If you’re like me, you may have made New Year’s resolutions to be more generous- and I don’t just mean with money. Mean with everything: time, space, money, resources. But how do you know if you’re giving enough? Sure, it would be nice to be generous simply for altruistic reasons, but most of us are far more self-serving than that! If you’re struggling with even feeling motivated to give, here are signs I’ve found extremely helpful in identifying when it may be time to simplify, live with less, and yes, GIVE more.
You’re not content with what you have.
Do you have everything you need and still find yourself coveting a friend’s clothes, car, house, life? When you receive a gift, do you immediately start trying to think of ways you could accumulate more money, food, things? Are you constantly comparing yourself to others? Do you struggle with feelings of dissatisfaction and ungratefulness? I know it’s counterintuitive, you may be feeling like you need or want MORE but all of these things are actually signs it’s time to start giving. Look around you, instead of asking what you could get out of every given situation, start asking yourself what you could GIVE.
You feel overwhelmed by too much stuff. Is your house filled to the brim with toys, books, crafting supplies, and clothes with the tags still on them? Is the food in your refrigerator going bad because you can’t eat what’s stuffed in it fast enough? Do you routinely overeat? Overspend? Overindulge? All of these are signs of excess. It’s all too much! If you’re constantly wasting or frivolously spending the resources you have, it’s a sign you have too much. If you’re longing for a simpler, freer life, the first step truly is finding ways to live with less and be grateful for what you have. The very best way to do that is by giving. Set a goal of tackling your clutter. Give away whatever you aren’t truly using. Find ways to invite others to your dinner table. Spend your time and money on things that matter.
You’re bored. Do you have endless access to entertainment? Do you have so many choices you find yourself flipping through channels or scrolling through Facebook statuses instead of paying attention to the people right beside you on the bus, in front of you at the table, across from you at the checkout stand. If you want more adventure in your life, consider living a more adventurous life. How? By giving. Sign up for a local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Volunteer at your local elementary school or retirement community. Bring groceries to a disabled neighbor. Host a refugee family in your home. Go to sites like Kiva.org and fund a microloan.
You’re overscheduled. I know, you’re wondering how these things can even be related. But, I believe overscheduling often comes from an underlying anxiety to find purpose. And though you’re spending your time striving, striving, striving, you won’t find purpose in the noise of over-scheduling your life. Take the energy you have to DO something meaningful and actually DO something meaningful. GIVE. Start by tackling your calendar and determining what’s truly important and what you’ve added to the calendar simply to feel important. Cut the excess, stop wasting your time, and find ways to give back. Use the money you save on soccer lessons for your kid with two left feet, and invest it in supporting a Compassion International child’s education. Note: I’m not saying extracurricular activities for your child have no meaning, but if you have ‘enrichment’ scheduled every night of the week, it’s time to reconsider and reschedule.
You have a problem…There’s an issue at work, in your neighborhood, in your home that needs to be addressed but instead of stepping up to be a part of the solution, you’ve been complaining, impatient, and passing the buck. Time to see yourself as part of the solution. Is the yard on the playground of your child’s school completely overgrown? Organize a Saturday clean up (and find volunteers to host child care and/or get older kids involved.) Tired of never having a seat on the bus because your route is always overcrowded on your way to work? Why not call your local Transportation Department and see what options there are for adding another route?
You feel nagged…Have you ever had a nagging feeling that you should adopt a child? Start a petition? Drop by to check on a friend who’s struggling with depression? Host a friend in your home who lost their job? Do you let those moments pass or do you follow up and explore what those feelings might be leading you toward? I think you’ll find that if you follow those leads, you’ll be giving more AND living more.
If you identify with any one of the signs above, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I wrote this because I have struggled with a few of these issues myself. I know from experience that the endless striving and the constant desire for MORE is NOT the answer. The signs above are meant to help you identify ways that you may be living in excess…use them if they’re helpful, forgive yourself, and then take at least one step toward living a fuller, freer, more generous and grace-filled life today.
Tell me, which of these, if any, challenges you? Will you take a step?