Apr 182012

Generosity is a forgotten key to your own happiness.

A lot of my articles focus on happiness because I see that happiness, though sincerely sought, is often elusive to many. Too many people pursue happiness by seeking in the wrong places — most people do not find genuine happiness in money or the things money buys — but it is hard to see that fallacy when corporations spend billions to convince you that the newest BMW or a blue box from Tiffany’s is the ticket to happiness. Others seek happiness in the pursuit of power and influence, but it is exceedingly difficult to shoulder the responsibility that comes intertwined with growing power. As the truism goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. There are many other misguided pursuits and addictions but none reliably lead to true happiness.

An inconvenient truth is that you handicap your own pursuit of happiness if you focus on yourself. Focusing on oneself directly embraces the dark side of the force. Focus-on-self drives envy, suspicion, gossip designed to tear down perceived competitors, and greed. The bottom line is that focus-on-self invariably tears down the fabric of your own character. Over time, a person comes to realize that his or her character is no longer pure. When that happens, underlying unhappiness grows and festers even if a new Porsche sits in the driveway of your sparkling suburban palace.

We live complex lives in a complex society, but there is an antidote, a simple solution to become happier over time. It is to focus on helping others. The secret key to happiness is generosity. Genuine generosity, not convenient show-off-for-other-people — what’s in it for me — generosity, will make you happy, guaranteed.

Be generous with your time and attention. As I often observe, time is out most precious and scarce resource. In truth, money is much easier to give. When you give undivided attention and time to someone else, you have become genuinely generous. If you manage to inspire that person, to help that person in a meaningful way, without expectation of a favor returned, your generosity creates unexpected long-term results. You will find that if you do at least one selfless, generous act each week, your happiness will grow and gain momentum.

Consider these wise observations:

Many men have been capable of doing a wise thing, more a cunning thing, but very few a generous thing.
— Alexander Pope

Real generosity is doing something nice for someone who will never find out.
— Frank A. Clark

The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.
— Albert Einstein

When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.
— John Ruskin

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
— Buddha

You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
— Winston Churchill

Happiness exists on earth, and it is won through prudent exercise of reason, knowledge of the harmony of the universe, and constant practice of generosity.
— Jose Marti

Generosity leads to happiness and happiness leads to optimism. Optimism leads to success. Success allows you to be more generous, completing the perfect circle. Set a goal, look for your first opportunity to be generous, and jump at the chance.

Inspiring others is one of the easiest and best things to do. Lots of people doubt that they can accomplish something. Pessimists surround them, telling them they can’t or won’t succeed. Go out of your way to tell them that they can. Notice when a young person does something special. It takes a little time, a little attention, and can make a great difference in someone’s life. Do whatever is within your means to help, and be amazed at how the circle of success grows from your little seeds.

I.M. Optimism Man

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