2023 Theme – With Intent

Usually ‘with intent’ has a negative connotation. For example, ‘with intent to distribute’…(or any of the below…)

It means that there is a purpose behind specific actions that someone takes, and that individual is aware that their actions will most likely cause a certain outcome, making them responsible for that outcome.

What it brings to mind for me is how my 6-year-old son behaves in a way that shows intent to annoy his 3 year old sister. I will often share my disappointment when he upsets her on purpose just to get her to react.

But it works both ways, because intent can be positive, and that is my hope for 2023. To be intentional with my actions – the more specific the better, in areas where my life isn’t going how I would like.

What makes intent positive or negative are the words that come after ‘with intent’. ‘With intent’, to what?  

So, my theme for 2023 is to live ‘with intent’. Intent to:

  • Be generous with specific amounts, organisations and people
  • Learn specific things
  • Improve specific parts of my finances
  • Spend time doing specific things which strengthen my body and mind
  • Spend time with specific people (and to find some more of these specific people)

(I do have these specific things, organisations and people articulated, in case you were wondering. This is just an overview.)

2023 is going to be my year of intent, to live knowing that my actions will most likely cause a certain outcome and that I am responsible for that outcome.

Where could you use some positive intent?

You are an extra

You are an extra in someone else’s movie

Sure, you are the main character in yours but for the majority of the world, you don’t even have a name or a plot line. Maybe you are ‘guy/girl who walks across the screen’, but that’s about it.

It’s important to keep that in mind because it can be so easy to get caught up in our own narrative and think that my story or experience is the only one that matters, and everyone else is playing a supporting role for my benefit. Which is a dangerous place to operate from because getting so wrapped up in ‘me’ and ‘my world’ pushes everyone else and their needs the periphery.

“Why should that matter?” I hear you ask…well, it’s simple. If everyone in the world was all about ‘want’ and ‘take’, we would consume everyone and everything in our paths. But people have value, and how we treat those around us creates the culture for the world we live in. Also, selfishness is not good for us. That goes for individuals, teams, companies, countries and the world.

What is good for us is generosity. Giving to other people, be that time, energy, love, money – whatever you have to offer, will benefit them but also you. Giving is good for you.

So, you are an extra in someone else’s movie. You are not the centre of the universe. It might sound depressing but the good news is that you can be the best extra in someone else’s movie today. Just by being kind, friendly and smiling at someone else, you can create an amazing scene which will impact how the rest of their story plays out.

Giving is better

Giving is better than receiving. It’s a cliché for a reason – it is so widely used because it is true. Which is amazing because I love receiving. How good is it to get a thoughtful gift? Receiving something new creates an amazing physiological response in our body, excitement, joy and happiness. It changes our mood.

Giving away a thoughtful gift also has an amazing physiological response in our body. It creates joy and a sense of fulfilment at the sight of someone we care about getting excited, feeling joy and being happy. The difference is that the feeling you get when you give something thoughtful to someone else, lasts longer than their feelings of excitement, joy and happiness at receiving the gift.

It’s feels counterintuitive but a new toy loses its shine super quick (be that an actual toy or a new iPhone), but the feeling of joy the giver has, lasts a lot longer. There is a great sense of fulfilment that comes when you realise that you are the type of person who is generous.

“I act generously” – is a great statement to say about yourself.

It’s sounds much better than “I love getting gifts from people”.

Giving is better than receiving.

Thank You

“Did you know that you have impacted 44,000 people since you first started giving nearly 20 years ago?”

You could see the tears well up in their eyes as the enormity of their true impact started to sink in. They were a humble couple, faithfully giving what they could to the work of Opportunity International Australia. Some years they would give large amounts, other years smaller amounts, but they were always thinking about being generous with what they had been given. You would walk by them in the street and have no idea that these people had changed the lives of so many.

Through their giving, they had provided small loans to thousands of families across Asia so that they could start a business, create an income, put food on the table, send their kids to school and pay the loan back. Through the process of repayment and recycling their impact grew and grew – like an investment in the improvement of our world, it will continue.

Today, my job was to share with them the true depth of the difference they have made and to say “Thank you”. I love my job.

