As a society and as individuals, I believe that we are grappling with an epidemic of emptiness and lack. We may try to fill this void with relationships, sex, food, drugs, work,or any number of other ephemeral substitutes for those things that truly fill us up.
I will write about what these lasting things are in a subsequent post, but for this post, I want to write about one of the things that results from our feeling repleted and whole...
Generosity is one result of feeling full. Selfishness is one result of feeling empty.
I often hear entrepreneurs and individuals who are trying to take risks and follow their passion wonder, "How can I be generous and bighearted and still pay the bills?"
One answer: generosity.
Generosity is choosing to give. It is not simply saying "yes" when people ask for something. "Yes" is insufficient.
Do you find yourself saying "yes" to things but are unsure or conflicted about whether you truly mean it? You might be expressing agreement in your words, but not actually making the choice in your heart and in your body.
So why do people say "yes" without actually making the choice? In my experience, it's frequently stems from the fear of what might happen if I were to say "no" instead. Imagined loss of relationships, money, influence, success. And oftentimes it's a lack of presence. I say "yes" without making the choice because I don't stop to check with my inner Self to ensure it agrees (or even realizes what's happening). These situations arise from a place of mindlessness as opposed to mindfulness.
The next time you say "yes" notice whether it leaves you feeling empty, or panicked about "not enough." These instances of "generosity" may actually lead to selfishness (and/or broken relationships, business models, etc.).
Try to replace your automatic yeses with the discipline of proactively giving what you want to give, when you want to give it, and to whom you want to give it. Make your generosity a choice that comes from within you, rather than a reaction to the desires of others or your Ego's insecurities. The way in which you give becomes your duty, your dharma, your karma, and your destiny. Not your obligation.
Choosing to interact with the world in this way means that you will still give sometimes because someone asks, but you are truly choosing to give, as opposed to simply saying "yes." This interaction is much more likely to come from a place of fullness. You are far more apt to deliver on your "yes" without resentment and feel even more full afterwards. In this way, generosity may become a virtuous cycle.
- Think of a time when you said “yes” to something when you actually meant “no.” Were you aware that you were doing this at the time you said “yes”? Why did you choose to say “yes” - what was driving the “yes”?
- Think of a time when you said “no” to something when you actually meant “yes.” Were you aware that you were doing this at the time you said “no”? Why did you choose to say “no” - what was driving the “no”?
- Bring to mind someone you consider to be very generous. How would you characterize him or her?