Money & Life: Want more out of life? Give more. - Michelle Gibbings

This article titled “Want more out of life? Give more…” originally appeared on the Money & Life website.

Finding social opportunities and developing practices, such as compassion and gratitude, help you feel more connected with the people around you. Here are four ideas to help you put this into practice.

In a celebrity obsessed and individual centred world, it can be easy to think that getting more out of life is about focusing more on the ‘I’, than the ‘you’ or ‘we’.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Much of our happiness is based on our mental model of the world and how our brain processes what is happening around us. Much of that is impacted by the level of effort that’s put into building relationships.

Research reveals that people who help other people are often far happier than those who don’t.

This is because when you do something nice for someone, your brain releases chemicals (dopamine) that make you feel good. These chemicals help you feel better about yourself and the world around you.

Drop the famine mindset

In highly competitive work environments, people often act as though there’s not enough ‘resources’, ‘rewards’ or ‘recognition’ to go around.

Operating with a famine mindset, people jealously guard their access to the three ‘Rs’ because they see them as crucial to career success.

The more resources you have, the easier it is to get things done. The more rewards you have, the greater the return on investment for your work. The more recognition you have, the easier it is to rise up through the ranks.

People with this mindset worry that if someone else gets the same amount or more than them, it will diminish them in some way.

This has huge implications for how they work, as they approach conversations and negotiations with the intent of getting as much as they can. They are also less willing to collaborate and think about other people’s needs, as the focus is ‘all about me’.

As the American novelist and poet Wendell Berry said: “If you start a conversation with the assumption that you are right or that you must win, obviously it is difficult to talk.”

Adopt a feast mindset

In contrast, a person with a feast mindset sees a work environment filled with plenty of opportunity and enough to go around.

They look to expand relationships and to collaborate with the intent of securing joint outcomes. Consequently, they aren’t just looking for what they want. They consider what other people need when they enter conversations and negotiations.

In doing this, they reframe the discussion from ‘I must win’, to ‘How do we both walk away satisfied?’.

By doing this, they take the long-term view of relationships, and recognise that different people have different needs. They also accept that someone else getting what they need doesn’t mean they need to get less or lose out.

Next time you are about to enter a difficult discussion or negotiation ask yourself:

  • What are the other person’s needs?
  • What are my needs?
  • How do we best balance and accommodate both needs?
  • What does a fair outcome look like?

Go for the long-term

Research from Berkley University’s Greater Good Science Centre suggests that one of the keys to happiness is focusing on building relationships with people.

Similarly, Susan Pinker’s recent TED talk shared that the secret to a long life may be your social life and the frequency in which you connect with people. And not just your friends, but everyday interactions, for example, with the person you buy your coffee from or serves you at a restaurant.

It’s about finding social opportunities and developing practices, such as compassion and gratitude, which help you to feel connected with the people around you.

Here are four ideas to put into practice:

  1. Wish people well– If you are in a busy environment, take a moment to stop and notice those around you. Internally cultivate the wish that you want them to be happy, healthy and free of suffering. Wishing others well is good for your own emotional state.
  2. Devote time to important relationships every day– This goes beyond maintaining connections on social media. Ring people. Have a coffee with them. The connection needs to be personal. Close bonds and being comfortable to share how you feel and being open about experiences is healthy.
  3. Congratulate others for their success– Be genuinely happy when those around you do well. Take the time to write a hand written note or phone them.
  4. Be grateful for what you have– Gratitude is an important component of a happy and healthy life. Be grateful for what you have, rather than focusing on what you don’t have. A focus on the latter can breed jealousy, which is never an ingredient for good relationships.

It turns out that the more we focus on others, the more we receive in return.