Being generous to others comes naturally to some, not so naturally to others. Generosity—especially when you are also in need—is one of the most difficult traits to develop in our lives. However, it’s not impossible. And giving back is an essential component of a Bold Life. (That’s why it’s one of the Seven Pillars of a Bold Life!)
Here are seven secrets—or not-so-secret secrets anymore, since we’re putting them out there now—that you can think about, remember and live by. They’ll help you practice generosity regardless of where you are financially in your life.
1. Giving makes you happier—and lights up your brain the same way chocolate does!
Based on research, there is an undeniable link between the part of the brain that is in charge of our pleasure rewards and cravings and generous giving. For instance, when you give to charity or a cause that you feel strongly about, that specific part of the brain just becomes animated in a similar way when you’re experiencing pleasure from, let’s say, eating that bar of chocolate. This response to giving is what gives you that “warm feeling” or “ warm glow”. So, in all actuality, being generous to others makes you feel happier. And why will you pass the opportunity to potentially be happier all the time? (Plus, think about it: What’s relatively the easiest to practically do every day that will always yield a favorable outcome 99% of the time—eat chocolate, or give generously of your time or money?)
2. Humility leads to generosity.
This one may seem counterintuitive, but it’s really not. When you go beyond looking at yourself and understanding that you are where you are because of the people who love you and the opportunities and good health you’ve been given to accomplish all that you’ve had and acquire the wealth that you currently have (minimum wage or higher, the point is wealth is wealth), you’d stop focusing on the “I”. You’ll begin to look at other people. And then, you realize that you have the capacity—yes, regardless of your situation in life—to help those in need, big or small. Humility stops you from saying “I want” without depriving yourself of what you need and moves you start asking, “Who can I help today?” As in the words of C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
3. An attitude of gratitude leads to a generous hand.
This one is connected to the previous point. The phrase “attitude of gratitude” has been used time and again since… well, it first appeared! But now let’s take the phrase up a notch by putting out this less-often-said truth: Having a grateful outlook helps in being generous to others. When you gently “push yourself” to be thankful for what you have now regardless of what you don’t have yet, you’ll become more outward-focused. That means you won’t have that usual selfish need to satisfy all your wants because you’re already content (and I don’t mean the “I’m lazy, so I’ll be content” attitude). I mean that you’re so satisfied and so thankful for what you already have that you become overwhelmed to help others in their current plight. Undeniably, being generous goes hand-in-hand with being grateful for what you have.
4. Be friends with a giver, and you’ll eventually be a giver, too!
You know what they say: “Two birds of the same feather flock together.” That’s true, for sure. And aligned with this saying is the fact that when you surround yourself with a certain kind of person, you’ll eventually find yourself picking up some of your friend’s habits—like giving and being generous to others. So, as you spend more time with givers, you become more and more of a giver yourself. Then you and your ‘giver-friends’ can nudge each other to being generous to others continuously. (Don’t have a friend who has the habit of being generous? It’s time to open your eyes and befriend one. In truth, you’re bound to find someone as long as you keep your eyes—and heart!—open.)
5. Be consistent in giving, and it’ll be harder to break the ‘good habit’.
The golden rule to follow here is: Give even when you “don’t feel like it”. And once you keep the habit of generosity going for at least three weeks or 21 days (the minimum number of days you can develop a habit), and you’ll certainly won’t be able to resist being generous to others. Think of it like getting into the habit of smoking—which I think is an icky habit in all honesty (but that’s just me; I still love my smoker-friends)—, once you’re hooked in giving and being generous to others, you won’t easily give up that good habit. Try it for at least 21 days straight, and you’ll see what I mean.
6. Developing a positive mindset helps you become more generous.
You are more apt to give to others when you have or feel those emotions brought about by a positive outlook—such as awe and joy. And conversely, when you give to others, you’ll reap those same emotions. In other words, it’s going to be a happy, glorious cycle of positivity and generosity when you give and when you cultivate a positive mindset. So you see? You can never go wrong with being generous or becoming more generous.
7. Generosity doesn’t stop with money.
It’s as simple as that. You can be generous with your time, talents and words as well. Have a friend who badly needs a night out with her husband but can’t find a decent babysitter? Call her up and offer to take care of the kids for a night. Have a colleague who’s having trouble adjusting to the new operating system at work (of which you coincidentally find yourself an expert)? Take an hour or two of your day to help him out. Or, perhaps, you see your kid struggling with his math homework. Spare a few uplifting words, and let him know that you’re proud of him just because. Being generous to others surely doesn’t stop with cash.
Being Generous to Others: A Worthwhile Practice with Lasting Impact
Now, wasn’t that a short but sweet read? Hopefully, it was as good for you reading it as it was for me writing it. The practice of being generous to others is a worthwhile one. And in fact, the smallest action in fulfilling this endeavor will create a lasting impact—whether in your lifetime or beyond.
So, before you go out there, do you remember the scene from the movie “Gladiator” where Maximus says, “What we do in life echoes in eternity”? Well, that precisely summarizes how I want to end this read on being generous to others. Just by the simplest act of applying these secrets as you pursue a life of generosity (regardless of your financial status), you’re one step farther on the path to living a bolder life—and to leaving a legacy that will echo in eternity.