Giving, Contributing, and a Full Life Part 2: How
In part 1, we introduced the concept of giving. We considered reasons giving adds to our own Lives, rather than taking away from it. In adopting the mindset of a giver, instead of just taking all the time, we really create a fuller Life because living it benefits good people around us.
In a world where it can like every person for themselves, this might be a foreign idea. Not all takers are bad people; it may just be how they’ve chosen to survive and protect themselves from hurt. So beginning in a safe and non-threatening manner can be tricky.
In part 2, we’ll look at the practical aspects to contributing and giving. I’ll take you through the same simple 3 step plan I walk clients through, people who want to add this very enriching and (spiritually and emotionally) rewarding aspect to their Lives.
A Simple 3 Step Plan to Give
Step 1: The Mindset – Nothing in Return, and Start Easy
Before ANYTHING else, develop the RIGHT underlying attitude: you are not doing this because you want something in return. You might do it because it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of purpose, or adds to your Life experiences. However, never have a future pay-off as your starting point for this.
Many people seem to do ‘good deeds’ all the time, but when you investigate further, they’re really doing them for an ulterior motive. I’ve observed fakes doing a ‘good deed’ to generate leads for their business, opportunists hoping to create more funnels for their MLM schemes, glory hounds trying to gain recognition, players paying a false compliment to get a phone number, even desperate lonely people trying to attract a girlfriend or a boyfriend by ‘volunteering’ at an animal shelter. This isn’t giving.
The Bible is one of the greatest works ever, with many important Life lessons, and I love what Jesus has to say about this.
“Be careful! When you do good things, don’t do them in front of people to be seen by them… When you give to the poor, don’t be like the hypocrites. They blow trumpets in the synagogues and on the streets so that people will see them and honor them. I tell you the truth, those hypocrites already have their full reward. So when you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Your giving should be done in secret” – Matthew 6: 1-4 (NCV)
In fact, you should make it a point to do things for people who could never give you anything back. That ensures you’re truly giving, not setting up for returns later.
Step 2: Little Acts of Kindness
For someone who hasn’t been a giver before, even a little act is a relatively big change. The things you do don’t have to be monumental. It’s like any goal, including getting that six pack! The good news is you can always start small, but sustainably, and then increase the dose.
What easier way than to begin with your family and loved ones. Sounds obvious? You’ll be surprised how many people with families or in relationships have managed to live those roles as takers. If that sounds like you, fret not! Start small, and make it a habit. Some people might even have to make a list of things to do. That’s ok!
Once you’re used to doing little things for family, then friends, move to acquaintances. Finally, progress to strangers you might never see again.
Again borrowing from Christian literature, there’s a story in the Bible where Jesus observed rich people making huge donations at the temple, while a poor widow gave two copper coins. Here’s what Jesus had to say about this:
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” – Mark 12: 41-44 (TNIV)
Be alert to how you can help. You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities arise if you make it a point to notice it. Some people have been so self-centred their whole Lives that they are almost overwhelmed when they do an outing with me, and are shown a wealth of opportunities to do little easy things which add so much to others.
Sometimes, all it takes is one word, one act.
Examples of easy things you can do?
- Write a note of appreciation to a hardworking staff in your workplace
- Speak up for the receptionist being bombarded by an unreasonable customer
- Compliment the overworked bartender for his good service
- If a waiter has given you exceptional service, give a bigger tip than the minimum
- Make an effort to write management to commend someone in their employ
- Buy a friend starting a relationship a dining voucher for two
- Pay attention to what your friends need, then surprise them with it
- Send an article of interest to a client which has absolutely nothing to do with your business relationship
- Hold the door open for the person behind you (in our Singaporean context here’s where expecting nothing in return really comes in… not even a “thank you”)
- Give up your seat on the MRT to someone who needs it
- Spend an hour offering free professional expertise to someone who could really benefit from it
- If the taxi driver has been exceptional, or just looks like he’s had a hard day, forego the loose change
- Pick up some litter you see on the pavement
- When someone comes to your house to do a job, such as a plumber, carpenter, maintenance person etc, give him a can of 100 plus
- Call a loved one and say thank you for all they’ve been to you, and let them know you appreciate them
- If you know someone in financial difficulty, drop them some money in an envelope anonymously. Sometimes, even $5 or $10 can make a lot of difference
- If you’ve tried a new recipe successfully, share some of that with your neighbour
- Like a Facebook friend’s efforts from time to time
- When a friend on Facebook posts something that you can relate to, write them a comment. It costs you nothing.
