It’s Hard To Do in Your Own Home

Every year in February there is the Random Acts of Kindness Day, during which we are encouraged to show small acts of kindness to strangers that we encounter, to make kindness the norm. I love this idea and am encouraged by the movement. As with all parts of generosity, the science behind it proves that it is good for everyone involved, so get on it.

The challenge that I am putting to people (mostly me) this year is, alongside your random acts of kindness to total strangers on February 17, find small random kind things that you can do to your own household.

For some reason, when thinking about participating in random acts of kindness I automatically assume that it will be for someone I have never met before because that’s exciting. To imagine their surprise and delight when I gift them with something makes me happy. I find it harder to think of creating the same experience for those in my family. Perhaps I’m just a terrible person, but it seems to be a more challenging project.

Maybe the difference is the expectation. If I do a random thing once a year to someone I don’t know, then on February 18 no one is waiting expectantly to be surprised and delighted. It’s a ‘no pressure’ type of kindness. Kind of like the ‘one night stand’ version.

If I create a kindness experience for my family, those that I see every day, that see me every day and know me the best, if I have a bad day when I am ‘not as kind’, then they can rightfully ask where my kindness went. I’m not sure if I want to face that sort of scrutiny. Which is crazy because I know that if I can be kind at random intervals to them then it will serve my family well and deepen our love for each other.

So here’s to random acts of kindness everywhere but also in my household on February 17, and hopefully more to come after as it becomes the norm.

Power Over Others is Weakness

“Power over others is weakness disguised as strength.” Eckart Tolle

It’s obvious when it happens to other people. I can see it as clear as day, and I can’t figure out why they can’t.

A negative comment, a harsh opinion, and quite frankly, offensive words, from someone that is unknown to the individual. Someone that hasn’t earned the right to have any opinion that carries weight, but still it upsets. In that moment they are allowing this anonymous person to have power over them, and that anonymous person is stepping into that position of power by taking on a role of ‘expert’.

The truth is this: anything that is said or done, especially from someone whom you do not know, has nothing to do with you or your behaviour, and is all about the other person and their issues. Their pain and insecurity is overflowing and manifesting as judgement and outrage.

It is easy to see when it is happening to others, but when it happens to you, when someone judges you for something you say or do or write, it is a lot more challenging to not be swayed by ‘public opinion’. It can be difficult to not give someone power over how we feel.

It is even harder to spot when you are the perpetrator of that ‘public opinion’. When you are tearing someone down because of their ‘awful’ behaviour sometimes it is almost impossible to see that your pain and insecurity is overflowing on to others. That feeling of power and influence is intoxicating.

Power is an illusion. We seek it and wield it because it can help us feel strong, but ‘power over others is weakness disguised as strength’.

True strength comes from humility. It comes from generosity. It comes from lifting others up. It takes great strength to not be swayed by ‘public opinion’ and secure in your own identity.

If you are in a position of power, or a seeking a position of power, perhaps take a moment and discover what area of weakness you are trying to cover up.

Don’t Work for a Charity

People often like to hear about the work that I do, and say things like,

‘It must be nice to have a purpose in what you do every day’, or

‘You must find it very rewarding’, or the almost condescending,

‘Is that your full-time role?’

The answer is ‘yes’ to all of those.

I see the longing in their eyes as they think about how amazing it would be to work in the not-for-profit world. Whilst I love it and I wouldn’t change it, here is my encouragement to you if you think that…

Don’t do it.

Not because charitable organisations are challenging places to work (which they can be), or because charitable organisations can be limited with funding to pay staff (which they can also be), but because not everyone should do it.

Here’s why you shouldn’t work for a charity. Whilst we could do with more great people who work for charities that are doing good, it is more important for the world to have more people creating amazing businesses and organisations – making as much money as they can, so they can give away as much as they can, to do the most good that they can.

Instead of working for a charity, create businesses people want to work at, that are known for their amazing culture and incredible generosity, and I guarantee that not only will you make a significant impact in the world, people will also say the same three things to you that they say to me.

In saying all of that, volunteer for a charity as much as you want.

Generosity is Not About You, But it’s About You

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

– Frederick Douglass

It is generous to help those living in poverty, but not the way that you think.

Outside of the positive impact it creates in overcoming poverty (and the fact that it is the right thing to do), it’s generous to you.

But it’s more than how it makes you feel. It’s more than the health benefits, be they physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual (and it is all those things). It is about the world. Your world.

We are fortunate that there are so many benefits for us when we give. What makes it more extraordinary is that an act of generosity towards a just cause shifts the balance, one step at a time, from oppression towards freedom. It helps to remove the foot of injustice off the neck of those living in poverty, so that they can not only breathe but create a life that provides for their family and improves our world in the process.

We cannot be content with our progress and success at any level when there are those who are unable to meet their basic needs. Until we are able to fix that, ‘neither persons nor property will be safe’. If you want to overcome the problems we have in society, help lift those living in poverty out of that man-made cycle.

What do we do from here?

Make a stand for those suffering injustice. In whatever way that looks for you. Be it donating to an organisation that helps people work their way out of poverty, or finding your way to restore justice so that we can all be safe.

Make 2020 Great Again

Sure, you may have had some challenges this year. It may have been one of the most difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t finish it in a way that makes it still one of the best.

It’s all about stress.

We have a negative relationship with stress but stress is neither good nor bad, it is what we do with it that gives it meaning. We can either experience it as distress or eustress.

Stress that creates distress, manifests in extreme anxiety, sorrow or pain – this is the stress that we try to avoid because it is uncomfortable. Examples of things that people often refer to as distress are things like a failing grade, or a family illness or a global pandemic.  

