Domonique Bertolucci’s eighth key to happiness relates to the principle of generosity. In her book The Happiness Code, she reminds us however that:
“Being generous is not just about the decisions you make with your wallet. Being generous with your time and energy is just as important.”
Most of us lead busy lives. People work, have families and other commitments as well as houses and bodies to maintain. Sometimes throwing money at a problem is the easy option.
There are some things we CAN buy: certainly when I worked, having someone clean my house for 2hrs a fortnight was a most-excellent investment of $60! And having someone babysit your kids for a few hours so you have some time to yourself can be well worth it.
However affection and respect come at much higher prices.
Although it may not seem like it in the short-term, spending time with our kids and focussing our attention on them (not talking on our mobile phone, or checking emails/Twitter) can reap far better returns than throwing money at them as a distraction. Similarly, being patient and listening to great aunt Myra retell the story of her childhood is far more generous than interrupting to inform her you’ve heard it all before. Certainly as someone whose father had dementia; listening to his tales, answering his repeated questions and resisting the urge to become frustrated was incredibly hard; but important.
“Give the people you love the best of yourself, not the worst.”
“If you are generous in your relationships,” Bertolucci says, “you will receive as much as you give.”
She recommends against ‘transactional’ relationships. You know the kind. I rang him last time, so it’s his turn to ring me. Or, I did the dishes last night, she has to do it tonight!
Oh yes, I’m sure most of us have been there. I certainly have.
If, however, we find ourselves CONSTANTLY keeping tabs, she suggests we remember that we do not exist in isolation. They may well be remembering last month when they did the dishes four nights in a row! Or they may just not like talking on the phone (HELLO – obvious self-interest there in case any of my friends read this!).
“Everyone has a different journey in life. Don’t judge someone else for theirs.”
And when Bertolucci talks about us acknowledging our good luck and being generous to the less-fortunate; again she again says it’s about more than money. Before we judge others, she suggests, we consider the opportunities we’ve had that others may not have experienced.
Yes, I’ve been there. I say I’m non-judgemental, but if I’m really honest I’m non-judgemental about people’s sexuality or religion or the like. I DO make judgements about people (and even little sarcastic comments in my own mind) when it comes to others’ clothing or grammar or taste in TV shows. For example. Sometimes.
Bertolucci lists ‘parenting’ as a particularly sensitive area. Indeed I’ve just spent the last few days with one of my best friends (we go back 27 years) and a new friend. Both are parents and were discussing the difficulties they face and agreed that they’d be loath to try to tell others what to do.
I’ve gained weight over the last six months, but still sometimes make judgements about other ‘bigger’ people. I see them eating incredibly unhealthy foods in public and shake my head. And yet…. I eat equally bad foods at times. In secret.
So… who is the more mentally fucked-up I wonder?!
Bertolucci recommends against judging anyone – including ourselves!
She reminds us that most people are doing their best, most of the time.
I’m loving this recurring theme. Dissing perfection in preference for ‘the best we can be’ and ‘trying our hardest’.
It seems obvious doesn’t it. “Just try your best.” We say that to children ALL of the time. And yet… how many of us are generous enough to believe it ourselves?
Are you generous with your time and energy? How could you improve?
Do you secretly judge others? Or yourself?