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10.31.2014 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

How Generous Are You?

Generosity is another one of those things that can be challenging. How much to give? How often? To Whom?

This past weekend, my husband and I were privileged to join a group of people who wanted to dig deeper into what it means to be generous. Along with seven other couples, we attended a Journey of Generosity (JOG) retreat sponsored by Generous Giving.

Generous Giving is a nonprofit organization that encourages and educates people on what it means to embrace a lifestyle of giving.

Let me just share a few of the insights I gained about generosity. I think it’s important to us as business owners to examine our hearts and minds on this topic for several specific reasons:

1. Generosity Fosters an Abundant Mindset

If you’ve taken my time and money assessment and fall anywhere in the scarcity range, becoming more generous can change your entire perspective on money and life.

The essence of scarcity is fear. Fear of not having enough. Fear of losing it all.

In our discussions this weekend, we candidly talked about the highs and lows of business and life. We also talked about our fear. Our facilitators showed us some thought provoking videos that demonstrated what it means to be radically generous.

When you dig into conversations about this level of generosity, it’s a bit scary. The discussions made us all think long and hard about our perspectives on what we have and what we try to hold on to.

The path to generosity is a deeply personal matter. We were challenged to think about the purchases that come easiest. How you spend your money is an indicator of where your heart lies, our facilitator reminded.

For me, it wasn’t pretty.

My easiest purchases are books and shoes. I’m just saying that what I spend on books in one year could probably feed a small village. As for the shoes, I won’t even go there. It’s too painful to think about.

I think I’m generous, but am I really? Here’s the question: Can I give without fear of not having enough?

What I know for sure is this. The thoughts and actions associated with generosity take us to the core of who we are. When we give without fear, we shift into a place of abundance.

2. Generosity Guards Us Against Greed

The act of giving is really a paradoxical experience. The more you give, the more freedom you realize and the less you need.

It is the very nature of an entrepreneur to want more. We are designed to build and expand upon a service or expertise for the sake of profit. But, how much is really enough?

Again, our facilitator and the examples he shared challenged me to think about how much money do we really need to live?

I came away knowing that as an entrepreneur I want to guard against any propensity for greed. Greed only breeds more scarcity and fear. If I focus on generosity, I suspect my business strategies and my service to my clients might change significantly.

My husband and I have already begun to explore better ways to demonstrate generosity in our multiple businesses. What will it look like for us to become more radical in our giving? How can we more effectively give of our time and our talent such that we impact the people in our lives?

3. Generosity Changes the Face of Our World

All you have to do is click on the t.v. to see that our government is overwhelmed by the social problems we’re facing in an ever-complex society.

What I’m seeing in my community, however, is more than encouraging. Vast amounts of people are rising up to solve these issues. They are feeding the homeless, embracing the incarcerated, training the unemployed, and giving shelter to victims of sex trafficking.

In short, Orlando epitomizes a spirit of generosity. Through the hard work of local churches and nonprofit organizations, individual people are changing the way we meet the needs of our local community and society-at-large.

The JOG retreat heightened our awareness that as individuals, we can literally change the face of our world. When we come together as generous givers, we not only change our own hearts, we awaken the heart of the receiver.

We restore their dignity. We give them hope. In doing so, we generate change in their lives and we impact the community-at-large.

4. Generosity Fosters a Meaningful Experience of Life

My work is about helping people maximize their potential for a meaningful, prosperous, and productive life.

I’m committed to creating space for this to become a reality for my clients in a variety of ways. Part of the conversation, however, has to include generosity or the very idea of prosperity becomes hollow.

The JOG experience reminded me once again that the accumulation of wealth and stuff is meaningless if we’re not able to live from a generous spirit.

Life is far more meaningful when we can genuinely impact the lives of others. Our freedom lies in giving. Their restoration lies in receiving from a generous heart of abundance. By this I mean, both the giver and the receiver come from a spirit of generosity absent the need for power and control over one another.

Together, we experience the joy of unconditional love and regard for the human condition.

I’m not totally there yet. My books and shoes are still calling. But, with the grace of God, I’m moving forward and, hopefully, on the right track.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. October 31, 2014