‘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.

The Dangers of Honesty

There is an old saying,

“Do not cast your pearls before swine.”

For the longest time I didn’t understand it, as I tried to imagine what pigs would do with a bunch of pearls. Until one day I opened up to someone about an emotional challenge that I had, and they threw it back in my face.

It was in that moment that I realised I had given someone one of the most precious things that I had, part of myself, and they treated it like scraps. They stomped all over it and eventually consumed it, spat it back out and then consumed it again (that’s what it felt like anyway). As I witnessed this take place, horrified, I realised that this person mistreated my treasure, not because they wanted to but because they couldn’t treat it any other way. They simply didn’t know how to. Just like pigs would treat pearls.

I quickly learned who I could trust with that which was most precious to me, and who I couldn’t.

Honesty and transparency can be gifts of great worth that we give to other people, but not everyone will treat them with the respect and care that they require. So we need to be cautious with who we give these gifts to, or be confident enough in ourselves and our own worth, that it won’t matter how people respond to being presented with this treasure.

Generosity is risky. It is dangerous. But the depth of relationship and intimacy that can be created through honesty and transparency are worth taking the risks and facing the dangers.

The Generosity of Honesty

I am trying to figure out if I am especially untrusting, or if everyone has trouble believing someone when they say something nice about them. It’s probably just me, but whenever I get a hint that a person is not being honest with me then I struggle to take anything that they say as truthful.

Dishonesty, or a lack of transparency, ruins relationships. Both relationships that already exist and ones that are yet to.

On the flip side, honesty and transparency give relationships depth. When you are open with others around you it creates a foundation of trust. Trust that you are an honest person and therefore wont dupe or rip people off. That you are a safe person that they can be honest with too. That you will do what you say you will do. That you genuinely care.

When you are open and honest, you also let other people into your world so they can see behind the curtain to your inner workings. This is a gift and for those who are capable of treating this gift with respect, it makes them feel special and welcome. This sort of intimacy is rare but incredibly valuable as it builds strong, deep relationships which last.

Honesty it innately generous.

It does come with risks though…

The Generosity of Encouragement

Praise the good. Ignore the bad. – James Clear

When someone encourages you, it has to be one of the best feelings possible. A kind word that uplifts can shift the trajectory of someone’s life. The most significant memories that we have can be a time when someone we respect spoke words that brought life to us.

At the same time, we know that saying something negative to someone can carry much more weight than an encouraging word. The anecdotal reflection of it taking nine encouraging comments to overcome one negative comment certainly rings true. Which makes encouragement all the more important.

So how do we do it?

Be Genuine

You can’t just make up stuff that you don’t mean and expect it to land well. People can tell if you are being genuine or not and building someone up only works if what you are saying about them is true. If you are struggling to find something to be encouraging about, that’s on you to figure out. Every person around us has something worthwhile to recognize and are providing value to our lives. It just takes a moment to stop and find it sometimes.

Be Meaningful

“You look nice today” is nice to hear but that is not encouragement. There is no depth to that. Come up with something that carries meaning to the person.

“I like the way that you think” – is more about who the person is over what they do. This is a fundamental way to encourage people just for being them.

“You have made two really great decisions this week, and this is what they are…” – Recognising great behaviour is an easy way to encourage. The more specific the better.

“I am really grateful for your positive attitude. Knowing that I can rely on you makes my day easier” – Showing how someone’s behaviour or attitude makes a positive impact on you highlights how important they are.

Be Timely

Don’t wait. When someone does something worth noticing, do it in the moment or shortly afterwards. It’s a little difficult to feel encouraged about something that happened 10 years ago. In saying that, it’s never too late, so if that’s all that you have, feel free to encourage someone about something that they did 10 years ago.

Be Consistent

Don’t save it up to give it all in a once off overload of encouragement. Plant small seeds of encouragement consistently which will create a culture of encouragement around you.

Encouragement is an amazing act of generosity. It costs you nothing, apart from some brain energy, and the benefits to all involved are significant.

Your Growth is a Gift

Have you ever thought about what people are missing out on because you are not growing? What impact is it having on those around you when you are stuck doing the same things you have always done, knowing the same things you always knew, being the same person you always were? It may not sound like a big deal and maybe personal growth is not your ‘thing’, but it’s not about you. It’s about the people that you love that are in your life, and then then people that they love that are in their lives. We owe it them to be the best version of ourselves so that we, in turn, can help them be the best versions of themselves…and so on.

Here’s a harsh truth: If you think you are currently the best you can possibly be, you’re not. (Ouch). There is always more. There are things that you don’t know yet that will change the way you turn up when you learn them. There are things that you don’t know how to do yet which will be groundbreaking in your life and in those around you; groundbreaking in the sense that it will break new ground so you can build something new on it.

There is always more to learn. Always more to discover. Always more to understand. Not so that you can get to the finish line of learning, but so you can improve and make everything you touch just that little bit better.

How many people can reap the benefits of your growth?

I Don’t Have It Nailed Yet

Life’s a journey. One of growth, discovery and failure/learning. I’ve been writing and speaking about generosity for a number of years now. About all the benefits that it can bring, and how it improves your life. Mostly, I have been writing and speaking to myself, to help me in my personal journey of generosity. My hope is that I have become a more generous person during that time, and my future hope is that I will continue to become more generous. I don’t think I’ll reach the point where I am generous enough and can stop. Not for a long time anyway, because I see areas in my life where I can be more generous. All this to say, I am the Generosity Guy only because I point people to the benefits of living a generous lifestyle, not because I have the generous lifestyle nailed.

What are the benefits of a generous lifestyle? They are numerous, but essentially it is good for the people that you are generous to, it is good for the people around those that you are generous to and it’s good for you – physically, emotionally and spiritually.

There are very few things that a generous act can’t fix.

Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t come easy for you, or if you really wish you could be more generous that you are but can’t seem to find a way forward. That’s okay. It’s a journey that we can be on together, and it happens one generous act at a time.

The generous lifestyle is like building a muscle, but unlike super gross bodybuilding guy, you can’t build your generosity muscle up too much. So keep at it.