“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
The other day, as I drove my daughter to Kindergym, I had the fortune to catch Margaret Throsby interviewing Sylvie Guillem on Radio National.
It is a true pleasure to listen to Sylvie speak. She is so intelligent and has the kind of mellifluous voice which I imagine only a French ballerina could possess. She spoke on all manner of things to do with dancing and performance, but one particular thing she mentioned in passing really struck me.
Sylvie talked about “giving”.
When describing her experience of performance, she said,
“I give to an audience… the audience comes to receive and I am here to give”
This simple idea, the desire to give pleasure to her audience, is what enables her to push her body and mind to the absolute limit and deliver those incredible performances she is so famous for. (Just check out that “6 o’clock” move she’s pulling off in that photo!)
It was one of those things that makes you sit up a bit straighter and pay attention. For just a moment, I saw the concept of “work” quite differently.
I am ashamed to admit that, perhaps like some of you, I tend to look at most kinds of work as something foisted upon me – an utter inconvenience and drain on my time and energy. As a Mum I catch myself too often thinking “I would rather stick a fork in my eye than build one more thing out of play dough”…
I don’t think I am alone. Way too often, we front up to our “work” (whether this be at an office or within the home) not with a sense of giving, but with a sense of entitlement. “Show me the money!” we cry, often expecting a reward just for showing up, let alone giving a great performance.
What would happen if we just plain forgot about the endgame (money, recognition etc) and just delivered that A-grade performance for the art of it; for the delicious satisfaction of a job well done?
We have all heard the old adages “it is more blessed to give than to receive” and “money cannot buy you happiness”. These concepts collide in social psychologist Elizabeth Dunn’s recent study.
The two things in her presentation that really stuck out for me were
a) once you earn around $75,000 per annum, money stops having a significant effect on your happiness – this falls way short of the millions most of us think will have us spinning on an Austrian mountain side singing “The hills are alive…” à la Maria Von Trapp.
b) spending money on others creates a greater sense of happiness than spending on yourself.
The above study is just one amongst the many you can readily find hailing the benefits of generosity. Most seem to agree that people who give of themselves are happier, healthier and more satisfied with life in general.
This is because giving to others leads to lovely feel-good things, like a rush of Endorphins – fighting stress and boosting your immune system, a tap into a positive feedback loop (those that give feel happier, so are more likely to give) and being socially more engaged and accepted (well duh – who doesn’t like someone who is generous!?!)
So all this giving is making you happy (yay!)… BUT, the fun doesn’t stop there!
The funny thing about happiness is that it makes you more likely to DO. The one thing you can probably observe fairly easily about really interesting and successful types is that they often
a) are very happy
b) work very hard indeed.
Not always things we put together in our modern lifestyle!
So the theory goes like this.
We can reinvent the wheel:
In that case, I am off to give myself fully to playing with and teaching my kids, because as a Mum that’s my “work” and today I am not just going to “get it done”, I’m going to do it superbly and with great enthusiasm. I am sure that my little audience of two will give my performance a rave review… and that just might make me happy!