I probably give as much as the next privileged person. I give time and money to charity. Sometimes I provide psychotherapy for free or on the cheap. I am always giving away coaching for free or greatly reduced rates in order to get my certification. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!!!
Do we do things to help others selflessly, or only out of self-interest? This latter giving away of coaching has, of course, nothing to do with altruism. It’s totally self-serving. I realized that when I came up with acts of gratitude in my last blog, there’s a fine line between altruistic acts and acts of gratitude. I tipped the woman at Subway a lot because she was all alone behind the counter, had a ton of people and was doing a great job. It was given in thanks, but somewhat altruistically, since she didn’t know. If you tip someone you’ll never see again is it gratitude or altruism? After all, you won’t get anything back. For that matter, when we thank people, aren’t we expecting something back at some point? Like money in the bank, interest will accrue and come back to us. Everything we give returns 10 fold?
Why does any of this matter?
Actually, research shows that people who are happier are more altruistic. I suspect that when you give with the anticipation of receiving something back, the happiness benefit is not as great. It makes sense, since giving with the anticipation of receiving is one of those expectations that can result in disappointment, or maybe even anticipation of disappointment. How many times have you heard…but I do everything for that kid (man, woman, parent, etc.) and I ask her to do one thing for me and she can’t be bothered…
And how crummy is it when we perceive that the lover, or friend or parent has only done things for us with the expectation that they’d get something back? If you’re expecting your offspring to care for you in your old age in return for all your care, I’m not gonna lie, I think you’re setting yourself up for a fall.
So giving from the heart is the key to feeling good about what you’ve done. There’s no disappointment. It doesn’t matter what happens next. You’ve done your good deed and can have that warm, fuzzy feeling.
It’s sappy but true. For a slightly more revved up version: Give a Little Bit – The Goo Goo Dolls