The Gift of Giving

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.  — Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s natural to judge our lives by what we gain from them. Many of us rate our level of success on our accomplishments: procuring a stable job, buying a home, or starting a family to name but a few. We may rely on even simpler victories to measure how we’re faring: getting out the door on time, working out each day, and keeping our living space tidy.

Early on we’re taught to pursue a life of fulfillment. For some of us this may be through the cultivation of meaningful relationships or the engagement of a much-loved hobby. For others, fulfillment is sought through elevated social status, material wealth, or workplace promotions.

Regardless of where we seek contentment and deeper meaning, we are often left in a state of wanting more. Instead of relishing the satisfaction from what we’ve already accomplished, we judge our lives based on what we have yet to achieve.

I’ve fallen victim to this way of thinking on numerous occasions. Rather than being mindful of what I’m putting into my life, I become frustrated by what I’m failing to get out of it.

Perhaps if we spent more time and energy focused on how we can create the lives for ourselves we so desire, we would feel better about what we derive from them. Instead of only looking at what we have to gain, what if we also looked at what we have to give?

Regardless of where we seek contentment and deeper meaning, we are often left in a state of wanting more. Instead of relishing the satisfaction from what we’ve already accomplished, we judge our lives based on what we have yet to achieve.

Imagine waking up and giving of yourself fully for the entire day: of your talents, your gifts, your energy, your intelligence, your inner goodness. Imagine how much more joy you stand to gain when living from a place of inner abundance instead of inner longing.

When we go through our days expecting our demands and desires to be met without being deliberate in planting seeds to nourish them, we are setting ourselves up for continual disappointment.

We cannot control how each of our interactions will unfold. We cannot control when our car will break down, how long we’ll spend waiting in line, or if it rains on our birthday.

But we can choose to invest in our lives as much as we desire to get out of them. When we begin measuring our days by the seeds that we plant, the harvest that grows is no longer the final goal, but merely a reward along the way. When we are able to gain fulfillment simply from our own efforts and the joy they bring, our lives become so much richer.

Of course this is easier said than done. We may need a job to keep food on the table or a car to get us from place to place. Yet we need not measure our life’s value by their attainment.

We have the power to give to our lives in ways that will better ensure we get what we want from them. Ironically, when we focus our energy on what we give rather than what we receive, our bounty expands. This simple shift allows us to invest in that which will bring about the rewards that we seek.

The more we give to our relationships, the deeper they become. The more we dedicate ourselves to being in the moment, the more time we seem to have. The more we exercise, the better our bodies feel. The more we strengthen our skill-set, the better equipped we are to make a living through doing what we love.

Instead of focusing on what you have to gain, focus on what you need to get there. At the end of each day, ask yourself, “What did I do today to nourish my strengths? My relationships? My passions? How did I give back to my life to get more out of it?”

Our life’s fulfillment depends not on what we gain, but on how we choose to give of unique ourselves.