Recently, a phenomenon called Acts of Giving has been popping up all over the media. It’s even more noticeable over the festive season when we are urged to give more to others. However, being kind and giving to others has a direct impact on our own happiness levels and not just for the person we are giving to. In fact, if done well, the giver has many benefits that can last a couple of days. It’s a virtuous circle where giving to others raises our happiness level and happier people help others more. Evidence shows that givers are more satisfied with life, feel more competent, have a greater sense of meaning and usually a more positive mood.
What does it mean to give to others?
It means giving without expecting anything in return. It’s an act that requires thought and attention and we give because we care. The Act of Giving does not need to be money-based, but can be something as simple as being kind to someone, letting someone in front of the queue if they’re in a rush, listening to them, cutting colleagues slack when they are going through a hard time, giving a compliment, visiting a lonely or sick person, or carrying someone’s bag. You’re getting the gist.
You may be wondering… if Acts of Giving provide such mega-benefits to the giver, then can that not be regarded as being selfish or even altruistic? Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton Business School, identified two types of giving; selfless-givers and other-ish givers. The selfless-giver has a high interest in other people’s well-being and little interest in deriving their own benefit. The other-ish giver scores high on both counts; the other person and themselves. They have found a healthy balance of accepting kindness and giving it to others.
That being said, not all giving raises our happiness. If it is expected and not done out of our own free will or we feel socially obliged, then it is apparent that we give reluctantly and even with a degree of resentment. This will definitely not raise our happiness, but rather deplete it.
Three factors must be present for you to get an ultra-happiness boost:
- Connect – the act must increase your connection with the person; it must also be an act that you personally value
- Control – it must be done voluntarily and out of your own free will
- Impact – the act of giving should make an impactful and meaningful difference to the other person
You might be thinking that this giving stuff is all well and good, but you just don’t have the time. The Act of Giving can be a super-quick five-minute activity and doesn’t have to be long-winded.
Try these five-minute Acts of Giving
- Return someone’s call
- Connect them to someone who can assist them
- Make a person smile
- Pay for a stranger’s coffee or parking ticket
- Assist a person who is lost
- Offer change to someone who is struggling to find the right amount
- Let another car in if they find themselves in the wrong lane
- Push an elderly person’s grocery trolley
- Say thank you when being served
- Stop what you are doing and listen attentively to someone
Giving to others increases our psychological and physical well-being. It makes us happier and allows us to ask for help when we need it. Pay it forward!
Aknin, L., Dunn, E., & Norton, M. (2011). Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for positive feedback loop between pro-social spending and happiness Studies. 13(2), 347-355.
King, V. (2016). 10 Keys to Happier Living. London: Headline Publishing Group.
The first four months of 2017 have galloped passed us, and we are fast approaching the second half of the year. At the start of the year, we set out with good intentions and goals we wanted to achieve by the end of the year. Well, this is your personal quarterly review!
Sit back and reflect on the areas where you’ve made progress as well as the ones you haven’t. Maybe some goals were nice-to-haves, but didn’t mean enough to us to get going with them? Let’s drop those or tweak them a bit. There are other goals that you may have fully accomplished; give yourself a high-five for them. Some goals may still be in the making. Use the reflection to determine what is going well and how you can maintain it. Let go of any judgement that doesn’t add any value besides making you feel guilty. You still have time to realign or get into action.
As much as we might be focusing our goals to improve or avoid some habits that we have adopted which no longer serve us, we should also focus on goals that grow and develop us as human beings. These are goals that add to our overall level of happiness and well-being. Here are nine questions to ponder on.
- What do you want to accomplish in 2017 that will make the year different?
- What professional skill do you want to hone in on?
- Whose support do you need to keep you going?
- What is capping your energy?
- How can you think about these energy-zappers differently?
- Which relationship do you want to improve and strengthen?
- What makes you happy and how can you add more joy to your life?
- How can you simplify your life?
- How can you express kindness and gratitude in your life?
We get so absorbed in our daily lives that we put off these questions and areas of well-being. We’ll do them on a day when life is quieter, calmer and when we feel rested. That day is unlikely to come! You need to make a choice about whether you want to slow life down a bit, or to think about the questions and then to concentrate on areas that matter to you.
It is entirely in your control to adjust and make changes in your life. Raise your moments of joy, connect with others and be grateful for all your progress, regardless how big or small.
Enjoy the second quarter of the year!
I am an avid reader and a firm believer in the power of personal development. Reading expands my mind by creating new thoughts, perspectives and ideas. I always give my clients a gentle nudge to read a certain book or article that may help them with their situation. It obviously will come as no surprise to you that I always have a book with me throughout the day.
As 2016 ended, I reflected on the books that had the deepest impact on my thinking and world view. The five books that I came up with vary in genre from personal development to leadership and organisational change. Perhaps there is something in my top five book list that will inspire you?
