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Mastery Mondays

Altruism & Kindness

Is There Such A Thing As Being Too Generous?

I will never forget listening to a conversation where one party was talking about how her sister was too generous.

It sounded funny to me even at the time, and every time I have thought about it since, it always makes me think and ponder the question: is there such a thing as being too generous?

I guess the answer completely depends on your mindset and attitude towards generosity. 

My own head gets muddled up with so many different scenarios when I think about this question: like what is true generosity? And is there such a thing as irresponsible generosity? What does it look like to be generous when you’re in debt? Does the act of generosity have an expectation attached to it?

Generosity is one of those things that everyone sees a little bit differently. But one of the biggest things I’ve learned about generosity over the years is that true generosity does not have any expectation attached to it.

For example - if you choose to give some cash to a friend, true generosity would mean that you have no expectation for what they will do with the money. If you have an expectation for what they will do with the money, you are sure to be disappointed.

And then what does generosity mean if you are in debt? Is it wise to give when you owe someone else? There are many different trains of thought on that…

I think ultimately each one of us gets to decide what we feel comfortable giving - and so if your level of generosity feels right for you, then it’s probably the right amount!

So what do you think? Is there such a thing as being too generous? 

Recommended Movie

The Blind Side

Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock

Interesting Fact #1

Between 2001 and 2011, giving around the world grew a whopping 240%.


Interesting Fact #2

Giving money to someone else actually makes you feel better than spending it on yourself, according to research from the Harvard Business School.


Interesting Fact #3

People in the lower and middle income brackets dig deep, according to IRS data. In fact, the research found that the less someone earns, the more likely they are to give money to help others.


Quote of the day

"A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal." — Steve Maraboli

Article of the day - Being Generous Really Does Make You Happier

It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know that doing nice things for people feels good. But now, researchers say they've discovered that even thinking about doing something generous has real mood-boosting benefits in the brain.

In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 people they'd be receiving about $100 over a few weeks. Half of the people were asked to commit to spending that money on themselves, and half were asked to spend it on someone they knew.

The researchers wanted to see whether simply pledging to being generous was enough to make people happier. So before doling out any money, they brought everyone into the lab and asked them to think about a friend they'd like to give a gift to and how much they would hypothetically spend. They then performed functional MRI scans to measure activity in three regions of the brain associated with social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making.

Their choices—and their brain activity—seemed to depend on how they had pledged to spend the money earlier. Those who had agreed to spend money on other people tended to make more generous decisions throughout the experiment, compared to those who had agreed to spend on themselves. They also had more interaction between the parts of the brain associated with altruism and happiness, and they reported higher levels of happiness after the experiment was over.

Another piece of good news was that it didn’t seem to matter how generous people were. Planning to give away just a little bit of money had the same effects on happiness as giving away a lot. “At least in our study, the amount spent did not matter,” said lead author Philippe Tobler, associate professor of neuroeconomics and social neuroscience, in an email. “It is worth keeping in mind that even little things have a beneficial effect—like bringing coffee to one’s office mates in the morning.”

It's not yet clear how long these warm and fuzzy feelings last after being generous. But other research suggests that making generosity a regular habit may influence long-term wellbeing and happiness, the study authors say.

Studies have shown that older people who are generous tend to have better health, says Tobler, and other research has indicated that spending money on others can be as effective at lowering blood pressure as medication or exercise. “Moreover, there is a positive association between helping others and life expectancy,” he adds, “perhaps because helping others reduces stress.”

The researchers wonder, however, whether the feel-good effect of generosity could be dampened by deliberate attempts to take advantage of it—in other words, by expecting personal gains from performing selfless acts.

Still, the new study suggests that making a pledge to do generous things could be a useful way to reinforce altruistic behavior and even make people happier, says Tobler.

“It is known that actually helping others and being generous to them increases happiness,” he says. “I would still consider that the primary route to boost happiness; however, making a commitment to help others is a first step to follow through.”

Next time you think that the best way to make yourself feel better is to buy yourself a treat, consider that the opposite is likely true. “It is worth giving it a shot, even if you think it would not work,” Tobler says. “In order to reap health benefits, repeated practice is probably needed so that giving becomes second nature.”

Question of the day - Do you believe that there is such a thing as being too generous? Why or why not?

Altruism & Kindness

Do you believe that there is such a thing as being too generous? Why or why not?