Is it really true that it is "more blessed to give than receive"? And what is the significance of this for today’s busy hard-working professionals? In the time-poor, achievement-focussed lives that many of us lead, it can feel that there is very little scope for giving to others. Many of us feel we struggle to keep our own lives in order, let alone help others.
I am struck by two pieces of research in the Harvard Business Review on related themes. In this month’s issue Cassie Mogliner writes under the heading You’ll Feel Less Rushed If You Give Time Away. http://hbr.org/2012/09/youll-feel-less-rushed-if-you-give-time-away/ar/1. Cassie’s research demonstrates convincingly that people who are generous with their time and give it away to meet another person’s need not only feel happier, but they experience a sense of having more time and of being more effective themselves. Conversely, being absorbed with oneself tends to have opposite effects.
One high-profile example of this is the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. An incredible 8 million hours have been given by the volunteer Games-makers and Ambassadors. And those of us who have experienced them first-hand will have seen and no doubt been ‘blessed’ by their positive energy and enthusiasm. I can only imagine that come the end of this year, when they are looking back over what they have done, they will only feel that their lives were enriched by having given their time away.
Back in 2007, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy wrote a classic article under the heading ‘Manage your Energy not Your Time’. They demonstrated that one of the best ways to generate positive ‘emotional energy’ in oneself is by giving praise or affirmation to someone. (http://hbr.org/2007/10/manage-your-energy-not-your-time/ar/1) Yes; research backs up the claim that giving praise and offering recognition to others has a far more positive effect on one’s well-being than receiving it!
It is clear that each of these messages runs counter to the prevailing thrust of western culture. The easiest and least demanding thing for each of us to do is to hold onto our time for ourselves. And for most of us we’re more inclined to seek praise and recognition for ourselves than to look for ways of giving it. On the other hand it requires a conscious decision and an act of the will to give our limited time to someone in need, or to identify a meaningful way of giving somebody affirmation.
For anyone seeking to develop their leadership, yet short of time and energy, here then are two very practical things to start doing. Await the blessing!