If you’ve ever read any book or article focused on helping you find true happiness, you will know that “giving back” is always listed as a key ingredient in attaining joy.
Besides the obvious benefits of actually helping others in need, a wide range of research has linked different forms of generosity to better health, such as lower blood pressure and stress levels.
A 1999 study led by Doug Oman of the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than were non-volunteers.
Ok, so we can safely say that giving back is good for all parties involved. The problem most of us have though is figuring out how, where and to who we should give back.
I’ve considered the following options over the years, none of which have filled me with any great enthusiasm.
– Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.…. too depressing
– Serve on a community board…. I hate committees so much
– Tutor a student…. I can barely assist my 10 year old with her homework and I was never the best student
– Visit people in a seniors centre, hospice, etc….. I don’t like the smell of hospitals.
– Join a neighbourhood watch…. I have zero fighting skills and I like to be in bed by 10
Besides these dickish reasons for not wanting to do donate any of my time to these noble causes, the truth is that with anything in life, we are far more inclined to want to do things that we are good at and enjoy (fortunately being good at something and enjoying it usually go hand in hand).
Call me crazy but it seems like a good idea to make optimal use of our specific skills set when it comes to giving your time. For example, if you have a particular penchant for conversing with the elderly about the good old days (or pretending to be interested in pics of grubby-looking grandchildren), volunteering at an old-age home could be just the thing for you. If you loved your days in the military and your favourite movie is Bad Boys, by all means sign up for that neighbourhood watch group immediately.
As for me, I’m not convinced that ladling soup would constitute an effective use of my particular skills.
I do however, happen to be good at starting and building businesses. I love creating something out of nothing and I enjoy being around people who are trying to do the same. It therefore makes sense for me to use my experience to mentor budding entrepreneurs.
I am fortunate to be able to do this through the incredible Accelerator Programme run by Entrepreneur Organisation, of which I am a long-time member. I get a real kick out of sharing my experience and providing guidance to help small business owners grow their businesses and themselves.
I also take comfort in the knowledge that if they succeed, the knock-on effect in terms of job creation and economic growth in South Africa can be significant. Finally, it’s energising for my own entrepreneurial spirit to be around people who still have so much passion for their businesses.
So, I’m challenge you to give some thought to what you are passionate about and then find a way to put this to good use in your community.