Posts Tagged ‘charity’

My friend and “optimism mentor” posed a question to me today: Is there such thing as a selfless act?

We had a great conversation on this topic that boiled down to this…

The concept of “selfless action” is essentially meaningless. Physics offers an instructive metaphor: The device used to measure some aspect of “reality” can not be separated from the reality it’s measuring.

In a similar way, the self cannot be separated from any action because the self is what intends and perceives the action. To put it another way, we always have a reason for the actions we take. Fulfilling that reason (even if the reason is to be charitable with no expectation of reciprocity) is our “reward” for the action.

If I donate $100 to a cause I believe in, I will certainly receive one or more of the following: feelings of joy, satisfaction, integrity, charity, or even self-actualization.

It seems that the only way “selfless action” makes any sense is if we’re unaware of the action. For example, I unknowingly drop $100 on the ground and someone picks it up. That is selfless!

All of this leads to the conclusion that giving is receiving, and receiving is giving. It’s like playing tennis — you need both sides or you don’t have a game.


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Today I was reflecting on the fact that for over a year an a half, I’ve been successfully making a living from my own business. I pay my bills, I save, I invest, I donate to charity, I have play money, I travel, etc.

I focus so much on growth, I forget what an accomplishment this is. And it’s easy for me to get myopic and think that things are not going well if my business isn’t growing.

I am seeing a real opportunity to control my focus and create a more positive experience of life. In the next few days and weeks, I intend to add two new rituals to my life:

  1. I will reaffirm an acknowledgment practice I started a few years ago and stopped. Specifically, I will document my success, big and small.
  2. I will being a list of “Evidence of Joy” in my life. On this list I will capture as many moments of joy as I am conscious of experiencing.

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Source of inspiration: Recent coaching session with a client

I was coaching a client recently and we were talking about his/her feelings around money. As a result, I started to explore my own feelings around money, and learned something important.

When I receive money in my business, the primary feeling I notice is relief. I think it’s because one of main things money represents to me is security. So when I make money, there is an “Ah, more security” feeling.

When I receive money as a gift (a friend treats me to dinner, for example), what I notice is a discomfort at accepting “charity.” I don’t experience it as a gift between equals.  Which is odd because when I’m the one giving the gift, I do experience that as a gift between equals. (I think it’s because I’ve created an identity for myself that doesn’t allow for receiving gifts. At birthdays and holidays, I’ve a difficult person to buy gifts for. But I’m great at giving gifts. I’ll explore this identity question more in a future post.)

What’s missing (if not entirely, then substantially) in both cases is joy. That’s the important insight for me today. There has been little or no joy for me in money.

So today I’ve been looking for ways to experience joy in all of my interactions with money. It’s surprisingly easy once I focus on it. Almost as easy as just deciding to do it. This will be an ongoing practice as I learn to amplify the joy and experience it more spontaneously.

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