Generosity: the secret to happiness?

Jun 9, 2014 at 12:19 PM

You might wonder what your happiness has to do with generosity. Most of us give because we were raised to be generous and because we believe that sharing our blessings is the right thing to do. We probably don’t think too much about whether giving makes us happy or not.

I recently watched again a video of my friend, Dr. Dan Siegel, where he talks about how we feel when we give to others vs. spending on ourselves.

I love knowing that generosity has such a positive effect on our happiness, because it means that we are rewarded and encouraged to keep giving.

I would also expand on what Dan is saying by pointing out that there are two kinds of giving: transactional and transformational.

If we give solely so we can get something in exchange (recognition, approval, even a tax break), that’s transactional giving. And I believe that transactional giving can actually make us unhappy, because it is disconnected from our own heart’s desires to do good and disconnected from the people we give to. It doesn’t have that component of eudaimonia that Dan talks about.

But if our main motive in giving is to connect with others to create change, that’s transformational generosity. What we get back—a sense of happiness and purpose—is not the reason we give, but it’s a wonderful side effect and spurs us on to do more.

I have known people whose giving doesn’t make them happy because it’s just one more obligation. I wrote Connected for Good so that you can create a Generosity Gameplan that reconnects you with the joy and satisfaction of giving from your heart’s desire.

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