Are We Generous, Really?

November 2016

Generous. We all think we are, but few of us actually are. Everyone can be, and if everyone was it would change everything.

Most of us are good at random acts of giving. We can be easily persuaded, inspired, or even guilted into doing something to meet a particular need in the moment. Often there is some sort of sales pitch involved and we think, Wow, maybe I should give to that.

But what if the act of giving and a lifestyle of generosity are two very different things?

You see, actually being generous—cultivating a lifestyle of generosity—requires a plan. It transcends inspiration and guilt. It requires us to decide ahead of time how much we will give and to what we will give. In other words, generosity can be defined as “the premeditated, calculated, designated emancipation of personal financial assets.”

These elements of giving are essential no matter how much money you make or how much you have—and implementing them is not as tough as you might think.

So how do you come up with a plan? In practical terms, how do you move from random acts of giving to a lifestyle characterized by generosity? In a world with so many unmet needs, where do you start?

These two simple gauges will help you decide where and how much to give: You give out of gratitude and you give from a broken heart.

Think about it. To whom or what are you grateful? What needs or problems break your heart? It may be something that’s focused on a specific country, a specific neighborhood, or a specific cause. It may be an effort that’s impacted your life personally or the life of someone you love. What would it look like for you to say “yes” to those organizations or individuals making a tangible difference in the causes you care about most?

When you decide ahead of time, “I’m going to fund the things that I’m grateful for” or “I’m going to fund that organization that addresses an issue that breaks my heart,” you’ll find that you’ll be more fulfilled, make better decisions, and face fewer financial regrets along the way. You’ll become a priority percentage giver rather than a spontaneous, sporadic one.

So what are you grateful for? What breaks your heart?

Living only as a consumer always leads to discontentment. Living a generous life—one ordered around giving rather than receiving—will lead to happiness.

It’s your move.