I set out at the first of this year with an unusual resolution. Well, two really. The first was to experience 12 new things I’ve never done before, and the other was to experience true generosity. Not the “give at the office” kind, but the “every time you get a chance to give more,…do it!” kind. Even when I feel the tightening and pulling back of fear, I’ve given myself strict orders to override the manager in me and be the giver I want to be.
I’ve come to realize it’s a tall order: giving all you’ve got. I’ve been challenged by the fear of it time and again. Part of me wants to be generous and give more than I can imagine but then there’s another part of me who cries out, “WHAT!! You can’t give that homeless man your $30 gift certificate to Starbucks!!”
I think it seems normal to hold onto what we have. Fears often dictate what we’ll share in terms of time, energy, money, advice, attention, patience, respect, and care. But just because it appears to be the norm doesn’t mean its helping us any!! With my yearly goal to be outrageously generous, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to give a lot and still feel fine about it. I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered thus far in case you ever decide to make generosity an “any time of year” resolution yourself.
The first rule of giving all you’ve got is to be selective about where and to whom you give. In my last post, I talked about making choices that bring us joy and how easy life becomes if we get clear about what we want to be responsible for. Well, giving is always easier when we’re giving all we’ve got to something we believe in that brings us joy. Never agree to give time, money, or attention to anything that you don’t care about. It’s wasted energy! Don’t get distracted or feel guilty about ignoring the things you’re not passionate about. Instead, put your heart and soul on the line for what matters to you most and giving won’t feel like a sacrifice at all; it will be easy.
Secondly, include yourself in the flow of giving. Everyone has different needs, that’s for sure, but getting by on leftovers is a recipe for personal disaster. Although you might require a slightly different ratio, my formula for giving is a one-third to my self, and two thirds to others. My plan might seem selfish, unrealistic or impossible, but it’s not a hard and fast rule; it’s a goal, to honor myself by not excluding myself.
And when I refer to giving to myself, I’m not talking about material things, per se (although those aren’t necessarily excluded). What I’m really referring to is making sure all of my needs are met before, AND as I give to others. If you’ve been on an airplane lately, the airline attendant will remind you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others (even your own children!) No one can give anything from a place of depletion. That’s why it’s important to set aside regular time for experiences that nourish and support you. Maybe it’s a yoga class you love, or a pick up game with your friends. Maybe going for a long walk or a swim replenishes your soul. A massage, a mani-pedi, dinner out, time to read, or write, attend a concert, dance or work out at the gym…whatever you need to give yourself the message that you matter as much as everyone else will do.
Now, I was NEVER raised to give to myself at all! For years, I didn’t, and I consistently felt resentment because I was giving so much to others. Consequently my expectations for what I would get in return were sorely out of whack. It took a long time for me to figure out that I needed to give to myself in ways that would nourish and empower me rather than expect others to meet my needs. I had to make changes. Now, I allow myself to have what I need to make me feel healthy and experience whatever makes me feel whole. As much as possible, I give that to myself. I can now give much more to others without expecting anything in return.
Thirdly – give more than you think something (or someone) is worth. Giving MORE raises the level of value for everything and everyone in your life. This can be a hard concept to grasp, but it affects your future in a very dramatic way. How much we’re willing to give is in direct relation to how much we value any person, place, thing, or experience. In true giving (without obligation) WE determine the value of this life we’re creating.
In essence, I can create a world where I’m surrounded by things of great value, which I’ve determined by how much I’m willing to give to (or for) them.
Finally, get ready to have generosity change who you are. Giving more than you have alters your thinking and belief about your own capacity, your own richness. When we give away more than we think we have, we send a clear message to the universe that we trust the incoming flow of abundance. We aren’t fearful that the well of surplus will run dry. We, in fact, challenge the Universe to “bring it on!” The more I give, the more my belief in my ability to give increases. Giving in excess counters any tendency toward stinginess, or even thriftiness, both of which indicate a fearful belief in limitations, something we need to overcome if want to experience true abundance in life.
Intentionally giving more beaks down that old way of thinking that suggests the Universe is limited, that there isn’t enough for everyone and only certain people get to have what they want and experience the kind of life they want – that we have to do or be something special to earn “our share.” Giving all we’ve got allows us to recognize abundance in the Universe for ourselves and for everyone we come in contact with. In giving abundantly, we begin to set up an expectation that everyone gets to realize their deepest desires. The question of whether or not anyone deserves anything becomes irrelevant. Once we make it our concern to increase the value of others, we convince our skeptical mind that we too have great value. We build up the idea that we all have what we desire. And we make it our JOB to see that happen. Giving all you’ve got trains your mind to believe in abundance and teaches us through repeated experience that giving is the only way to create a world of increase and expansion.
I have to admit my decision to spend a year learning about generosity has been more of a selfish pursuit than I would have imagined – and it’s not even over yet! The truth is, when it comes to giving, there’s almost always more benefit to the giver than the receiver. When I think about whose life is changed the most through a moment of giving, I wonder why I didn’t get busy with this sooner!