Giving Back and The Pursuit of Happiness

Monday, October 24 2011

American writer, Eric Hoffer said, “You can never have enough of what you don’t really need to make you happy.” Most of us would agree that money doesn’t buy happiness. Studies have shown that once you attain a certain income, getting more doesn’t increase your level of happiness or satisfaction.

Chances are that your business currently has the potential to provide you with an income that exceeds your needs and wants; or, if and when you sell it, a chunk of capital that will more than provide for your retirement income requirements. If so, spending it all on yourself or hoarding it will not increase your happiness. Charles Dickens understood this when he penned the classic A Christmas Carol in 1843. Recent positive psychology research has reinforced Dickens’ message that altruism, charity, social connection, and love are stronger foundations of happiness and longevity than financial wealth. Sounds all warm and fuzzy, but what does it mean in a practical sense?

If you’re thinking of succession, you are probably at a stage in your life when you have two things that you may not have had as much of in earlier years – time and money. What you do with these resources will affect your happiness and life expectancy.

It means that participating in a service club like Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, or Optimists represents a way to enhance your personal happiness. These organizations are dedicated to the service and improvement of our society, making our communities better places to live, helping those less fortunate. Members have many opportunities to boost their happiness.

Here is small sample of tangible ways to give and receive simultaneously:

  • Purchase life insurance naming your charity or foundation as the beneficiary;
  • Volunteer your time and expertise to organizations such as Junior Achievement, local nature clubs, or Chamber of Commerce;
  • Become a board member for a charity or an emerging business;
  • Set up a scholarship fund for your employees’ children;
  • Match donations by your employees to their favourite charity;
  • Offer employees paid time off to volunteer in community charities.

Giving back is more than a good or moral endeavour; it releases chemicals in the brain that stimulate a lasting sense of happiness. It is good for the recipient and good for you. That’s something we can all get behind; a win-win opportunity.