During the holidays, many people get involved in giving and serving. Does it have to end with the season? And how can we give so that it truly benefits others?
Are people fundamentally givers or takers? Is the ability to care for others, help and share part of our nature?In early societies, community was essential. Being alone was almost equivalent to being condamned to die in wilderness. In today's world, it seems that we are less dependent on each other. In the business world it is often said that peoplewho want to climb the career ladder should think of themselves- have the winner-takes-all attitude.
Adam Grant, a young professor from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, describes the opposite in his book Give and Take. Givers are more successful; they are better networkers, and it pays back if you pay forward by giving with no expectations. He has extraordinary examples of how people who always offer their help receive a lot more in the long run.
He describes the philosophy of David Hornik, a successful venture capitalist, who freely shared information on his blog and paid more attention to other people’s needs than to what he received from them. In this way, he could be faithful to his values without necessarily adapting to the “rule of the world.”
“You can be kind hearted and get ahead in this world,” Grant writes, quoting a woman who tried to give and was successful. However, the motivation he proposes is in the end self-centered. It pays back if you give, he says. But can you give just because you hope to get a reward in the end?
Let’s have a look at how kindness and altruism evolve in children. Studies of 18-month-old toddlers show that they will almost always try to help an adult who is struggling with a task, without being asked: the toddler tries to hand an object that the adult is reaching for. If the adult drops something accidentally, the child will pick it up. But if the same person throws something to the ground, the toddler won’t try to retrieve it. The researchers came to the conclusion that even before being taught, children are naturally less selfish than we often presume.
In another study, psychologists gave children from age 3 to 9 attractive “scratch and sniff” stickers and asked their opinion about sharing them with other kids. All agreed that it would be good to share with other kids that don’t have stickers. At the crucial moment though, the younger kids tended to keep all their stickers, but at the age of 7 to 8 they were able to practice what they preached. So the researchers were quite optimistic: with a little maturation and education, we are able to share and give even something that we desire.
Deepak Chopra, in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, expands the concept that giving and receiving actually keep the abundance of the universe flowing in life. The intention behind the giving and receiving opens the flow of abundance and creates happiness for both the giver and the receiver, affirming a relationship between the two. He believes that the process is activated by giving what you desire: if you want joy, give it to others; if you want love, give love away; if you want to be successful, help others to become successful.
Recognizing the equal dignity of both givers and receivers and creating reciprocal relationships is a real key to ensuring this, though not without its costs: it costs our time, energy, ideas, expertise, and personal and financial resources. However, only if we enter into a relationship can we truly “be a gift” for the other. (...)
Being a gift — it will be a lifelong discovery of how we can accomplish this in all of our relationships. It can start now during the holiday season, but it goes far beyond this festive time.