Give It Back to Get It Back!

December seems to be a time when people pause to reflect on their lives and consider what they would like to see happen in the new year. I know this is true for me. 2013 has been pretty incredible with the release of my third book, a full schedule of speaking events and a number of rewarding client engagements. Yet, as I think about how I spent my time, I realize how important my work in the community has become in my life.

This year I’ve had the opportunity to serve on the boards of several wonderful charitable organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Fairfax (Virginia) Chamber of Commerce, Marymount University and the Virginia Women’s Center. While these organizations are very diverse, they all match up perfectly with my values and support causes that I really care about. Because of this, they provide me with opportunities to give back in a way that is both meaningful and inspirational. Without question, I receive far more that I give to these organizations.

I’ve spent many Decembers writing checks to my favorite causes and marking that off on my holiday “to do” list as I will again this month. I still think this is important for all of us to do. Sharing what we can with those less fortunate is truly the spirit of the holidays and makes a big difference to the organizations and individuals who need our support. But my experience in the past few years has shown me that we can make an even bigger difference by also giving of ourselves…and doing it throughout the year.

I know you are probably feeling totally tapped out right now, winding down work and getting ready for family festivities but I promise you that actively participating in a cause that you truly care about will be more fulfilling than just writing a check once a year. And there are two ways you can do this. If your time right now is really, truly totally booked, make a pledge to give a donation monthly until you can begin to volunteer your time. And if you are open to the possibility of giving even a few hours a month of your personal service, jump in now and offer to do it! While giving financial support to charities is crucial, there are a number of organizations that are also in desperate need of warm bodies! In many cases, they need our time and talents as much as our treasure.

And here’s the irony. Although volunteering on a regular basis is a commitment of time and attention that perhaps makes you tired even thinking about it, the experience of doing it will actually energize you! Studies show that people who give of themselves to a meaningful cause are happier, more personally satisfied and more totally engaged with life. I see this in the leaders I work with everyday. Those who regularly incorporate service into their lives are more upbeat, productive and intentional in everything they do, including their work. And when I ask them about their most meaningful accomplishments, I often hear first about their volunteer work because they know that in this way they are truly touching the lives of others.

So let me ask you: What are you involved with outside of work? Where would you love to make a greater difference? And if not now, when?

The act of giving is amazing. With most things in this world, we are limited in how much we can give away. Fortunately, kindness and compassion are not bound by these same material limitations. One of life’s most basic laws is this: Every single act of love, kindness and generosity will multiply and return to you many times over.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Becky’s talk at TEDx: It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor

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Rebecca Shambaugh

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