Why Giving Needs to Be Part of Your Self Improvement Plan

The world is divided into givers and people who haven’t learned how to give yet. And then there was the most solipsistic creature alive…

me.

“Waddaya got for me?”—“What do I have to do to get something from you?” These were the unconscious thoughts that dictated each of my interactions. I stole, I cheated, I lied. You wouldn’t believe how selfish I used to be.

The idea that I always was enough and would always have enough—even enough to give—was unbelievable to my untrained mind. But when my take-first lifestyle culminated in a rock-bottom breakup and nervous breakdown, I had to reassess what was possible. One thing was clear:

If I wanted to be happy, I had to learn to give first.

That was my gateway into self-improvement.

Learning to give

I studied books and audiotapes from the masters of positive thinking—Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard—and I adjusted my behavior based on one famous line by Mr. Ziglar:

“You’ll get what you want if you help enough other people get what they want.”

I didn’t have money to give or any tangible goods, but I had experience to share through the written word. As I became more committed to growing my value as a writer, and touching more people, I received my first professional opportunities—the first proof that giving really works.

By 25 I’d earned enough money and confidence to live on my own for the first time. But no matter how many 12-hour days I worked, I couldn’t seem to get ahead. I always struggled to make ends meet.

The natural response to scarcity is to hold on tight to what little you have; it’s our reptilian brains kicking in. Because when you have rent due (again) and you can barely afford rice and beans, the idea of giving seems crazy/impossible. And no one could blame you for holding on to your last few bucks.

But that scarcity mindset kept me locked into believing that I wasn’t going to have enough. It didn’t matter how many affirmations I did, or how much I encouraged myself and visualized a brighter future—until I learned to give what little I had, I was stuck in scarcity. Here’s how I changed it.

Breaking into abundance by tithing

After a particularly lucrative couple freelance assignments, I found myself with a rare number of zeroes in my account—more than two. Now I could pay off some debt; now I could take care of some of my needs. But something told me to save 10% to give away. It made no rational sense, considering my expenses. But I took the leap of faith, figuring that if I’m looking out for other people, and if even birds are given their worms, I’d certainly be taken care of. I just couldn’t imagine how much more I’d actually end up receiving.

My first giving experience came in between freelance assignments as those precious zeroes were dwindling.

I had some running around to do—groceries and such—when my tire got dangerously low. Luckily the store I was at was within 50 feet of an air hose; I filled up, then prayed I’d make it to a tire shop before my rim crunched. Five minutes later my car lurched—dead flat, again. If I didn’t roll into a tire shop now, I’d be in trouble. And there was Goodyear. The mechanic said if I’d gone another 50 feet, I’d’ve been out another two grand. As it was, it would only cost my $350. Great. There goes what little I’d tucked away…so much for giving.

But standing in line, I noticed the disheveled woman in front of me. She was asking the attendant if the tire shop had any gas cards so she could make it back to her home in Colorado, six hours away from Albuquerque. No, he replied. I was skeptical, but I kept an eye on her to see if she was really in need. She asked nothing of me, and, head cast down, she slunk away to her car. I shifted toward the window to observe her. It looked like the weight of the world was on her shoulders. But that could’ve been an act.

Then she got into her car—having no ideas she was being watched—and she buried her face in her hands and began to weep. If this girl’s faking it, I’m Bill-effing-Gates. So I went to her. Just in time, too—she was pulling out.

I asked her to roll the window, and I told her I’d like to help her if she was really in need. She began to cry again. She could only nod.

I asked her much it would cost to get her back home. A fill-up. I offered to follow her to a gas station and purchase the fuel for her. When she thanked me, I remembered that I had that 10% of my last paycheck still in my wallet. I gave it to her without hesitation. Didn’t matter that I might run out of food. Didn’t matter that my next rent check wasn’t certain. Jessica cried, thanked me profusely, and was on her way.

I loved the warm feeling of giving—it was instant gratification. But I was broke. And when the feeling faded, what would happen to me?

I decided to ditch the worry, and I focused on feeling proud of doing the right thing instead. I still had food in the fridge, though not much. I still had 20 days before rent. I could do this.

The very next week I secured $3,000 in new business—the most I’d ever made in a month, let alone a week! It’s like God realized that I’d finally learned my lesson, and He released the gifts that had been waiting for me this whole time. I couldn’t believe the generosity that had come back to me. I immediately put aside my ten percent, and looked forward to more opportunities to give. And that’s when I realized it: I’ll always have more than I need if I give freely of what I have.

Conclusion

So what about you? Have you been scared of giving because of worry—because of fear? From someone who has been there, I’m telling you: you will get it back. You won’t know how, and you won’t know when. But have faith. When you focus more on what you give and less on what you get, God will blow your mind with His generosity. Start with 10%. Make charity a habit. And as you become more comfortable, give more. Give what you can. Give when it’s hard. Give when it doesn’t make sense. And most importantly, give when your heart tells you to give.

You will always have enough.

Written by Daniel Dowling
As a former couch-surfing millennial turned solopreneur writer and coach, I write on massive personal development for sites including Entrepreneur, Fitbit and Fast Company, and I teach ambitious people how to become successful solopreneurs and balanced human beings here at Millennial Success. Thanks for spending your valuable time here with us!!