Deep Change by Robert Quinn
This book will appeal to you if are ready to engage in a real transformation change on a soul level. Change in this context is not the quick-fix linear process, but change that requires time, courage, curiosity, motivation and persistence. Quinn’s reflective questions at the end of each chapter will awaken your mind so much so that you’ll think about them for days after you’ve read them to discover an answer. The book begins with personal change and then transposes that into leadership and organisational change. After reading it you will no longer be averse to change, but will welcome it and even actively encourage it as you grow and develop the most during this period of personal reinvention. It’s not a quick read as you are going to need time to chew the cud.
Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
The book explains the functioning of your brain in layman’s terms. It goes into things like what optimises the brain and what limits it. Leaf combines neuroscientific research with scriptures from the Bible. The best part of the book is that it will remind you that as human beings we have the potential to maximise our brain capacity and function at our optimum so that we can lead a healthier life with improved quality thinking, faster decision-making and more happiness. We are our mind and not our brain and seldom do we view our lives along those lines. Our thoughts, emotions, actions and decisions originate with the way we consciously store, reflect and process our thinking. At the end, Leaf gives a 21-day brain detox plan which is practical and simple to apply, and won’t take more than 15 minutes a day.
The Awakened Company by Catherine Bell
A book that tips the traditional business model on its head and calls for organisations to raise the bar in terms of community well-being. It urges companies to wake up from their deep sleep where they focus too much on profitability for the shareholders as opposed to honouring the employees as the most important part of the company. The concept of this book is “People over profits”, and without the people a company will remain an empty shell. The emphasis is on bringing the three concepts of energising, sustaining and regenerating into balance which can be translated into combining intellectual with emotional and intuitive intelligence. This book is revolutionary in its corporate thinking and an inspirational read for leaders who have the desire to lead virtuous, positive organisations.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
The most practical and challenging book to read about becoming more productive and attaining your goals through applying a systematic discipline of discernment. The sub-title “The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” summarises it perfectly – learning to focus on getting the right things done. This raises the question: what is that the right thing? The book opens the perspective of what is essential and what isn’t in our lives. We are often on autopilot which wastes energy and resources in the trivial abyss. It busts the myth that multitasking and overworking are much valued, sought-after competencies that make you super productive, efficient and effective. This book is certainly not complete after one read as the practical tools require practice and discipline. Essentialism becomes a companion in which you will continuously re-read, re-think and re-apply concepts repeatedly.
The Positive Organization by Robert Quinn
An inspirational organisational book worth a read for leaders who believe in the equal power of possibilities versus constraints. It’s about understanding that an organisation is a living organism of social networks, culture, purpose and movement, operating in a structured profit and production framework. Quinn speaks about being a fluent bilingual leader who can see, feel and manage potential and opportunities equally to limitation and constraints. He says that this is a much needed 21st century leadership skill. Through the mind-set of failing, the leader can acquire more complex thinking abilities while being sensitive to the people and the culture. The book is filled with powerful examples, case studies and self-reflective questions.
Every day we receive encouraging quotes via social media that promote positive thinking, perseverance, and ways to look at life from the bright side. Do you ever wonder where this trend started? Have you ever considered whether it adds any value? Like most trends, it’s an unconscious process that becomes contagious, and more and more people get involved until everyone becomes consciously aware of the trend.
We all read those quotes and uplifting posts and we nod our heads in agreement. If we really feel inspired we Like or even Share the post, but it’s less likely that we will reflect or act on it. If we look at those messages that promote happiness at work, in our life, or with our friends we might regard them as superficial or a trite clichéd. We may even question whether we actually deserve to be happy or even if we really want to be. Does it not feel false to be happy when there is so much misery in the world?
There are many definitions of happiness
Firstly, there are many definitions of happiness. We have first-hand experience of what fleeting happiness is, which I call the small h, which is where happiness is about experiencing loads of positive emotions in order to feel pleasure. The emphasis in on instant gratification.
However, if we define happiness at its second level, we are concerned with growth and change. We develop our skills and strengths for the service of the greater good. I refer to this as the BIG H, as most languages use one word that has different meanings we need to find ways to associate what we mean. So, for us it’s the small h and the BIG H. The BIG H comprises of six factors, which are self-acceptance, positive relationships, autonomy, environment mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth.
As you can see the BIG H refers to a totally different type of life quality. Here we can enjoy the aspects of “being”, “belonging” and “becoming” engaged and involved with our life.
The second reason we are uncomfortable with being happy is that it feels unnatural to continuously experience positive emotions. Yes, emotions are a core cornerstone of happiness (small or BIG H), however emotions are part of every human being’s existence. Sure we can suppress our emotions or even be emotionally illiterate, but that is learnt behaviour. Emotions are the fuel that enable us to experience life by attaching meaning to events, situations and people. Emotions are what make us function and if well-managed, we can thrive.
Emotions have three essential roles:
Act as messengers
Our emotions communicate what we like, want, need, and value. They give us an indication as to whether a situation is good or bad, and if we are moving closer or further away from our goals. Positive emotions let us know if we are on track and feel secure. Negative emotions communicate the opposite. Also, we receive an incredible amount of information on a daily basis, which is too great for us to process or hold in our conscious awareness. We must rely on our emotions to analyse and filter the information into what is necessary for us.
