Volunteering: How It Changed My Life!


Believe it or not, volunteer work changed my life. The first time I volunteered I was 11 years old! Yes that young. In fact I’m glad my school (ISC) had something called Student Life Organization (SLO) which engages students in their school life to run this student led organization that acts something like a Student Affairs in a typical school.

Starting at that young age helped me overcome some personal weak points, from shyness to knowing how to interact and deal with people and responsibilities. Yet the seed it planted in me…didn’t stop there, it grew multiple folds to flourish in my university life and beyond.

From the first year of university, I just had that drive to give back to community, to serve, to grow, to meet people and so I ended up joining student societies and clubs at my university (AUB) as well as cofounding an NGO called Aie Serve among my involvement with many others that I am still involved in till this day whether as founder or Board Member or Advisor or simply as a member.

So here are some of the things I believe volunteer work gave me:

  • Opened my mind to new ways of thinking about life.
  • Gave me a purpose beyond my own self and my day to day life.
  • Got me to meet the most inspiring people I would have never dreamed of knowing.
  • Made me more friends that I could have possibly done in 50 years.
  • Gave me life changing experiences and challenges that made me mature way faster than many of my colleagues and friends that were not involved in volunteer work.
  • Made me feel proud about the achievements I was able to accomplish with the teams I worked with to make Lebanon a better place to live in. From improving the life of underserved children to giving back to nature through tree planting and beach cleanups to mentoring youth to training and sharing knowledge with aspiring young leaders to many many maaany more.
  • Gave me opportunities to learn how to manage projects, lead teams, do strategic planning, explore my training skills, brainstorm for ideas that will make the world a better place…just to mention a few.
  • Lead me to having a career in consultancy and training that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t do all the volunteer work I did, simply because a typical university life and a 8-5 job wouldn’t have given me half as much opportunities to learn, grow and meet new people.

So my recommendation to you, no matter how old you are or what your social/economic/academic/marital status is, if you’re not engaged in some volunteer work already, then get to it! You can never do too much volunteer work, the more the merrier, and trust me it just gets better with time, just make sure you join the organizations or causes that you feel passionate about or at least interested in, the rest will follow!

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HARD Goals Vs SMART Goals

We’ll I’ve been hearing/reading about SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals for ever now. Inspite of the fact that they keep on drilling them in our minds and making sure we’re all abiding by those 5 words to draw our plans, projects and visions…I still don’t really feel completely convinced.

When talking about what I want to achieve, when talking about what I’m planning to work on in my organizations..I don’t think I always have “SMART” goals in mind…infact rarely do I start with those “SMART” goals to rally people and inspire them …rarely do I recruit volunteers to assist by telling them “we’re going to improve X by 30% and remove 11% of the hurdles in the coming 4 months” …that really doesn’t excite me…doesn’t push me to explore new grounds…they’re good on paper…good for diagrams and figures…but they rarely inspire me…or others.

Most of the time they actually limit us…they are a repetition of what we’ve done earlier…we tend to take the safe road …putting down numbers and deadlines that we feel comfortable about…that we know match our current resources…our current skills…

After reading a book called “Hundred Percenters” by Mark Murphy I’d like to suggest a new kind of Goals… HARD Goals…and by HARD I mean Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult…here’s why…

Heartfelt: Whenever I have something that touches me…that instills some feelings in me…its then that I start thinking of starting something new…its then that I feel a bigger purpose driving me… whether its empowering youth, helping children, guarding the environment, or starting a new business initiative…its that noble cause..that idea that clings to my heart that makes me start dreaming.

Animated: How many times do we get goals that practically mean nothing to us…that we can’t really imagine or envision …imagine if Martin Luther King, Jr. had stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and said:

Our goal should be that within the next 30 years, the incidents of hate crimes will be reduced by 63% and

that the percentage of minorities living below the poverty line will be no higher than the percentage for any other racial group.

How’s that for an inspirational speech? exciting? does it rally anyone? I don’t think so…infact I’m glad he said:

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Now that’s something both inspiring and imaginable …I can really look forward to ….no numbers…no deadlines…nothing “SMART” bout it…yet it really left an impact…

Required: How about all those “SMART” goals that if achieved, or not achieved, they might not really matter…life will not end at their door-steps. I don’t want my goals to just be a vision of a nicer future…I want them to be necessary…I want to show people that they are required and must be done…that those goals cover certain current or future needs and that by achieving them, life will really be better…tomorrow will be brighter.

Difficult: Yes you read it right..I want them to be difficult…I want them to be challenging. I don’t want those “achievable and realistic” goals…Some say that very difficult goals are demotivating…I say everything is feasible and every problem has a solution. Anyway, how difficult is difficult? well not much…come to think about it …what resources will you need? what new skills will you have to learn? …Personally if I’m not learning new things all the time and if I’m not pushing myself and others to be better…do things they never thought they can do before…achieve the dreams that once were impossible…then my goals are not difficult enough!

In the end, when talking about those HARD goals to whoever my audience/ team/ stakeholders/ beneficiaries are … I want them to drool over them…I want their hearts to throb for them…I want to see their eyes widen up…and to get their minds hard at work to figure out how and where to start….

So from now on…I will be using HARD goals..I hope you do to! 🙂


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