People always encourage you to be nice and generous and kind and thoughtful because it’s “the right thing to do.” Lately, however, I’ve started to wonder about that logic. I’ve also been told that eating my vegetables is the “right thing to do,” but I’m still incapable of convincing myself that lima beans will give my body what it needs better than a giant carrot cake will. There are carrots in those cakes, you know – isn’t that healthy?
The point is, all of us are selfish and self-interested creatures. We do the things we do mostly because it gets us something that we want. That can make it difficult to convince people to give of their time, energy, and money.
So stop talking about “the right thing to do.” Here, instead, are four perfectly selfish reasons that all of us should be generous.
It Will Take Your Mind Off Your Own Problems
You know who never seems to get into arguments? People fleeing from an erupting volcano. And you know why? Because they’re too busy focusing on something more important – namely, the pressing need to avoid being hit by melting rocks. The point is, having something else to focus on is a great way to get out of our own heads for a while, which is why various studies have shown that people who give $20 to a stranger are generally happier about it than people who spent that $20 on themselves. So can generosity help you stop feeling like nothing ever goes your way? Apparently so.
It Makes Retirement Waaaaay Less Tedious
Did you know the average retired person watches approximately 48 hours of television every week? That’s almost seven hours a day, six of which are almost certainly being spent flipping from channel to channel in a desperate effort to find something worth watching. What if – crazy thought here – you spent those seven hours doing something in your community instead? It doesn’t even matter what you choose to do, since literally anything would be preferable to watching seven hours of daytime talk shows every day.
You’ll Impress Others
Seriously, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Man, that guy just spent a few hours working at a soup kitchen. What a jerk.” Now I know we’re not supposed to care about what others think of us, but every single one of us does care. And since we do, you may as well live in a world where everyone thinks you’re awesome. Oh, and did I mention that people who make a habit of donating something (time, money, etc.) are routinely considered more attractive than those who don’t? Pay attention, single people.
You’ll End Up Getting Something You Want
The world probably doesn’t operate exactly the way you think it should. But if you donate or volunteer something, you’re actually putting yourself in a position to create the kind of world you’d like to live in. Yes, it’s annoying that the world isn’t already perfect, but I think you should focus instead on the sense of power and accomplishment you’ll receive from watching things develop according to your own vision.
Is this a weird way to look at generosity? Yes, but as I’m a weird person, I’m OK with that. Doing something for others doesn’t always have to be about them. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to be generous as a means to your own ends. Trust me – the people you’re helping aren’t going to care why you’re doing it. They’ll simply be glad for the help.