Act as motivators
Emotions provide us with the energy to think, act and behave, and get us moving. Both positive and negative emotions serve us well, and we need to learn to listen, hear and accept them. Positive emotions broaden our thinking, and open up our awareness so that we can see opportunities. Negative emotions protect us from threats, and make us alert, observant, and vigilant.
Act as facilitators
Emotions are resource enablers. They allow us to use our social, physical, and psychological resources to achieve our goals. This means that we use our connections and physical bodies to do, and our minds to think.
Now, that you understand happiness and one of its core cornerstones, you may think about happiness differently. The BIG H is not fluffy or fuzzy at all. Happiness is a conscious choice! You deserve to be happy.
If you want to develop and grow your BIG H, check out our Online Program “Craft You Happiness” on www.4seeds.co.za.
A good friend asked me what the difference is between joy and happiness. I pondered on the question and decided to answer it in the form of a blog. I guess the word “happiness” is often used out of context. It is such an easy simple interchangeable word that we might be using it when in fact we mean something else. We often do that in our communication and it might be that we lack other words that actually express what we want to say. Happiness is one of these words.
Let us begin to explore what happiness is. Happiness is a state of well-being. Ed Diener defines happiness as a combination of experiencing overall life satisfaction in conjunction to feeling more positive vs negative emotions. Seligman (the father of positive psychology) notes that happiness is the sum of leading a pleasant, engaged and meaningful life. A life that is free from suffering and is rich with experiencing wellness, joy and prosperity. One can notice that happiness or as the scientists refer to it as subjective well-being is much more than the fleeting smile or carefree moment. Subjective well-being comprises of six pillars which collectively lead to flourishing and achieving one’s optimal.
The six pillars are:
- Autonomy (self-confidence)
- Environmental mastery
- Personal Growth
- Positive Relationships
- Purpose of life
In summary happiness is the psychological, social, emotional and physical dimension of healthy behaviours, actions and thoughts.
Joy is a positive emotion that we feel when our external world and ourself are in alignment. It is our joyous response of delight to a situation. Emotions always require a trigger point to be activated and they are short lived. The word joy has its roots in the Greek Language (chara) means being exceptionally glad about something or someone. According to researcher Barbara Fredrickson, joy is ranked as the positive emotion which we feel when things in our life are doing better than expected. We naturally become playful, creative, light and vibrant.
The emotional ranking mentioned earlier requires some further explanation. Ten positive emotions were identified as being important for our subjective well-being. These emotions have been ranked based on the frequency that we experience them.
The ten emotions in order of importance are:
Love is the highest ranked positive emotion because it automatically encapsulates the other nine emotions. Joy is not far behind love. Joy is an emotion we naturally feel when our life is in a happy state.
Raise your overarching well-being by bringing all six pillars into simultaneous balance and you will instantaneously feel more joy in your life.
The end of a year is a time of reflection and magical mystery. December is the month many of us take stock of our past year. We decide on what was great and what wasn’t so nice (no desire to repeat). We categorise and compartmentalise our experiences and then we use our values and beliefs to score our year. What mark did you give 2015?
We look at what we want to let go of and what we want to replace it with. This is where the magical mystery aspect comes into play because we begin to dream of a healthy, happy, abundant year ahead. We dream of more of this and less of that and we sky-gaze and dream on. When we wake up from our day dream what happens next? Are those dreams going to remain just fantasies and wishful thinking or are we going to take control and make them happen? We all have unfulfilled dreams, like our own personal bucket list, but we seldom take the time to sit down and review our dreams and then move into the crucial step of planning how to get there. The key to success is moving from dreaming to action!
Let’s begin by getting all your dreams out of your mind and heart and onto paper. You have permission to dream as big and wild as you possibly can. Go for as long as you can and don’t limit yourself to a set number of say 10 things (that will hinder your dreaming and will lead to rational thinking). We’ll get to that soon, but for now just dream.
1. What would you like to do in 2016? Think of your career, hobbies, sports, education etc.
2. Who would you like to be or become?
3. What would you like to be involved with?
4. What places do you want to see?
5. What would you like to have? This is not about what you need but what you want to have.
I’m hoping that you’ve written down an abundance of dreams. If you feel you have not dreamt it all out; continue. When I did this exercise it took me three days to keep adding to my dream-list.
If you look at your list, you’ll have to admit that there is no way that you will be able to manage them all in a year; some dreams are going to take longer than others to accomplish and you need to get the right timeline mix. But before you do that I want you to review your dream-list and categorise it into three sections.
1. Nice to have, but not worth the effort
2. Not sure
3. Non-negotiable dream
All dreams you labelled “non-negotiable” are your Core dreams and we’ll focus on only those for 2016.
Now let’s move into the time frame portion. Take your Core dreams and rank them into short, medium or long-term goals. There should be a healthy mix of all three timelines.
Finally, move onto your last planning step. Next to each Core dream jot down two actions you need to do to breathe life into the dream. Write it all out and hang your 2016 dream list somewhere that is visible to you.
Well done, you have completed your 2016 roadmap!
Should you require assistance in setting your 2016 goals feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and will gladly support you in achieving your dreams.