Generosity. People donating blankets.

Generosity

For many of us, life is busy enough that a healthy perspective about the balance between what we get out of life and what we contribute to the world and other people is challenging. It can be hard to think about what we might do, not because we have to, but because it will make someone else happy—because it will make the world a better place.

The benefits of generosity

Why is giving back important? Whether or not we realize it, generosity is very beneficial to us. It makes us feel good about ourselves, it makes our relationships closer and warmer, and it contributes to meaning in our lives. Generosity also feeds on itself. If someone does something nice for you, you are more inclined to do something nice for someone else. We have a tendency to pay it forward.

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Listen. Friends having a conversation.

Listen

On its surface, listening is not that hard. Someone is speaking, we hear and comprehend the words, and we gain an understanding of what he or she is conveying.

It’s that third bit where people often falter.

To really understand what a person is saying, we need to consider the context, the person’s background or history, and any emotional subtext. Also, we have to observe. Is the person’s speech rushed? Are they animated? Are they louder or higher-pitched that usual? For some, all of these things come naturally, but others barely hear the words, never mind consider the subtleties.

In interacting with other people, it can often be difficult to ascertain their points of view, their motives, or their agenda (if they have one). However, with an awareness of certain aspects of that person’s physical and emotional responses, it is much easier to know where they’re coming from. When speaking with someone, it can be revealing to pay close attention to what they’re doing with their arms or hands, the way they’re breathing, and any changes in the color of their face or the intensity of their eyes. It is often the case that these attributes can communicate more than words.

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Trust. Three rock climbers helping one from falling.

Trust

How many people in the world do you trust completely?

People you trust not to lie to you, cheat you, or steal from you—this is garden-variety trust.

How many people do you trust enough for you to share who you really are? How many people do you know in your heart have your back? How many people could you trust with your life?

Try to list those people.

For many of us, the number of people like that in our lives can be counted on one hand, and the truth is we are lucky if we have one or two. But before we start weeping silently into our oatmeal, let’s think about the dynamics of what it takes to be trustworthy.

Each of us has to trust ourselves first. If we don’t, we lack the fundamental basis for trust. We have to trust ourselves that we will act in our own best interest. We have to trust that we will create a life for ourselves that we can use as a foundation to do great things. We have to trust that we will give ourselves a stable emotional base.

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Connections. Female friends having fun on the sea shore.

Connections

The connections we make to people throughout our lives are our doors into the world.

Depending on the nature of our connections, we can have many doors leading to interesting and exciting places, or we can have only a few doors, but all leading to places where we love to be and where we want to spend our time.

As we live our lives we will always interact with people. We make friends in school, we talk to neighbors, we work with people, and we develop relationships. Some of those relationships are perfunctory or just a matter of convenience; others are deep and long lasting.

Connections can be developed and maintained in an ad hoc way, or they can be based on our needs and desires. Do you find yourself spending time with people because of obligations or because these people make you happy? How we define our connections to people can help us get the most out of our relationships. And like any of the factors that define our lives, the more we understand our connections, the better we will be at making and maintaining those connections that are meaningful and helpful.

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Realm—king and queen

Realm

You are the ruler of your realm.

It may not always feel that way, but, if you think about it, everything you come across is part of who you are, part of your life experience, part of your own little empire.

From that perspective, we are all responsible for our interactions, our perceptions, our feelings, and our experiences; they are the elements of our realms, and we are the monarchs.

We can decide what kind of rulers we will be. We can be hands-on benevolent rulers who take responsibility for our realms and don’t abdicate our duty. Or we can be thoughtless rulers who don’t pay attention to the business of our realms and let others determine their fate.

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