on my friends.

I was neither the smartest nor the dumbest kid in my classes but there was one important social work lesson I never did master. To this day it is still my down fall: I want more for people than they want for themselves. I know that helping people reach their goals has a much better success rate than trying to push what you think they’re capable of on them but I can’t resist. I see someone’s potential and I so desperately want to help them reach it.

Ask my closest friends and they’ll all tell you this is something they love and hate about me in pretty much equal measure. I give good advice and I can scheme up a way to help them achieve just about anything they want and for that, they love me and my pushy ways. Other times they wish I’d stop pushing them and just tell them it’s ‘good enough’.

I have been purposing this year to be more encouraging. I still think my friends are going to change the world and somewhere behind them while they make their speeches or accept their awards you’ll see me smirking and giving a thumbs up but there’s also value in encouraging people in the things they’re already doing well.

One of the categories I’m most often approached for advice on is budgeting. I took a course a few years ago that changed my life and since then being financially responsible and getting ahead have been a priority. So my friends will frequently ask me to sit down and help them with their own budgets. Finally this year instead of telling them how I would manage their money I took the time to ask each one, ‘what’s important to you?’ And based on their answers I helped them map out a budget that would get them where they wanted to go.

See, my budget says a lot about me. I tithe, I save, and then I spend but when I mapped out my goals for my 20s, seeing the US and the world were high atop the priority list. So for me, having a travel budget was a must! But not everyone wants that. Some of my friends want to go to grad school, others want houses or fancy cars, or a whole slew of other things.

It occurred to me this week as I was having a check-in chat with a friend I’ve been helping with budgeting that all my advice/cheerleading/encouraging could stand to have more of this feel. I need to be asking people what they want and encouraging and helping (when possible) them get there.

Now, my disclaimer is that if I think someone’s doing the wrong thing or being straight up unwise – I’m always going to tell them. I’m never going to help someone dig themselves into a hole financially or in any other area of life. But I am trying, slowly and steadily, to learn to help others reach their goals and to stop wanting more for them then they want for themselves.

My time away this week reminded me of the importance of contentment in life and in not breeding discontentment in others. So I raise my mason jar of diet coke tonight in cheers to lessons learned a little late but learned nonetheless.

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