You cannot be happy and stingy

Famous basketball coach, John Wooden, said when we give away three of the things we want most, ‘happiness, freedom, and peace of mind’, that’s when we actually receive them. Which is the great, mystical law of generosity – it is by giving generously to others that we receive an abundance. Often we get more than we give.

So, instead of being fearful of running out and experiencing a lack, which stifles generosity, we can be assured that there is enough to go around, with leftovers. Enough happiness. Enough freedom. Enough peace of mind. Enough money. Enough food.

At this point, you might (rightfully so) have some questions. If there is enough of these things, plus leftovers, why do we currently experience a lack of some, maybe all, of them in the world today?

This lack exists because people hold on too tightly to what they have. Because generosity is missing, which creates people who are unhappy, trapped and anxious. Wealthy, but anxious.

So be generous. Give away happiness, freedom, and peace of mind to others. It will serve them and you.

How do you give happiness, freedom, and peace of mind away? That’s the question that only you can answer. (But it probably starts with giving some money).

The Best and The Worst

It is commonly thought that an emergency situation brings out the best and the worst in people.

The worst seems to be obvious, when people take advantage or abuse someone who has lost everything. Examples of this include people looting homes after a fire or a flood has caused damage and evacuations. Or those who seek government assistance available to people who suffered loss, even though they didn’t suffer loss. They try to cheat the system, taking resources away from people who actually need it. Taking advantage of others fits into ‘the worst of people’.

So, on the other hand, the ‘best’ is when we see people coming together, being generous, supporting each other, taking care of those who have lost something or someone. Examples of this include when a community brings spare clothes, bedding and other necessities to help those who have lost everything, giving space in their homes, giving money to help, helping rebuild. We have seen this time and time again in Australia when fires or floods have torn people and places apart. It is one of the most inspirational things to see. It also happens far more than the ‘worst’ examples. Helping others fits into ‘the best of people’.

So, why wait for an emergency to take place to be the ‘best’. We can do this every day through our actions and words to those around us. We all know what the best is, let’s remember to do it.

The Only Donations that Count

We have spider webs in our garage. It’s starting to get to the point that I dodge around them to get to my car. Outside of that, they aren’t hurting anyone as that section of the garage is for the Christmas decorations which we won’t need for a couple of months.

Except for the fact that my feelings about spiders and their webs are very much in the negative sphere. Every time I see them, I think “This weekend, I am going to destroy those webs”, then I get into the car and drive off, or I walk into the house and completely forget that they exist until I enter the garage again and go through the exact same process. My inaction slowly makes things worse as the webs get bigger and more intense.

I have strong feelings about them, but nothing will change until I act on those feelings. Once I do that I know that I will feel better and it will create a better experience for everyone involved (except the spiders but I don’t care as much about them).

Donating to a charity can be like that. We can have the best intentions to give some money to make a difference in the world. We can have strong feelings about a situation and even share those feelings with other people, but until we act on those feelings and give some money away nothing will change. In fact, we probably make the world a little bit worse through our inaction as the problems slowly get bigger and more intense.

It can be challenging to find the ‘right’ organisation to give to. It can be overwhelming at the thought of sifting through many organisations to try and figure out what they all do. We all want to make wise decisions when donating money but as Oliver Burkeman put it, “The only donations that count are the ones you actually get around to making.”

Talking is nice, but giving is better.

Generosity Porn

“Who is filming that?”

It’s a question I often ask myself as I’m watching videos online. You know the ones, filmed so that you feel like a bystander watching as if this is normal life, and then something funny or embarrassing or heartfelt or outrageous happens. But I find myself thinking, why was someone filming at that exact moment? Did they just happen to be recording a video and accidentally catch something that turned out to be internet-worthy?

The number of times I have tried and failed to video my kids doing something funny/adorable in everyday life, tells me people must be either recording every moment of their life to accidentally catch something amazing…or, it is set up. Which, of course, most video content on the internet is.

You may be familiar with recent story about the women receiving flowers as a random act of kindness, which was filmed without her consent and became a viral TikTok video. Or the guy who was just trying to go to Coles for some food and became famous because someone sneakily paid for his groceries.

