Focus on yourself. This first habit seems counter intuitive to most people, so let’s tackle why this is so vital: You can’t give what you don’t have.
I like to believe I’m a generous person. But for many years, my generosity was severely limited by my means. You can only be as generous as you are prosperous. There are many low-income people out there with generous souls. They’re salt-of-the-earth types who will gladly give the shirt off their backs to someone in need. And sometimes they do.
In the church, I saw this constantly. Some of the lowest income people were the most generous, always giving of their time and resources. But for all their generosity, they were significantly limited in their giving by what they had to give. They simply could not have a major impact on the lives of many others because they did not have the means.
And many of them were actually more limited in their income because of their generosity. They gave so much to others in terms of time and energy that they didn’t have enough left to sustain and grow their own wealth. In fact, often they would give generously one month, then need help themselves the next.
Of course, there are also people who make financial fortunes, and give absolutely nothing away. But those people are pretty rare. And if you’re worried that giving more focus to yourself means that you will become someone like that, stop worrying. The fact that it concerns you is strong evidence you’ll never make that mistake. But you will likely change the nature of your giving.
I used to give to provide means for a need. Now I usually give to provide the means for change. It isn’t enough to give a man a fish. Every charitable endeavor should be in the process of making itself unnecessary. It’s too easy for those who manage charities, and the people those charities help to look upon the generosity of others as an entitlement or the only means to solve an immediate or recurring problem. And many well-meaning charity organizations through the ages have actually made problems worse by serving immediate needs and ignoring long-term cause and effect.
So now, I focus on giving to long-term solutions. Sometimes disaster relief situations call for practical right-now help. But most needs are better served by education and encouragement than by cash. We need to give dignity to people along with any other short-term provision. And that’s why it is essential that we focus on ourselves first.
Let’s look at this from a perspective of something more easily managed by many than money. Think in terms of love. No matter how much love you’ve been given by others, you are fully capable of giving all sorts of love to others. We’re all potentially wealthy with love because we can create and distribute all we want to. (Even if many people don’t share much.) So we’re all love billionaires. We each have an infinite supply of love to give. And yet, there usually doesn’t seem to be much love flowing around out there in the world around us.
Here’s why: Many people don’t love themselves first. They don’t forgive themselves for past mistakes. They don’t encourage themselves to grow stronger, wiser, and more capable. And they don’t reward themselves for genuine growth. Instead, the hold their failures up as the lens they choose to see themselves through, labeling themselves as failures, rather than as good people who fail.
They tell themselves stories. Intricate, detailed accounts of why they can’t achieve, and shouldn’t try. And they placate themselves with, food, alcohol, drugs, and entertainment to escape reality rather than reserve their rewards for small celebrations of their achievement. They indulge their senses to dull reality rather than hone their capability and delay their gratifications.
And so they feel crappy about themselves. They don’t love themselves, and they don’t feel like being loving toward others. They feel empty, as the result of their own choices. And they could instead feel filled and overflowing with love for themselves, and self-encouragement that would seep out all over everyone around them almost automatically if they put some effort into genuinely loving themselves.
Many people feel guilty about spending on themselves or investing in themselves. They still do it, they just try to keep it quiet. Others indulge their every whimsical desire with great abandon. And both of these types of people have little to give others because they’ve misallocated their resources.
Self-deprecation is not self-love. And neither is self-indulgence. Both of these attitudes prevent the sort of focus on yourself habit that creates a highly successful person or entrepreneur. But with practice, you can focus on yourself in a way that ensures healthy, consistent growth. And that sort of self-focus is very, very attractive to a world desperate for the approval and appreciation of others.
People who do not invest the time and effort in self-focused growth and self-appreciation never have enough to give their clients, their community, or their families. You may be tremendously generous with your clients, but that generosity will always be limited by your resources. So be sure you have plenty to give by focusing on yourself first.
The 9th Day - 7 Ways