Character Creates Opportunity® – The Discipline to Give: Thursday, June 26, 2014

“It is better to give than to receive.”  We have all heard that old saying.  Over the years, there has been a tremendous amount of academic research and real-life testimonies that have demonstrated the positive benefits of a focus on giving rather than receiving.  We reduce the rates of depression and anger while increasing productivity and impact.

Most recently, another research report confirmed the positive outcomes associated with an effort to give rather than receive.  Researchers at the University of Illinois recently released their results of a study demonstrating that 15-16 year-old students who invest time and effort into pro-social activities such as helping family members or serving a charity are less likely to suffer any level of depression than those who focus more of their time and effort on themselves.  The university researchers detailed their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Many times we think about the joy of giving in terms of gifts to others and how wonderful it is to see the appreciative look on someone’s face.  The giving of gifts is a wonderful gesture.  However, the benefits have a relatively short time horizon and limited impact on maintaining a positive spirit. In contrast, the focused effort of giving ourselves to a relationship or a cause greater than our own, presents a real opportunity to sustain the lifting of our spirits and creates a strong defense against the grips of depression and anger in the journey of our lives.

As we look deeper into the opportunity to sustain the benefits of giving over receiving in relationships and worthy causes, we can identify the real challenge we face.   Consistently giving ourselves to a cause greater than our own, although difficult, many times is done alongside others and the collective force of the group helps support and encourage our continued individual effort to give.

The real challenge we face in sustaining the benefits of giving rather than receiving lies in our closest relationships.  When considering relationships that we have for the long term, obviously those in our homes and many times those in our work, we need the discipline to give over the long run.   Relationships have their share of ups and downs unlike the sporadic gift giver that can “drop and run” with a smile.  Close relationships are where the real opportunity lies to see the fruits of our labor to be givers rather than receivers.

The discipline to give consistently over time in our close relationships is a clear character building opportunity for all of us.

I wanted to provide a few thoughts on how we can maintain the discipline to give over the long haul in our closest relationships.

#1 Setting the proper expectations as we go into a relationship is a good place to start.  Focus on asking and answering the question, “What can I give to this relationship” as oppose to “What I can receive from this relationship.”  Maintaining the discipline to deliver on the expectations of “what can I give” works for marriage, being a parent, an employee, a leader etc.  We build a healthy foundation for the long term by addressing the right question from the beginning.

Pic#3 Disconnected Marriage#2 As Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” What may seem like a living hell will come at some point in close relationships.  We all wish it was not true, but the reality is that we, at some point in our closest relationships, will all experience that dark point of feeling the relationship has reached a permanent breaking point.  The most effective way through the struggle and into better times, is to maintain the discipline to give rather than focus on ourselves and what we are not receiving.  It is not easy in the challenges of a marriage, of dealing with a “prodigal” son or daughter, or a difficult, unfair boss, but maintaining the discipline to give in those toughest of times, will continue to build a defense against depression and anger to return a positive impact.

Close relationships are where the real opportunity lies to see the fruits of our labor to deliver on the truth that “it is better to give than to receive.”

As we focus our efforts on giving rather than receiving, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build a wall of protection against depression and anger in our closest relationships.