Search for more Everyday Power
When we talk about boosting motivation, we typically focus on the self: what can I do to improve myself, how can I change the way I think? Whilst self-improvement invariably comes to fruition through the ‘I’, the quest to make yourself happier and more productive is on that’s much wider.
The ‘I’ we imagine we are is largely built on the way we understand our relationships with other people. How do we imagine we appear in their eyes, and what sorts of things does that say about us? What sort of things do we get out of these relationships, and how does that affect how we view people in general?
When we nurture our relationships with other people – beyond that of friends and family (although that is still important!) – it has a profound effect on us psychologically. Especially when we give.
Of course, that giving is good for you isn’t really news. There are numerous studies proving the positive and psychological effects of giving upon those who give, which were found to remain consistent regardless of age, gender, or country of origin.
It’s bigger than me and you
If we stop to think about it, it’s easy to figure out why giving makes us feel good. We feel satisfied that we’ve contributed to a ‘greater good’, and like ourselves even more because we take this as a kind of ‘proof’ we’re good people. Motivating yourself has roots in liking yourself: when you feel you’re a good person, it feels good, and so you want to do what you can to hold onto that feeling. You’re spurred into action, and believe you can achieve results. But what happens when we focus on the specific human relationship the transaction involves? What if we see giving as a two-sided, human story, rather than a top-down endowment of alms?
Every year, Marie Curie – a leading British charity that provides free, dignified end-of-life care to terminally ill cancer patients – raises support through the annual Great Daffodil Appeal. Supporters can volunteer as collectors, or create their own fundraising event. What’s different about this appeal is that is showcases, and brings elements of human connection back into the process of giving alms.
For collectors, standing and talking to perfect strangers is a keenly important part of the giving-and-receiving process. “You get so involved with them, with their life stories and they are just so relieved to talk to someone outside the family and circle of friends,” said Jackie Domingo, a collector, of the people she meets when raising awareness. “And that moves me very much indeed”.
Brick by brick
Kenny Brown, a bricklayer and beekeeper who also collects, the human connection between giver and receiver has also helped boost his own confidence. “Collecting has helped me face up to personal battles about self-esteem, about confidence, and about talking to people.
“They’re things I found incredibly difficult, so as a result of collecting it has helped me on a personal level.” The feeling that you’re able to communicate with people – with anyone you’d like – gives off an incredible sense of freedom, and opens up possibility to create more meaningful relationships.
And for those on the receiving end, that human connection in just as powerful. Aisha Malik, whose father-in-law was supported by Marie Curie care, named the relationship forged between patient, family, and carer as invaluable. “They cared for the family too – listening to our concerns and talking to us about how we felt and what was to come. Dad was like a different person when the nurses were here. He liked chatting to them and just having them there.” Giving care is one thing, but when we focus on the human dimension of what we’re actually doing, the stakes are much higher.
Making a difference and making it real
When we put in time to know the people we’re helping, we’re automatically more vested in the situation where we’re acting towards ‘a greater good’. We’re more involved, we’re fighting harder, and we feel we’re making more of a difference because as well as the abstract idea we’re making a difference, we can see it reflected in an actual person’s face. Helping becomes something we can actually feel happening, and that warm sense of accomplishment is what motivates us to be better.
Connecting with other people is one of the most important things we can do when improving ourselves. It proves that by reaching out, even if to one person and having a chat with them, we can create tangible change, and accomplish good that we can see and enjoy. We’re more connected to the world around us, and feel more active in fighting larger, and perhaps sometimes abstract causes. That warm sense of achievement is inspiring like no other, and empowers us to carry on and keep affecting change. And when you’re that charged-up, you’ll notice motivation and productivity – in all aspects of your life — will grow in leaps and bounds.