For the first 3 months of this year I did a little experiment. I measured karma.
To be more specific, I tracked the acts of generosity that I experienced both from a giving and receiving perspective.
Why? Because at the time, I didn’t feel like a generous person and my generosity is something that I’d like to improve. Generosity is something I struggle with and for the last couple of years it’s been on my goals to improve my generosity.
I operate from a scarcity mindset, particularly when it comes to money. It’s the accountant in me. If I give someone $20. I’ve just lost $20. Losing money, particularly when it’s avoidable is bad / stupid. This is obvious right?
So for as long as I can remember I’ve been an extremely reluctant giver.
Whip around at the office? Count me out.
Buy a legacy pin? No thanks
Save the wilderness? Not me.
It’s not that I don’t think these are worthwhile causes – I do. It’s just that if I give money to starving kids in Africa, well that means I have less money for me? And it’s not like I’m rolling in cash. This also extends to my friends – if I buy someone a coffee, I would start keeping a mental tally of who owes me what. It’s not uncommon for my thinking to go something like…
“I just bought Mike a coffee, that coffee cost $3.50. Mike owes me $3.50″
If the next time I see Mike, we go out for lunch and he pays, it becomes…
“Mike just bought me lunch, my meal cost $11.00. So I now owe Mike $7.50.”
Pretty rediculous right?
So that’s where I was – Scrooge Mc-Duck.
What’s wrong with this behaviour?
Well, what you put out is what you receive. I was putting out scarcity and stingy-ness. I was doing my best to hide it and disguise it but that was where my thinking was at.
One of the ideas that keeps popping up in personal development is karma or what you out put out is what you receive. It’s a concept that also covered in The Secret – your world will conform to the intentions you hold.
If you are unkind to people, people will be unkind to you.
If you are abundant with the world, the world will provide you with abundance.
Which is just the same as treat others as you’d like to be treated. Hardly a new concept.
So in essense, how can I expect to receive generousity if I am broadcasting the mindset of stingyness? The whole idea is that your external world will be congruent with your inner thinking. That is is, if I don’t have a mindset of generiosity, the world will not be generous with me.
But for me it goes beyond this, it’s also important that I feel generous and that I move away from thinking only about money from a position of scarcity.
But how do you get this feeling?
Well, for me, feeling generous comes from knowing that I am generous.
But what is generous? To me it’s simply giving without the expectation of receiving.
So I did a little experiment…
The problem with all this karmic stuff is that it’s a bit fuzzy and normally ends up in the meta-physical section at the book store.
Me, a geek who loves a good spreadsheet thought – what if i just measure the generousity / karma that is in my life? From there, once I know where I am, I can start making decisions about whether or not I should change my behaviour in this area.
But how do you measure karma?
So I came up with a plan – 3 Months Of Forced Giving.
Every time I was presented with an opportunity to be generous, I had to step up and do what I can.
To get some objectiveness around this, I logged every time I made a generous action – usually just giving a couple of $ to someone on the street.
I decided to take this a step further and address one of the niggling problems that I’m sure many people use as an excuse – “I can’t afford to be generous”. To do this I logged everything I received for 3 months. Every time someone bought me coffee, lunch, helped me with a problem.
So what happened?
I started giving money away. It was weird. Very weird. To make sure that I couldn’t cop out and hide in my house and just say that no opportunities presented themselves, I pledged that for the first 6 months of this year I’d give at least $50 a month to charity.
One of the first instances was walking through the city and being accosted by a backpacker representing amnesty international. Now normally my tactics when I see these people are to:
- Not make eye contact
- Move past them as quickly as possible.
If I do accidentally make eye contact, it’s a smile with a shake of my head and mouthing the words “no thanks”.
If they speak to me, I keep walking *NEVER STOP* and say sorry not today…
But on this occasion I couldn’t do any of that.
Instead, I made eye contact and smiled. And when asked if I could spare a minute I said yes. And I stopped and genuinely listened.
The guy spent 10 minutes telling me about kids in Uganda. At the end of his pitched he asked me if I’d like to make a regular donation, but I balked at handing over my credit card details on the street. So instead I promised him I’d go home and learn more about Amnesty and decide whether or not it was a cause I’d feel comfortable supporting.
