Ponder this: When do you think you’re more likely to get a bigger hit of happiness? When you do something for someone who is easy to be generous with? Or when you have to work hard to make yourself be generous with someone who isn’t making it easy?
Now hold that thought.
Here’s a story: A short while ago a colleague of mine asked me for a favour. Not a huge favour, but they did ask if I would mind sharing a document with them I had created so they could copy it and use it for their own counselling business. And they did it in such a gracious, kind, and respectful way that it made me feel excited and eager to share with them whatever I could and, and not only that, to offer to help them in any other way possible.
Then, not even a few days later, another colleague of mine also contacted me and asked for something. Funnily, and perhaps, oddly enough they also requested the sharing of a document I had created so they could copy it and use it for their own counselling business.
But here is where the two requests differed. Person number two asked in a way that made me feel a little prickly and protective, and my knee jerk reaction was to say no. Nope. No way. No can do. (Well it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but you get the point).
To me, the way they asked felt a little icky, underhanded, and unappreciative. I do admit, however, that my standards for appreciation might be slightly higher than average. Perhaps this is because my love language is “Words of Affirmation”, meaning, if you tell me you value and think well of me, I will give you the shirt off my back any day of the week and twice on Sunday. What can I say? I’m a sucker for kind and uplifting words. And person number one sprinkled their request with this kind of language.
But generosity is a virtue. And a virtue I value. And a virtue I am working on bringing more intentionally into my life through the choices I make. So to both requests, I responded in the exact same way and gave both parties exactly what they had requested of me.
And you won’t believe what happened next. Not even a day later, I was doing some research on happiness and came across some information that hit me like a ton of bricks. Or dare I say, kicked me right in the ass.
It said that, contrary to popular belief, studies show that when we help someone who we don’t really want to help, but do it anyway, it has a deep and lasting impact on our overall happiness and well-being. And here’s the clincher –
It actually makes us happier to help someone we don’t want to than someone we do.
Yes, doing a favour for someone who is all grace and gratitude does feel really wonderful in the moment, let’s not down play that. But when we’re able to pull up our socks, put our needs for recognition and appreciation aside and just do that thing we may not really want to, the impact on our happiness is both bigger and longer lasting.
Think about it this way, and it may not be as surprising: We, as humans, typically value things more when we have to work harder for them.When they aren’t just handed to us. When we have to sacrifice something. Be it our time, our energy, our efforts, or our money. And usually, the harder we have to work for it, the more we value it.
And this situation works the same way. Because doing something for someone who doesn’t make it easy for us takes more work and more effort, we get to feel good about not wanting to do something, but getting past ourselves and doing it anyway.
And by helping someone out without any big reward, we are actually even, dare I say, being quite altruistic in our actions? Giving, and getting little-to-nothing in return.
So your mission (should you choose to accept it): While NO is a completely acceptable answer (and we all definitely have the right to use our “no” when we feel it necessary), maybe once or twice over the next little bit do something for someone that you don’t want to do.
Don’t feel obligated or motivated by guilt though. Remember you always have a choice. But say yes one of these times, and then recognize what you did and give yourself a pat on the back for doing something for someone even though you didn’t feel like it.
You got past your initial resistance and you did something that wasn’t easy to do, but you did it anyway. And you helped someone who maybe didn’t deserve it. And that definitely deserves a Good for Me. Or You. Or Whatever.
It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.
What are you proud of yourself for doing even though you may not have wanted to?
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