It’s been a trend for a while now, where a benevolent individual is generous to the unknowing and ‘sad’ public, so they can experience a glimpse of hope in their otherwise ‘depressing’ lives, all whilst being secretly filmed. The ‘joy’ that it brings is multiplied by the millions of views the video gets and we can all feel a little bit better about the good in the world, as the creator earns something from their kind act, be that money, followers, fame etc.

It begs the question, if an act of generosity isn’t filmed and posted, did it even happen?

But generosity is generosity, right? What does it matter that millions of people have consumed it?

Yeah, I’m not sure where I land on this. Is it okay or not?

Here’s why it could be okay:

  • It’s just a video of a young guy giving someone flowers, or a dude paying for someone’s food
  • It promotes generosity
  • Random acts of kindness are awesome
  • We should make generous people famous for what they do. Bad news travels fast, good news usually doesn’t – lets celebrate it when it does.

Here is why it is not okay:

  • Clearly, these videos are not about the recipient of the gift at all. Part of generosity is giving something that is helpful to the recipient, not an act that dehumanises them in the process as the video becomes viral distorts the real story of the individual
  • It reduces the recipient to a product that is consumed. That is not dignifying. Generosity builds people up, empowers them and provides dignity.
  • Like actual pornography, it’s a cheap knock off of the real thing, created only for the end viewer/customer at the cost of those involved.

In any act of generosity, the giver will always get something out of it, that is part of the beauty of it. But when it ends up that the giver gets more out of it than the person on the receiving end, be that likes, follows, views, attention, fame, or money, then it ceases to be a generous act and becomes manipulation for profit.

So, the safest way to be generous is to do in intentionally, thoughtfully and as often as you can, without uploading it to the internet.

Your Money Chooses

“Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express their meaningful choice over the direction in which our society will progress” – George K Kirstein

There is nothing I can do about it now. I voted. The election is over and now I sit back and wait to see where the leaders take the country, until the next election in three years when they ask my opinion again. I have this tiny moment in time to add my voice to the millions of others, and if most people agree then we might get somewhere. It’s hard to see what kind of impact I really have though. One vote in millions doesn’t seem to carry any weight at all, so why bother? I am sure that I’m not the only one who has thought that too because in my electorate alone, the informal votes ranked higher than a number of the candidates. That means that more people didn’t fill out their ballot paper correctly than those who voted for some candidates on purpose. The Australian Electoral Commissions suggests that 5% of all votes are informal and can’t be officially counted.

It’s easy to see how people can end up there. And it’s easy to see how people can disengage from community life thinking that they are unable to change anything, so why bother.

But that’s not true. The impact an individual can have on our world is huge, and we don’t have to wait for an election to be called to do it. Every day we have money within our control and what we do with it creates the society we live in. The organisations we give to shift our culture. When we give money to charities it shows politicians what people actually care about, not what they say they care about. Money moves our culture. Money moves our values. Money is a tool we can use to create the society we want. We get to choose what we do with it. So, give generously to organisations as a vote to create the world you want.

Nope.

There is a story, perhaps a myth, about the king of Siam (modern day Thailand) who would give a white elephant to those in his kingdom who displeased him. Not wanting to upset the king, everyone accepted this gift. Plus, it was such an honour to own such a rare animal and it signified that you had made it. It was the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day (look it up, super rare and expensive).

In doing so, it was the king’s hope that the cost of looking after the elephant would financially ruin the person and free the king of their presence. Pretty sneaky.

Then there is the time that the king of Siam offered two elephants to President Abraham Lincoln in the early 1860’s, because America had none, and obviously need some.

The catch was that Siam didn’t have the means to transport them there, so President Lincoln needed to send a ship full of hay and other food that the elephants could eat. Also, fresh water – tanks of it. Plus, special berths so that the elephants could stand up and lie down. Also, they wanted to do it a few times so it would be more than one trip. Once in America, they had to make sure the elephants kept warm and then they should just let them run around the country for a bit to multiply.

President Lincoln said no. Respectfully so. With wisdom. Essentially he said, “Nah, we don’t need ‘em. We have other machinery that we use.”

I don’t know what the political fall out from that was, but that’s probably the reason there are no elephants in North America. Also, it’s way too cold in America for elephants. They would have died pretty quickly. In saying no, it saved America a lot of time, money and hassle.

Sometimes it’s important to say no when someone tries to give you something.