Serving Instead of Deserving


I’m reblogging this article by Daniel Wong on Yahoo Singapore because it is oh so true:

It seems like many Singaporeans feel like they’re being shortchanged.

Every day, I hear complaints about ministers being paid too much, the unreliability of the public transportation system and the high cost of living.

It’s not that I don’t think there’s any place for constructive criticism. After all, I frequently write about education reform in Singapore and about how the education system needs to be revamped.

But if all we do is complain, we’ll start an endless (and probably fruitless) debate about whether we’re getting our money’s worth for those tax dollars we pay the government.

‘Am I getting what I deserve?’

This question is constantly on our minds.

  • I paid $X to stay in this hotel. Am I getting the service I deserve?
  • I pay $X a month for this mobile phone subscription. Am I getting the coverage I deserve?
  • I paid $X for this plate of chicken rice. Did I get the amount of chicken I deserve?
  • I paid $X to watch this movie. Am I getting the entertainment I deserve?
  • I pay $X in taxes every year. Am I getting the benefits I deserve?

It’s only natural to have certain expectations when you’ve paid for something.

I, for one, have plenty of expectations when I hand over my hard-earned money to someone in exchange for a product or service.

But if we’re preoccupied with getting what we “deserve”, we’re sure to become unhappy. More than that, we’ll begin to have an entitlement mindset.

Our rights vs. our responsibilities

People who have an entitlement mindset believe that someone owes them a comfortable living, whether it’s their parents, employer, the government, or the world in general.

But the fact of the matter is that no one owes us a comfortable living. If we want anything in life, we’ll need to put in plenty of work. Hard, tiring, unpleasant work.

Instead of focusing on our rights, let’s turn our attention toward our responsibilities.

This shift in attitude forces us to ask a different question: Are others getting what they deserve from me?

What others deserve from us

This applies in every area of our lives:

  • Is my family getting what they deserve from me?
  • Is my community getting what it deserves from me?
  • Is my employer getting what he or she deserves from me?
  • Is my country getting what it deserves from me?
  • Is the world getting what it deserves from me?

Depending on the situation and our frame of mind, we all have two selves: Our (A) diligent, kind, generous, courageous, compassionate self, and our (B) lazy, rude, miserly, spineless, mean self.

Others deserve our Version A self.

Of course, it isn’t always easy to have our Version A self on display, especially if we’re jostling for space on a crowded MRT train, fighting to get a promotion, or struggling to pay off our home mortgage.

But, at some level, we know that Version A behaviour is the key to leading a meaningful and significant life.

So how do we start turning that behaviour into a habit?

Serving instead of ‘deserving’

The answer lies in changing the question we ask ourselves from “What do I deserve?” to “How can I serve?”

As a married man, I know that every time I concentrate on what I deserve—or think I deserve—in marriage, I start counting whether or not I do the dishes more often than my wife, check the letter box more often than my wife, or make other kinds of sacrifices more often than my wife.

I’m not a marriage expert, but I know this calculative approach won’t result in a strong marriage in the long term.

It’s human nature to never want to get the short end of the stick. Ideally, a marriage should be a 50-50 partnership. But I’ve noticed that, even in healthy marriages, both parties will feel like they’re giving 60 per cent and only receiving 40 per cent.

It isn’t realistic for anyone to expect marriage to feel like a 50-50 partnership all the time.

Having a service mindset in marriage

Based on my personal experience thus far, the approach that does work in marriage is to have a service mindset.

Whenever I ask myself “How can I serve my wife better?” I get her a drink, peel prawns for her, and take out the trash—all without complaining or thinking any negative thoughts.

Having a service mindset makes it a joy to honour and love her. It’ll be a fun and exciting challenge to keep this up for the rest of my life!

Service as a way of life

The service mindset applies to marriage, and I’m convinced that it applies in every other arena too.

If you embrace the service mindset, you won’t ask if the task you’ve been assigned falls within your job scope; you’ll ask if it will help your team if you complete the task well.

You won’t worry so much about whether your efforts are appreciated; you’ll worry about whether you’re adding value to your customers.

You won’t continually obsess over whether you’re being treated fairly; you’ll obsess over building a better family, a better business, a better career, a better society, a better world, a better you—for the benefit of others.

In closing…

The service mindset doesn’t always pay off in monetary terms (although it often does, based on my observations), but it always pays off in terms of how meaningful and significant our lives turn out to be.

I won’t deny that money is important. Nevertheless, it’s our character and values that define us. Those are the things that are of lasting worth.

It’s tempting to habitually wonder if we’re getting what we deserve, if we’re being shortchanged by our family, friends, employer, government or country.

But when we focus on serving instead of “deserving”, we’ll begin to build a beautiful life and a beautiful world.

It won’t be easy—when has building anything worthwhile ever come easy?—but together, I know we can do it.

Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of “The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success”. He offers programmes to help students become both happy and successful and to help parents to connect more effectively with their children. He writes regularly at