In this world, in these times, and especially in our house, it can be difficult to find the time to give sufficiently to others. And, I’m not even really talking about the metaphysical idea of “giving” (a much more involved subject). I’m really just talking about the simple act of purchasing gifts – big or small for others. Birthdays, anniversaries, mothers/fathers day, graduations, holidays, teacher appreciations, housewarming, showers, births, farewells, just becauses, etc…. I get overwhelmed by all the commitments.
But, are they really commitments? Or are they opportunities? Opportunities to make me happier? To buy happiness? Sounds crazy, huh? Check out this video presentation – Michael Norton: How to buy happiness. This talk from my favorite source of inspiration – TED – is well worth the time to watch. In it, Michael Norton, an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, shares his research that proves that it is better to give than receive. He conducted several studies across the world comparing the happiness of individuals when they spend money on others vs. spending it on themselves, and as it turns out our happiness is much greater if we spend on others. Money, in fact, does buy happiness.
And equally important is that it doesn’t even matter the amount you spend or what you spend it on. Norton says, “The specific way that you spend on other people isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people.” Wow! What a revelation. It turns out that being selfless is actually selfish. We don’t have to go crazy. We don’t have to get it just right. It turns out that IT IS the thought that counts. And it counts for us. It counts a lot. But, for us, too, the giver. Not just for them, the receiver.
It is somewhat intuitive. It does feel good to give to others. The anticipation. The feeling of doing the right thing. The look on their face. But, to me, the true insight comes in how pervasive the impact is. That across the board, in all cultures, in all socio-economic conditions, we are happiest when giving to others. So get out there and give. Your happiness depends on it.