Getting Better by Giving Back
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Sir Winston Churchill
Years later, we are discovering that Churchill was right, and giving to others creates more health and happiness than acquiring wealth or possessions. It is not only good for society to be a philanthropist (on a large or small scale) but it is also good for the donor.
Back in the 1930s, during the depths of a crushing economic depression, Dale Carnegie wrote a classic called How to Win Friends and Influence People. His philosophy can be summed up in a short sentence: “Be interested, not interesting.” (1)
When we focus primarily on ourselves, our relationships tend to be dominated by the effort to be interesting to others. “What do I think, what have I accomplished, how do I feel?” Focusing on yourself can be momentarily beneficial, when things are going your way, but these positive emotions are transient and can be replaced by sadness in seconds.
As Buddhism teaches, desire is the root of all suffering, and obsessive self-centeredness represents a classic case of this truth.
The teen years are a period of searching for one’s identity. Channeled properly, young people can have a healthy focus on self. “Who am I?” “What do I want out of life?” “Who can I become?”
However, transitioning to a successful adulthood requires a shift from “me to we.” This change may show up as having a family and raising children and/or it may manifest through volunteering for organizations with a mission that speaks to your own concerns about society. Meaningful work, whether it generates a salary or is a voluntary commitment, requires looking outside the self and relating to others. This is inherently healthy, regardless of one’s age.
At Red Mountain Sedona, we have found that the need to get rather than a willingness to give correlates strongly with a failure to launch. That is why we encourage our students to give back, either by supporting others in the program or working with local organizations that are making a difference in the world.
As a result, we are pleased to see that so many of our graduates are both interested and interesting!
(1) Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Pocket Books, a Division of Simon and Schuster, 1936, 1964, New York, NY 10020.