Dealing with someone else’s problems is the most heroic form of procrastination. You feel like you’re saving the world, but you’re really just avoiding your own.
I’m not talking about volunteering or advocating or protesting. Those are things we should all be doing.
What I am talking about is exerting oodles of your time and energy into problems where the following apply:
- You’re dealing with a lost cause.
- Your help isn’t requested or desired.
- Your opinion isn’t taken seriously.
- You have fires burning at home.
This list could keep growing, but you get the idea. The average person won’t give five dollars to a stranger on the street, but we’ll spend hours coming up with plans to save our companies that nobody wants to hear. We’ll give unsolicited advice to that friend on Facebook.
Why is that?
Doing favors makes us feel important
You might wonder why we keep diving into everyone’s chaos if it doesn’t do us any good. It’s all about the dopamine, baby.
Helping someone gives you a short high.
This is the reason we build houses for humanity and donate to charities. We’re wired to give — some of us more than others.
Giving is good.
Over-giving is bad, especially when it doesn’t accomplish anything. But if we think we helped, we still experience the boost.
That’s why the Ben Franklin effect works so well. If you haven’t heard, the Ben Franklin effect says you should ask your adversaries for favors. It makes them feel good about themselves. They’ll like you more. That’s because they’re associating the dopamine hit with you.
That sensation is addictive.
Avoid charity therapy syndrome
There’s a dark side to the Ben Franklin effect. If you’re facing some serious crags in your own life, then going out of your way for everyone else gives you a little break from that. You might do tons of favors just to feel…