How generosity can pay off

Here’s where the rubber really hits the road: how much of your time, money and energy do you give away to others?

Here’s the most important question I can ask you: “Do you love helping other people?” If your answer (and only you will know) wasn’t an

immediate, unqualified, instinctive, enthusiastic “YES!”, your Your Personal Best will always be less than it can be. A passion for giving is the direct pipeline to fulfilment. The true winners are not Go-Getters. They are Go-Givers. They live by a code that demands that they always give more than they take. It’s a belief that the deepest sense of Personal Wellbeing always comes from enhancing the wellbeing of the people around them. The root of their generosity is the pleasure they get from adding value to other people’s lives. They don’t give because they’re saints. They’re not necessarily Good Samaritans. They give because they know that altruism really pays big dividends. They give habitually not just because it gives them pleasure to do so; they give because they know that generosity is the most lucrative investment they can make and the only true insurance against adversity.

Think about this: how many people do you know who only call you when they need something from you? Or, they’re only courteous when they want something? Otherwise they don’t make any effort to help, or even just lighten up your day. How do you feel about them? When you hear their voices or when you see their faces, what emotions do you experience? Resentment? Irritation? Mild annoyance? Nothing at all? The bottom line is that they have no equity with you. If you’re the kind of person who is a habitual giver, you’ll help them anyway, but you’re in the minority.

On the other hand, how do you feel about those people who are continually there for you? Or who have gone the extra mile to help you? Or who assisted you in a really challenging moment when no-one else would? If you’re like most of the people who we have researched, you’ll feel a powerful need to return the favour. The truth is that people are governed by The Law of Reciprocity which states: if you do something for me, I feel obligated to return the gesture. Thus, the more you do for others, the more “currency of reciprocation” you accumulate for when you need it most. Generosity is good business. If you develop a reputation for contribution and caring, revenue will flow back to you. The vast majority of people will repay your largesse with interest.

The recipient of your generosity is the one giving the gift of giving to you. Go-Givers proactively search for ways to contribute to others even before they’re asked to do so. Either they spontaneously offer opportunities to others when they were least expecting it, or they sense when someone needs their gift and they take action before they’re asked to do so. Let me ask you this: how many times have you known that someone needed your assistance but hadn’t asked for it? How many times have you known that someone was too proud or too timid to request a favour from you? How many times have you just sensed that you could do something for someone who needed it? And how many times did you step up? If your answer is “most of the time”, you’re already practising Habitual Generosity.

Think about those times in your life when someone stepped up to help you when no-one would give a damn. If you’re like me, you can remember each and every moment with a powerful emotional surge of gratitude and affection. Maybe it was a schoolfriend who stood up for you or stood by you when no-one else would; maybe it was an employer who hired you when no-one else would; maybe it was a client or colleague who believed in you when no-one else would; maybe it was a spouse who saved you when no-one else could; maybe it was a partner or mentor who saw in you qualities that no-one else could; maybe it was the teacher who complimented you on a talent or accomplishment when no-one else would. I promise you that these are the people who’ve made your life rich. Now, my question to you is: how often are you playing this role in the lives of others? Never underestimate the impact of even the smallest gesture on the wellbeing or confidence of another human being. What’s more, a tiny effort on your part can have a huge effect on the life of another. Make it happen.

Habitual Generosity is closely related to “extreme empathy”. Extreme empathy is when we know intuitively when others need our gift, even if they don’t know themselves. From the earliest age, humans develop a resistance to asking for help — especially males. How many men do you know who won’t even ask for street directions? Because asking for assistance is often perceived as a sign of weakness. So, in order to engage in constant acts of generosity, not only do you have to sense when to give but also how to give. Highly gifted givers make it seem as if the recipients of their gifts are the ones who are actually doing the giving.

Go-Givers know that wealth is really the capacity to give. That’s why

they’re happy (and wealthy).

How many rich people do you know who are tense, tight and aloof? Plenty, right? They define themselves by how much they have. Therefore, they’re constantly afraid of losing what they have. And you know what? The chances are that they will. I get so many calls from people in a state of depression because they’ve lost their money, house or business. Either the market’s turned against them, a partner’s turned on them or their customers have turned away from them. The truth, though, is that they assigned the wrong meaning to their assets. They saw them as possessions to hoard or gloat over, not as resources that could empower them to empower others.

So what does wealth mean to you? What would you do if you were shown the money? For me, money means one thing: the ability to excite others. The more resources I have, the more I can influence others with my insights, the more I can invest in media and promotion to ensure the deepest penetration of my message. And the more I can influence others, the more money I make. It’s a beautiful circle. The more value I add to the people around me, the more wealth I create. But here’s the important distinction: I’m not influencing others because I’m making money, I’m making money because I’m influencing others. I know that the moment my motivation becomes purely commercial, my revenue flow will dry up.

The Rotary Club’s mission statement is perhaps the best expression of the spirit of Habitual Generosity — “Service Above Self.” If you serve others, you become a giant. If you are self-serving, you shrink. Who are you serving? Who are you putting above yourself? What value are you adding to the people around you that fills you with a huge sense of purpose?

Mike Lipkin would be delighted to share your points of view. So please e-mail them to me at mike_lipkin@environics.ca.

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