Five Rules of Giving

 

I don’t always get it right. That was pretty obvious yesterday when I opened a “thank you” email. Although happy to be the recipient of some gratitude, I felt a twinge of shame. You see, in the spirit of giving, I extended a stranger a profession courtesy, no charge, no strings attached, just to be helpful and practice kindness. I like doing that. Later I grumbled in my head for at least 48 hours about the silence. Where was a gracious show of appreciation? I wanted something in return. Nothing much, just a thank you.

My “Aha” Moment

After receiving the email I realized the need to make some changes.  Obviously, due to my desire for gratitude, my act of kindness had a string attached.  A true and sincere giver expects nothing in return. Not only did I want a “thanks a lot,” I wanted it in my defined time frame. Like NOW! When I didn’t get it, I indulged in negative thoughts about allowing others to take advantage of me.

As this wasn’t the first time I found my  face red over fake selfless acts, I decided to teach myself a lesson and immediately  and began plotting to overcome my desire for give and take.

The result of my self-assigned homework, is my “List of Five.” Yep…five life rules I’m putting into action.

 

Rule Number One

If you’ve ever been to a second grader’s softball game, you may have noticed no one keeps score. Based on that philosophy, number one on my list of corrective action items is, “Throw away the scoreboard.”  That’s right. No more quid pro quo. No longer will I use a mental clipboard to keep score.

Passing On a Good Deed

Coupling my new rule with a familiar phrase and philosophy I penned, “Pay it forward,” as number two on my list. We’ve all been the recipient of kind acts. Passing on a random act of kindness makes our world a little brighter. My new mantra was kindness, whenever possible. As I considering it for a moment, I underlined it…TWICE!

One Way Giving

Often my expectations run high. Had I given freely, with no agenda, the thank you email would have been a sweet surprise making number three on my list, “Set no expectations.” 

Abundant Kindness

Reviewing my list, I smiled. Then another thought occurred to me. There is no such thing as too much kindness. Quickly I penned my number four, “Give, give and give some more.” 

 

Be My Best Self

Five seemed like the right number so the last thing I wrote is directed at being my best self. Any success I’ve experienced in my career was because I took my job seriously. Got it! My fifth and final rule is, “It is my job to be kind.”

This week I’m determined to put my big five into practice. Thanks for reading this post. I’d love to hear about your top five.

Majoring in Happiness

It happened again last week. While volunteering at a conference, I met Coach Valerie Alexander selling her book, “Happiness …as a Second Language.” One glance at the cover and I was hooked. As I rummaged through my purse for cash, Valerie presented me with a bright lemon-yellow motivational wristband declaring, “Speak Happiness.”  I offered up my most gracious smile. In my book an inspirational band beats a gold bangle.

Full disclosure: I am a junkie, to be specific, a happiness junkie. Whenever I find myself near a book about happiness, I must take it home and add it to my library. Sure, I knowingly practice joy and bliss. On most days, that comes naturally.  But I delight in the study of happiness and aspire to one day earn an honorary degree in the subject.

As a life and career coach, it is sometimes my responsibility to guide clients back on the path to their happy zone.

beautiful girl holds two face masks with happy and angry emotion

Let’s face it, life happens and when discord enters our lives like an unwanted guest, feelings of contentment vanish. Gloomy days turn into dark nights. Unless we make a concerted effort to get back to the light, depression sets in. Mood disorders gone unchecked can influence chronic health conditions. Consequently, happiness is strongly linked to good health thus the popular cliché, “laughter is the best medicine.”

In her book, Alexander writes about achieving permanent happiness. I’m not certain we can always achieve an everlasting buoyant frame of mind, but I do believe a solid understanding of happiness techniques help negate our blue moods.

So when stuck in reverse, what are some activities that pull us out of the doldrums? My first “go to” is to focus on finding one positive in a negative situation. Stay with it until you can find one.

Positive thinking

Next, shift to something that needs your attention. Glimmers of happiness return we when take our minds off our troubles by getting productive. As so aptly professed by the Dalai Lama, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

The Dalai quote brings me to another strategy to blow away the blues. In a word, kindness. Did you know practicing daily acts of kindness generates a physical reaction?

kindness word inside love cloud blue sky only

Your brain produces serotonin bringing a content, almost blissful feeling. A friend of mine refers to it as a “kindness kick.

When time permits, get on the move. Thrust those endorphins into gear by a solid workout. Or, immerse yourself in nature. Head out the door with a notepad or camera. Jot down or photograph any sign of surrounding beauty.

sunset

Want an activity more energizing? Turn up the music and rock out with your favorite playlist.

This week invest some time into understanding how to create and cultivate a positive mindset. Get serious about the study of happiness. The happiest people on the planet are probably individuals who did homework on the subject.

Daily Kindness…No Strings Attached

Give Concept Clipped Cards and Lights

The Thanksgiving leftovers have long since vanished from the fridge; except for one cookie so beautiful I cannot bring myself to even remove the wrapper. A local pastry chef worked her magic creating that sweet work of art.

In addition to the cookie, I have another remnant from the past holiday. This one I created, it is intangible and something I will continue to possess.

Cookie

You see, this year I decided to put a spin on my usual Thanksgiving outreach. Rather than expressing my thanks to friends and family via Facebook posts, emails and colorful Hallmark cards, I spent Thanksgiving and each day since then executing actions that might elicit thankfulness.

Don’t get me wrong, gratitude was not the objective, actually quite the opposite. My premise was to focus my energy into random acts of kindness, no strings attached, no thanks required or needed. Okay, here’s the catch. Thinking up nice things to do for others is the easy part, executing is the fun part, but truly not caring if the deed ever gets even a small nod of thanks, is the hard part. At least it is for me.

For example, I am a very considerate driver. I happily wave people into my lane. I hold the door for others, in the grocery store I reach objects from the top shelf for strangers, let them cash out in front of me when they have just a few items, I volunteer at events and engage in community outreach. I do whatever I can to accommodate those around me, but I must confess I crave just a little payback. I silently fume a bit when a simple thank you is withheld.

My attitude changed earlier this month when I read this line from a prayer: “Blessed are those who give without expecting anything in return.” Okay, got the message. I needed to change my expectation. When I pondered this quote from Timber Hawkeye it really put me to shame: “Give without expecting anything in return. That is unconditional kindness…everything else is ego.” Oh, I am so busted. Wanting something in return was a way to feed my ego.

I’ll keep challenging myself daily to want nothing in return. Motivation to give should be pure and free of expectation. The good news is, I’ve been getting it right lately and realize there is an inherent payback.

Pear representing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The act of giving provides me with an enhanced sense of peace, love and joy. Thankfully, that is more than enough.