I went home, read up on it for about an hour and then gave them $20. A by product was that I actually became engaged with their organisation!
I felt good! It tweeted it and facebooked it to let all my friends know that I was better than them!
Over the next few months I gave money to flood victims, earthquake victims, supported a hospital, and a charity that is trying to change Australia’s drinking culture.
I never once missed the money.
But the bigger differnce was with my friends. Rather than trying to keep tallies in my head, I just let it ride.
When I was out and it made sense to do so, I offered to pay. I stopped counting cents and if I got a ‘raw deal’ when it came time to split the bill – that was ok.
In the first month I bought people lunch, drinks, dinner and gave freely of my time when someone asked for it. It cost me a grand total of $58. And about 23 hrs of my time – most of which was for helping with the QLD floods
And when I tallied up what I received I got a rude shock:
- A beer ($4)
- Lunch x2 ($19)
- A coke ($2)
- A tea ($3)
- Dinner x2 ($35)
- Snacks ($2.5)
And beyond this…
- my girlfriend bought me some clothes.
- a near stranger lent me a book
- a friend let me use his computer for 2 1/2 days
Holy shit my friends are generous.
The idea that I couldn’t afford to be generous got crushed after the 1st month.
I was shocked.
And then I realised what was going on in my head all these years.
I would remember the (small) acts of generousity I would do, like buying someone a cup of coffee. These would be etched into my brain. But if someone bought me something, there woould be an excellent chance that I’d forget about it soon after…
Oh shit. I was remembering what I gave (money out) but quickly forgetting about what I received (money in). A guarenteed way to make me feel hard done by.
So in months 2 and 3 I stepped things up.
My of my friends had a little cash flow problem and asked if anyone could help him out for a couple of weeks. I jumped at the chance and lent him a not insignificant amount of money. Before, I probably would have asked for security. Even though he’s one of my best friends and I trust him to the ends of the earth. That’s how warped my views were.
I also loosened up with the small stuff and actually began to enjoy being generous. I was at a bar and the guy in front of me ordered some drinks, the bill was $21 and he only had a $20. As he was about to do the awkward “I’ll just have to go get another dollar from my friends” move, I was behind him and gave him the dollar, without a second thought. The surprise on his face was awesoome. And so was the feeling I got.
I invited a bunch of people out to dinner and when it came time to sort out the bill I paid last and discovered we were short $12. My first reaction was which one of my friends just skimped. Bastards. But then I remembered that I’d just had 3 hours of excellent conversation and good food and turning around and grilling everyone on who’d paid for what would really sour the mood and leave at least 1 person embrassed for what I’m sure was a simple oversight. So I paid.
And when I checked the numbers again, I’d once again got more back than what I’d given. Even though I was now giving at more opportunties.
A change in mindset
One of the most interesting things to come out of this is to directly see how karma can sometimes play out. Where a chain of events can lead.
Karma isn’t instant and there’s not doubt in my mind that tracking this stuff month to month, while better than nothing, is much too short term.
When I donated my time in January to a volunteering organisation to help with the QLD floods, I inadvertantly made an impression on someone because 4 months later I got a phone call from a woman I’d met there who wanted advice on an internet business idea.
Not rmembering this person at all, I still agree to catch up for a coffee and have a chat about the idea.
After chatting for 90mins she actually offered to pay for my time (I refused, but she did buy my coffee).
A week later there was an opportunity to invite her to a conference that was relevant to her business idea. As an organiser, I gave her a ticket FOC.
And a month later she called out of the blue and said she was recommending me for some very well paid consulting work.
None of this would have happened if I’d been working under the mindset of “I can’t afford to be generous”.
So where to from here? We’ll I’m not longer tracking this, I stopped after the 3 months when it became so blatently obvious that the world was looking after me. Instead, what I’ve tried to do since this began is to adopt a more generous, positive attitude.
This doesn’t mean that I’m a walking ATM handing out $50′s to anyone that asks, or agreeing to help move a truck load of furniture to a different state, but I am much more aware of my small contributions and change in attitude can make a difference to other people and that it won’t leave me worse off to do so.
So here’s my question for you: What area in your life is affected by scarcity thinking?