On the other hand, stress that creates eustress comes from seeing situations or experiences as a challenge to be met and an opportunity to grow. It is a positive response to the stressor. Often people give examples of this happening through travelling somewhere new, significant life changes like getting married or moving house, or learning something new like a language or an instrument.

The remarkable thing is that it is not the event that dictates whether we experience it as distress or eustress, but it is how the event is perceived. If an experience is seen as a threat, this it will create distress, if it is seen as a challenge then it will create eustress.

The key to making something eustressful, is finding a way to create meaning, hope and energy out of the challenge.

If you have had too many distressful experiences in 2020, let me help you create a eustressful one, through finding meaning, hope and energy through a generous act. This is one of the simplest and most effective way to create that positive experience that 2020 needs.

Make a donation to Opportunity International Australia, and help end poverty one family and one community at a time,

…or some other organisation that you like. It will make your 2020 great again.

‘Tis The Season

It is the season for giving.

Why is it just one season? Why is it only restricted to one part of the year?

Christmas is a joyful time (in most cases) and it’s made even better because we think about others and what to give them and how to bring them joy. Which brings us joy. So why do we restrict it to just one time of the year? (Maybe two if birthdays are a thing for you).

We know that the best way to find joy is to give to others. When we do that, when we look outside of ourselves, we receive in return. It results in us feeling better about ourselves and our world. It creates a positive experience for all involved.

If you want to be joyful all year-round, and not just in December, then think about presents that people would like to receive when it is not ‘in season’. Think about things that would put a smile on someone’s face.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for Christmas and celebrating this season, but I’m encouraging you to bring joy all throughout the year. Be that person.

Compound

I love a good spreadsheet. It helps me keep my life in order by tracking the important numbers. As a number gets changed in one cell, the total is impacted by the exact amount of that change. It is neat and tidy, and precise.

Not everything in life is measured by numbers. You can’t calculate the importance of a specific relationship that you have by allocating a number to it, or a regular activity that you are involved in, or even someone’s presence. Well, I guess you could try, but it would be completely arbitrary and cold. Much of our life is not neat and tidy, and most definitely not precise. (Which is bad news for my spreadsheet.)

Generosity is one such area. We can try and calculate the cost of giving money away in light of how much less we now have, compared to the tax deduction that it has given, but that is an arbitrary and cold process. That is not how generosity works.

Generosity is when you give something away, instead of seeing it as a financial loss for you and a financial gain for someone else, it becomes a compounding transaction creating a positive impact for everyone involved, those who are close to it and not involved, and those who hear about it later. It increases exponentially.

Generosity breeds generosity. It is not possible to run out if it. It is not a finite resource. It is one of a very few things that increase every time you use it. You will never reach the end of generosity because when you think you are there, you will discover more generosity.

Try it out. No spreadsheet required.

Generosity in Action

Thoughts are incredibly important. What and how we think create the foundations of how we see and approach the world. Our thoughts shape the way we live. So, positive thoughts are much better than negative thoughts because they have the power to create positive experiences.

Generous thoughts are amazing. Thinking about someone through a framework of generosity is one of the most positive things we can do with our mind.

But only if it leads to action.

Generous thoughts are not generosity. Generosity can only be achieved through actions.

A great theologian once said,

Suppose you see someone who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

A generous person is not generous by their thinking alone, but ultimately by their actions.

How can you tell if you are being generous? Your behaviour will show you.

Purpose

I am sure it doesn’t just happen to me. Other people must think the same questions that seem to come out of the blue, in idle moments, and shock you.

Mostly it’s:

‘what is the point of all this?’

‘What does it all mean anyway?’

‘Isn’t it just a waste of time, we are all going to die anyway?’

Maybe that last one is just my own darkness, but it drives me to find the purpose in my actions. It drives me to take the things that I do daily and connect with them with a greater purpose outside of myself, otherwise I would just stop doing the little things that I consider important. (Although these questions can help you re-define what is considered ‘important’).

As I have refined my thinking over the last few years, each time these questions come, I add a little more to my philosophical outlook on life and create more of my purpose.

Historically, my purpose is to “speak words that bring life”. It has been for 15 years. But what else, what does that actually mean?

Lately my thinking has been along the lines of “creating a better world through creating better people”.

This isn’t the final edit though. There is more refining to come, but the theme is clear. I find my purpose in bringing life and growth. I find my purpose in giving. I find my purpose in generosity.

I don’t have the language nailed yet, but aren’t we all just a work in progress?

The Generosity of Perspective

We know that other people see things differently from us. There are many different opinions about food, weather, raising children, pets, politics, movies, clothes, ice cream – everything.

We have no control over someone else’s perspective on life. We are unable to change their perspective, no matter how much we might want to.

What we do have control over is how we respond to their perspective and opinion.

We can do this well by asking one question – where do my own opinions come from?

As we begin to unpack that question and realise that our perspectives and opinions grow out of every single life experience we have ever had, then we can start to understand a little of how someone else can be so different from us. Their life journey has taken them down different paths, they have different values, they see things through different filters.

What is more challenging is when someone we know shares many of the same opinions that we do, except for one or two major issues in life. This can lead to strained relationships because ‘how can someone that is so much like me, think like this?’.

Someone once told me that the best way to approach marriage is to find the most optimistic reason why your spouse does the things that they do. In doing so, you don’t end up creating a mystical, negative narrative about someone you love, and it gives you the opportunity to discover more about them. This philosophy is not just for marriage relationships – it is helpful for all human interaction.

Just because people think or behave (or vote) differently to us, it doesn’t mean that they are evil, it means we don’t understand them yet.

We don’t have to agree with someone’s opinion to understand them.