- Drop a friend a Whatsapp message once in a while to see how they’re doing
- Smile more!
You can see that these are all relatively easy to do. Why not aim to do one a week? Eventually progress to one or two a day? In a year you would have cumulatively performed 50 – 600 acts of kindness. That’s a LOT!
Step 2 (Bonus) Pass on Professional Profit
Here’s another obvious way that belongs to Step 2, but may take a little bit more time, and require being a bit less shy. That is, contribute professional expertise. You might not always have money, but one thing you’ll always have more than most people is your professional knowledge.
Now, I’m not saying you should give away professional services for free. But often you don’t need to actually do very much to make a world of difference to someone.
For example, one of the biggest rewards I have from my years as a physio is simply being able to help people any time.
I’m not talking about when I’m in the hospital or seeing personal clients. That’s a tremendous privilege but it’s a given. I’m talking about being blessed with the ability to help even strangers in an instant.
For instance two of my frequent social haunts are the dance floor and the gym. When a dancer suddenly collapses from leg pain, I can make an immediate diagnosis of the problem, offer quick first aid, and then advise on action steps. When a gym exerciser clutches his shoulder in pain, I can do a quick assessment, determine what the problem is, and save him from the stupidity of forcing through a workout.
Even on the street, if I pass by a stranger who has a sling that has come loose, or is crutch walking wrongly, it takes me one minute of my Life to fix it.
In many of these cases, I’ve probably helped cut down on wasted time and money for the sufferer, and even more importantly, prevented the usual suspects (like massage, heat, continued activity “It’s ok I’m all right” etc) from delaying the recovery process if not sabotage it outright.
It really feels good. I don’t think these little services deserve getting paid $75 a consult for. Yet I know by giving away these services I am probably saving people that, plus time as well.
Step 3: Walk the Walk to Talk the Talk
One person can make a difference. Consider however, what would happen if you set an example for ten people, and each of those ten people decided to set an example for yet another ten people. The resulting gain would be exponentially multiplied, and that’s the force multiplier effect in action.
Why are so many people takers and users? I believe that people are inherently good, but their environment and experiences shape them. The survival instinct is strong in people. So is the drive to protect oneself from being hurt. So is fear of vulnerability. Will people think I’m soft if I’m kind, and take advantage of it?
True, some people are just selfish and there’s not a lot you can do about them. But others just need someone to begin first. For decent people, the good feelings that come from giving, contributing and service to others, is self-reinforcing. Importantly, they derive so much enjoyment from it that they influence others to do the same. Over time, that influencer could be YOU.
There is no greater way to convince and inspire people than to be a living example. In fact, your message will be even more powerful if you were a self-centred taker but managed to walk the higher road and become a willing and happy giver. Show it to your loved ones, and in time they will emulate your actions. Most importantly, inculcate in them the mindset that goes with being a giver without ulterior motive. You will spread the joys of contributing to other people and add an extra dimension of happiness to the Lives of those you love and care about.
So there we have it. A very simple plan to start:
- Adopt the right mindset of service without ulterior motive.
- Look out for opportunities to perform acts of kindness. Start small, but go for consistency. Being close ones, then move onto strangers.
- Try to pass it on
Give this a try for one full year, and see if it makes you feel a lot better, improve your own relationships with people in your Life, and give your Life a greater sense of purpose and meaning.
Your Life will be Fuller for it. I know mine has been.