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Altruism: Are You Taking It Too Far?
There is a theory that meerkat, an African animal, lives in a community of its fellow species and practice pure altruism. Scientists who did a study of their feeding habit discovered that when others in the community are foraging or eating, one of them habitually stands guard to keep watch over them against predators. The researchers noted that such an altruistic behavior is somehow uncommon in the animal kingdom. Being small in size, meerkats are susceptible to predation; they are preyed upon by bigger animals which eat them up as food. If the sentinel meerkat senses or sights any advancing predator, it gives an alarm call for others to run to safety. Whether by sheer design or accident, the whistle-blower is easily exposed to attack and it is easily preyed upon. Other members of the group usually escape without being hurt.
Human beings also practice altruism. We have heard of people who had, at one time or another, done selfless acts. Examples abound of persons with more than enough resources donating to others who do not possess enough. A number of extreme cases also occur where a human being donates a part or an organ to another person in dire need of such. Pints of blood, kidneys, livers, just to mention a few, had been donated and are still being donated without rewards, all over the world.
Most recent studies of the meerkats, however, have also revealed some more interesting things about them. Scientists discovered that the meerkats that stands guard to warn others of any imminent danger are usually filled up before taking up that duty. It would have eaten to satisfaction. Not just that, the sentinel meerkat usually stands very close to a burrow nearest by. Once the alarm call is made, it instantly dives into it. The truth is that the sentinel meerkat is the first to escape from any form of attack and danger.
So, whatever the intentions, most altruistic acts may not be entirely selfless. If the animal had been selfless, they would not have eaten before standing guide. Even human beings who donate to others are appreciated and are often rewarded when they receive gifts, prizes or cash for their acts. They receive accolades and their self-esteems are improved. A feeling of self-importance envelopes them, as a result their ego can get bloated.
Are you taking your good deeds beyond comfortable levels? Are you pleasing others at your own detriment? Is your attitude not geared too much at making peace with others when you know that you are at risk? People who are too selfless are often being so because they are want to please other people. They are afraid of being rejected! The need to be accepted, generally and individually by each person, drives the person who wants to please all. He tries to be at the center of things, never taking a side. The goal is to get positive feelings towards himself from the people.
They sense or imagine themselves as good people who are bent towards making humanity happy and in harmony. Whether that is realizable is another controversial topic. They are the “Yes men”, who do never want to pick quarrels with others. The extension of goodness to others is almost limitless. They do that at their own detriment.
WHAT IS GAINED?
There are good reasons to be good. Altruism is, without mincing words, to the benefit of humanity. Selflessness cannot be underrated, in anyway, as a waste of resources. However, what is not good is trying to please others at one’s detriment. It usually calls for questions of what are actually gained in the act. What does a person who goes out of his way to please another gain? The answer is often categorically “nothing”. For instance, if you are the brilliant type in a class, who likes helping others out with one academic problem or another, experience had taught us that, you may end up not getting the kind of grade that those being helped by you get.
That is one of the many situations possible. In this part of the world strange stories of kinship betrayal, neglect and outright denial abound everywhere. Interestingly, many of the tragic narrations are started with one person being generous and altruistic to siblings and kinsmen. At a later period when he or his off springs need assistance, they usually found no one.
Dare complained bitterly about the financial difficulty he was experiencing in school to his roommate, Jide. When Jide asked him if he had uncles and aunts he could approach for financial assistance, the response was heart touching.
Dare’s father was a very rich man. He was very generous and benevolent. According to him, his father helped many of his kinsmen by financing and sponsoring their handiwork trainings and even education to the level of the university. His kinsmen would approach him at any instance for money; he would be willing to dole out cash for marriages, naming ceremonies, and every other event. Dare said as a young boy, he once asked his father why he was doing all those. The father answered him by saying that he was doing all those things because he wanted his kinsmen to reciprocate same acts to his own children in the future.
Before he was out of the secondary school, his father died and to their amazement, his kinsmen took over all his belongings, leaving them with nothing. From that time onward, his mother began to find it extremely difficult to support the family. He stated that he stopped going to his father’s kinsmen when he realized that none of them was ready to provide any form of support.
Could Dare’s father have over done his selflessness? It was more obvious that he did not just overdo it, but also did not prepare at all for all eventualities. He had let his altruism overshadow his sense of reasoning. With all his selflessness, his children suffered so much that they regretted their father’s good character.
ARE YOU A PEOPLE PLEASER?
Never mind if this is a question. But you would need to go through this list to check out yourself. Do you:
• Say yes, no matter the circumstance, even when your mind ring no;
• Become devastated when you feel you are liked by any person;
• Prefer to be at pain rather than displease any person;
• Get sad when a misunderstanding or disagreement starts;
• Choose to fail in order to please another person;
• Follow the crowd at the detriment to your personal uniqueness;
• Speak for others at your own personal risks;
• Lose sleep for minor disagreements;
• Feel disturbed at any disagreement with whatever you are doing;
• See pleasing others as part and parcel of yourself.
NOW YOU CAN BREAK OUT
1. STOP THIS UNWANTED FEAR: You must understand that pleasing people is a form of phobia. Stop this phobia right from the inside by finding, perhaps, another to replace it. Think of something more on the positive aspect of life. Must you please all and sundry?
2. DECLINE, FOR ONCE: Have you ever thought of ever saying “no” to a request? You had better started learning how to do so. There should be a line between saying “yes” and knowing it is “yes”. You should be able to determine what you want as different from what others need. Not all requests should be attended to. Train yourself to decline. Stop being a “yes man”!
3. YOU CAN NEVER CONTROL ALL: This is could be a phenomenon of Jack of all trades, but master of known”. Thinking you can control everything is a paranoiac mental mindset. You want to control what others think of you. You want people to like you. You want to be seen by all as being good. You want everything! Note that not all these are valid necessities for you. They are just excesses. Be realistic and modest in your desires.
4. YOUR PEACE OF MIND IS PRIMARY: You had put yourself on the line for so long. You lost sleep for others times without number. Now it is telling on your health. This must not continue like this. If the unexpected happens, no one will take up your responsibilities. Dare’s case, above, says it all. Doing too much for others will take more of emotional strength out of you and will affect your peace of mind. Just be careful on this.
5. CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE: There is a way you can get out of this uncanny mess. Change your mindset of pleasing people to actually helping them. There is a space of difference between these two. The former is negative, but the latter is much positive. When you help people you will not be expecting rewards or favors. Should there be any remuneration, it will not be a subject of evaluation that may lead to discontent. When you are all out to please, once you get less than you dreamt about it will be dangerous.
6. BE PROACTIVE: Try to make things happen by way of not waiting for others. Do not let people dictate for you, in order that they will put you in their good books. In a society like ours, where “eye-service” is a tradition, getting the attention of people, especially the superiors, by performing well in their presence, is a norm. The drawback of this is that when you are not noticed, emotional stress can set. But doing things, impromptu, can free you of unwanted emotions.
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