A favorite post, updated from the original version in January 2012…
Now that the busy-ness and indulgence of the Holiday Season has passed and the page of the calendar has turned to January, we turn our thoughts to the fresh new year before us. There are so many possibilities for us to consider; so much we could do. We must prioritize what we hope to accomplish over the next twelve months. This involves clarifying and planning, reorganizing our lives and resources to fulfill our goals. This is the time we engage in the tradition of making New Year Resolutions!
This tradition arose eons ago, inspired by the legend of the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past and the other to the future. The Romans believed Janus could forgive their transgressions, so they made offerings and promises at the beginning of each new calendar year. Janus was believed to take notice of these gifts and bless the peoples’ lives for the year. That’s where the month of January gets its name.
According to USA.gov (http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/New-Years-Resolutions.shtml ) the 12 Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions are: Drink Less Alcohol, Eat Healthy Food, Get a Better Education, Get a Better Job, Get Fit, Lose Weight, Manage Debt, Manage Stress, Quit Smoking, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, Save Money, Take a Trip, and Volunteer to Help Others. Not surprisingly, half of the most popular resolutions are about improved physical health and fitness. The other half refer to money generation, use, and resource management: Get a Better Education, Get a Better Job, Manage Debt, Save Money, Take a Trip, and Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. The implicit goal of all twelve is to achieve happiness in life.
It’s time to add Generosity Fitness to the list of New Year Resolutions, for the spirit and expression of generosity enhances and deepens all the other aspects of life. Generosity matters. It inspires giving and brings happiness to our lives.
A good deal of research has been conducted about the correlation between altruistic behavior and happiness. Experiments have been conducted at various universities, including the use of brain scans that track the various pain and pleasure centers affected by altruistic behavior, such as charitable giving, helping others, and volunteer service.
Our pleasure centers light up not only when we receive money or kindness, but also when we give money away or help another out of compassion. Studies show that those who receive money are more likely to give money away, and in larger amounts than those who have not received money before being asked to give. Arthur C. Brooks’ 2000 charitable giving data analysis indicates that a dollar donated to charity was associated with $4.35 in extra income. Of this extra income, $3.75 was due to the dollar given to charity. At the same time, each extra dollar income stimulated 14 cents in new giving.
One Harvard Business School study looked more closely at the cause and effect relationship between giving and happiness. Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).
So, how might we fulfill our resolution for greater Generosity Fitness in 2015?
Make a commitment to a regular practice of giving:
- Contribute the cost of your daily coffee to a cause that matters to you
- A Month of daily acts of giving and kindness
- $52 per week for 52 weeks of the year given to your faith community or other worthy organizations
- Sponsor a program or scholarship that will benefit to those in your community
- Make a planned gift or bequest
- And, if you need help getting started with transforming your culture to one of authentic and abundant generosity, consider scheduling yourself or your leadership team for a free web-based training for UU leaders: Seven Principles of Fundraising
- Most of all, use your imagination. Be creative. Experience the joy of cultivating generosity in the world!
May this new year bring you many blessings and great abundance~
References and Resources for this article:
52 Times 52.com http://www.52times52.com/
Anik, Aknin, Norton & Dunn. Harvard Business School working paper, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. 2009. http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-012.pdf
Brooks, Arthur C. Who Really Cares. Basic Books. 2006.
LeMay, Kathy. The Generosity Plan. Simon and Schuster. 2009.
Walker, Cami. 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life. Lifelong Books. 2009.