The Role of Self in Service: Journaling to Discover Your Unique Contribution by Elizabeth Bishop

Redefining Service

You might say that we are all here with the ultimate purpose of serving each other. We are interconnected beings navigating the challenges and triumphs that make up our experience here on earth. The more we unite and support each other, the healthier we all become.

But service is not simply an act; it is also an energetic state.

Instead of focusing solely on what we can do for someone else, it is important that we consider how we show up in our relationships with each other. From the most intimate and personal, to our professional alliances, and even the brief moments of connection we experience with a stranger on the street, it is our open-hearted presence that often makes the biggest difference in any interaction.

Self-Awareness and Self-Connection

Knowing who you are is vitally important if your goal is to make a difference in the world. It doesn’t matter if your aspirations include the end of all human suffering or if you are simply interested in bringing your best self to the relationships with your loved ones, who you are has everything to do with what you do and how you serve.

Modern times require us to deepen our experience of self-awareness by shifting into self-connection. While self-awareness is quite intellectual in nature, self-connection draws on all aspects of the human experience. It is the difference between thinking and doing and shifting into feeling and being. Self-awareness often happens outside of the current moment, while self-connection is about presence in the here and now. Enhanced presence within your being and experience is essential for your overall wellness. And in terms of service, your capacity for presence deepens your ability to connect with others.

Journaling is an excellent tool for exploring the motivations behind the desire to serve. Writing gives access to your deeper subconscious drives and this is gold when it comes to examining the role of service in your life.

Free flow writing offers the opportunity to meander through the energetic state of service. You can also direct your writing through a structured approach. I like to use what I call Powerful Guiding Questions to shape my writing expeditions.

Powerful Guiding Questions

Not all questions are created equal. You can ask a dead-end question or an expansive one. A question can keep you mired in the limitations or blow the lid off what is possible. It’s all about how you craft it.

Powerful Guiding Questions get you moving in the direction of what you wish to experience or create. These questions focus on desired outcomes as opposed to fearful projections.

Begin questions with words like “how” and “what.” They are more powerful and keep the focus on moving forward. “Why” and “when” questions are not focused in the present and often have us trying to change something that has already occurred or is outside of our control.

Keep questions focused on personal learning and growth. We are meant to uncover our own answers. It is not our responsibility to have the answers for other people. We might have suggestions or ideas we can offer; however, what is right for us may not work for another. This might challenge your inner Service Provider if you see yourself as an advice-giver. It’s an opportunity to shift into the role of guidance. Become an expert when it comes to exploring your own personal guidance system and you will be a valuable guide for those who are seeking their own answers.

Here are some Powerful Guiding Questions to incorporate in your next journaling session:

How do you define service?
What values guide your interpretation of service?
If service is an energetic state, how does it feel?

These broad questions can be powerful in bringing clarity to your overall sense of purpose and are a good way to check-in from time to time with regard to your current experience of Service.

You can also get very specific with your Powerful Guiding Questions. Create prompts that allow you to get to the heart of the matter in very specific situations. Try these out the next time you are challenged in any interaction:

What is this conflict trying to teach me?
Of all the values I hold, which one is aching for expression in my actions right now?
How can I hold space for resolution? What does resolution feel like?

You get the idea. Simply asking questions gets our brains working toward answers and solutions. When we take to the page with the responses that arise, we begin the process of finding clarity and moving into a state of committed integrity. This is where your heart, mind, spirit and action unite to take the next step from an authentic space.

This is real, heartfelt presence that enlivens you and is felt by others.

What’s holding you back?

Journaling opened a door for my discovery of the limiting beliefs and worn-out value systems that hindered my ability to serve in ways that felt healthy for me. As a young service provider, I had a very strong sense of false responsibility that had me overextending myself and interfering ~ unknowingly ~ with other’s expression of personal power. Through the journaling process, I came to understand the fears that were lying beneath the surface every time I found myself thinking that I knew what was best for another human being.

Writing helps to illuminate the subconscious commentary that so greatly influences our actions and fuels our motivations. When the words flow out the end of your pen, you come face to face with misaligned ideas that get in the way of true service in the world.

Examine your biases and personal judgments through journaling to set the stage for shifting belief systems and old perspectives that no longer apply in your life. Illuminate those attitudes and notions that you have picked up from other well-meaning people in your life. Use your journal to dismantle these mental constructs and then to build new and more affirming viewpoints.

Releasing Sacrifice and Enhancing Self-Love

The notion that service requires sacrifice is a myth. We are taught to ignore our personal desires and needs in favor of what others require of us ~ or what we think they require of us. This is an instant recipe for martyrdom leaving us feeling unappreciated, angry, and finally guilty. Those who wish to serve are conditioned to be more comfortable giving than receiving. But the truth is that to be of service requires us to become vessels through which the spiritual qualities of love, compassion, empathy, respect, and kindness ~ all characteristics of service ~ can flow to us and through us.

Return to the page again and again as a place to lay bare your soul and move more deeply into your personal expression of service in the world.


Guest Author Bio:  

Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of the Conscious Service Approach designed to support those called to serve to reconnect with and fulfill their desire to make a difference in the world. For more information about the Conscious Service Approach, programs and services, please visit