Is it wrong to make a living helping people?
A friend of mine and I were talking about doing healing work. She said:
"It's not right to benefit from other people's suffering, is it?"
As someone who has made it his business to support people who support, heal and transform others, this made me pause. Is there something fundamentally wrong with helping others for money?
Make sure you're actually helping
The first thing to do is to make sure you're genuinely helping people. Some services which claim to help are really building dependence instead. Think about why you want to work with the people you do. Get as clear as you can on what benefit they experience. Work out how your service fits into their journey.
You can do this by talking to people. Asking for feedback can be hard, but it's the only way to know what works and what doesn't. We all make assumptions about other people's worldview based on our own. The only way to overcome that is by asking and listening.
Make it sustainable
You want to be able to help others as much as possible. That's why you chose to work healing and developing others. That desire can be so strong, though, that you forget to look after yourself. The problem is that by giving all the time without meeting your own needs, you reduce your ability to help others.
Instead, create a sustainable loop between helping others and getting the support you need. This support is both emotional and material. You can't truly be there for others if you're suffering yourself. You can't truly be there for others if you're worried about paying the bills.
It's in your clients interests that your needs are met. That way, they can always know that you'll be around when then need them. They'll also know that you'll have all of your energy to devote to them whilst you do it, without having your own distracting worries.
Help as much as possible
If we have a desire to help, it makes sense to help as much as possible for a given amount of effort. We have limited resources. Time, money, energy. Using those resources as efficiently as possible means we can contribute the most. That means being really clear on who we help and how we help them.
The business world is all about efficiency. Often this efficiency is used to drive profits. When used this way, efficiency can be a huge cause of suffering. However, the problem is not efficiency, but the ends to which is it put.
By creating an efficient, effective helping practice, you can have a greater impact. You can help more people heal, grow, and be all they can be. The more efficiently you do that, the more you can help. You can borrow techniques from the business world to do that.
Rethink your approach to "business"
Looking at large corporations it can be hard to imagine business ever being a force for good. However, lots of people are building businesses motivated by the desire to change things for the better. These social enterprises are often profit-making, but use their success as a way of helping people more effectively. Their primary purpose isn't to enrich shareholders. It's to help.
By getting clear on who you're helping and how you're helping them, and then doing so in the most effective way possible, you're doing good. By making sure your needs are met too, you can create a positive feedback loop. Your clients needs are aligned with yours, and everyone benefits.
It's never right to benefit by causing people to suffer. However, creating a system which reduces the suffering which already exists in the world is one of the most positive things anyone can do. Thinking of your practice as a business is a great way to do that.
I'm helping people like you build their personal development practice into sustainable, effective businesses. I am offering two workshops one in Brighton and one online in June on building your business with empathy. I also run the People Developing People community, a space where you can get the support you need to grow your personal development practice.