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Do What Makes You Happy By Giving Back

I've seen combat as a member of the Air Force. My husband has also seen combat. And now I'm studying to become a therapist, psychologist or other cognitive-based practitioner. Doing this is what will make me happiest -- and, therefore, will become a virtuous act.

It’s my way of giving back.

Throughout my undergraduate studies, I was drawn into the theories of ancient philosophers. Their interpretations of the people and cultures around them are still relevant today. But one philosopher in particular resonated with me on the topic of giving to others: Aristotle.  

Aristotle’s views worked toward understanding the highest good. He believed that all people desire happiness to achieve what he called the "supreme good.” Happiness, he wrote, is measured by the virtue of the acts we do every day.

I consciously choose to give back to others to not only experience true happiness, but in the hope that it carries on a behavioral trait to my two daughters. The single most powerful resource I have for changing the world into a more uplifting and promising place is to make positive choices in how I raise them, to place them under the umbrella of virtue and compassion, and then hope my influence is enough. 

After six years of service to the Air Force (including a year of deployment), I left the military and pursued a degree in social psychology. I wanted to work as a social worker aiding military families. No one should be alone in their military life experiences, I believe. I've seen hundreds of people suffer from the effects of this life. 

I have to help military families. The excuse that stress and hardship are "part of the package" has made our community believe that seeking help is a sign of weakness. It dilutes the underlying benefits of resilience, and we fail to see how destructive the stress can be on our ability to remain resilient. 

Giving back unearths happiness in you and those subjected to that virtue. It’s checking on deployed spouses and their families, asking about their day, consoling them during times of adversity without expecting a favor in return.

The willingness to give and to pass that spirit onto others is the key to our happiness. That giving can become contagious, too -- as we give, others are inspired to pass it on through kindness and compassion. 

The way I want to give back is formal and specific, but it doesn't have to be that way for everyone. Extend greetings to strangers, send care packages to service members, perform random acts of kindness or simply say "thank you." We can design a community of people who build each other up by creating a more resilient and positive population.

So how should you give? Give in a way that is defined by you. Give as Aristotle suggested -- by doing whatever makes you happy. 

Thalia M. Doty, a 2016 Corvias Foundation educational grant recipient, served in the Air Force for six years where she met her husband Tech Sgt. Steven R. Doty. After separating from the military she attended Park University and received a B.S. in Social Psychology. Thalia and Steven have two beautiful girls, Paizley and Everly. Paizley is one and a half years old and Everly is three months old. Aside from working on her master’s degree at Park University, Thalia enjoys spending time with her family and exploring all the outdoor activities her Alaska home has to offer.

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