How many time do you hear this story: a successful, single person reluctantly does some good cause because “everybody in my golf club who went to help those poor refugees came back feeling so much better about themselves and said, ‘You should check it out.’”
So instead of packing his skis to meet his buddies at Jackson Hole to go skiing, he hops on a plane to some war torn part of the world and rolls up his sleeves to help refugees.
To his surprise, he discovers that this “act of giving” actually made him happy.
It was a fulfilling experience.
“If you have only two pennies, spend the first on bread and the other on hyacinths for your soul.” – Tweet that!
Then there is the story of an older woman who is on a tight budget and has several health problems.
She lives close to her daughter and is very involved on her community board and sings every Sunday in her church.
With her husband, she volunteers for collect donations for disaster relief causes.
WHO IS HAPPIER?
The older woman has some advantages working in her favor.
She has less stress in her life and is loved and respected by those around her – all things that make us feel good about ourselves.
Happiness is the other side of the coin of service such as volunteering and being part of a team.
Another strong link to happiness is a loving family, as is inclusion in social groups.
Studies have found that focusing on wealth, material gain and careers are less likely to lead to happiness than focusing on doing good, helping others, spirituality or religion, family and friends.
While some of us might go with the successful, single guy, the older woman is probably happier.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give – Tweet that!
— Winston Churchill
THE POWER OF GIVING
Studies by neuroscientists show that when research subjects are asked to think about giving or helping, the parts of the brain where selfish, primal pleasures like sex, touch, comfort, connection, safety and love are housed light up like a Christmas tree.
One thing that can contribute to your happiness is to be among other people working on cause that is bigger than yourself.
Giving makes us happy.
“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people,” says Brian Mullaney, who founded Smile Train.
Giving to this organization not only helps thousands of children born with cleft lips and cleft palates, it makes him and everyone who gives, smile, too.
Giving to the arts is often considered frivolous but it is no different than giving to support clean water or cancer research.
At their core, the intent of all philanthropic causes is to make the world a better place.
To make it possible to create something that inspires the soul can bring people together around a goal that elevates our common humanity as well as our individual life experience.
To give to the arts is to get closer to your inner artist.
It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us – Tweet that!
— Jackie Mutcheson
This actually makes giving one of the most selfish things you can do.
THE POWER OF ASKING
The other side of the coin of giving is asking.
Amanda Palmer, the rock musician, crowdfunding star, and popular TED speaker knows all about the art of the ask.
She has asked thousands of people in the street for money performing as a living statue in a wedding dress.
On tour as a musician, she relied on her fans to give her places to stay and to sleep.
When she struck out on her own leaving her record label, she asked her fans to support her new album on Kickstarter which became one of their most successful campaigns.
As an artist, she has reinvented the new rules of give and take and created unprecedented ways for people to give her money, support and love.
Her actions will inspire you to rethink your own ideas about giving, asking and art.
Remember this as opportunities to give come your way.
Not only will people who need your help benefit, you will too.
While giving to charities may have a flawed record in making the world a better place, it has a perfect score in making us feel better about ourselves as a supporter, a volunteer or as an artist.
The art of giving is the secret to happiness.
It is as basic a human pleasure as food or sex.
About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.