Character Creates Opportunity® – A Universal Antidote: Thursday, October 27, 2016

The mental and emotional health of ourselves and those we care most about is a critical issue that impacts our homes, communities and our society.

There is a great deal written about improving our mental and emotional health.  There are countless resources available on how to be happy, handle stress, deal with the ups and downs of close relationships, etc.  Also, in terms of therapeutic intervention, we (as a society) take a lot of pills to relax and be happy, a few adult beverages to unwind, and use some mind-numbing habits to avoid a few painful realities. Truth be told, even though most of us are not exposed on the front page of the papers, we all have our own “little helpers” to deal with some darkness in our lives.

There is a saying that has been passed down through the ages that seems to apply today just as it did a long time ago; “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important for us to find the habits that can be the antidote to what currently plagues us.  Our mental and emotional health and the impact that may have on those closest to us is too important to not make meaningful progress towards a cure.

Giving is the universal antidote to what plagues little girl and boy with ice cream

Like reading, exercising, or listening, giving only becomes ingrained when we engage in it regularly. The words of Aristotle ring true on the importance of consistent, routine behavior.  “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

The time to start is now, not when we think we have our house in order. In a world (and our homes) that continues to grow in complexity and uncertainty, we live in a constant state of change and our house most likely will never be in order.

Here are a few areas where giving can help a specific plague that we may be dealing with today:

  • Time and Effort: Giving our time and effort to serve others in need is an effective antidote to the “busyness” that sometimes plagues all us and helps to deal with the time-wasting habits in our lives (we all have them). Studies would show serving others in need lifts our emotional state.  It turns out that doing good makes us feel good.  It does not have to be huge.  Start small in the home like taking the trash out without complaining.
  • Money: Giving financially, on a consistent basis, is an effective antidote to greed, the struggle to compare and “keep up with the Joneses” (or Kardashians) and naturally puts guardrails around “wants” vs “needs” in our lives. Studies would show if we don’t start now to give, we will just keep moving the goal post higher as we tell ourselves, “I will give once I reach a certain income level or net worth.”  Spoiler-Alert: We never reach it as we always see the need for more. Find a cause and start giving now. Small, slow and steady.
  • Talents: We all have some skills in life. They may not be the ones that will earn us a 10 year-$100 million contract for a professional sport, but we have some skills to offer to others.  Some maybe be good coaches/mentors on the field or in the workplace.  Experiences can always be shared with “newbies” to big items like parenting, moving into a new community, transitioning into a new grade at school or into a new job.  Giving our talents (big or small) to help others is an effective antidote to feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that we all face.

As we discipline ourselves to give regularly, we will take preventive measures to maintain our mental and emotional health in a challenging world.  Giving will help to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact in our homes, communities and the world.