You’ve taken the pledge. You’re going to give a percentage of your income to effective charities working to save and improve the lives of those living in extreme poverty. Nicely done!
But now what?
Three and a half years ago, I took the same public pledge. Keeping it has been easier than I thought it would be, thanks to some tips and tricks I picked up along the way. This is the final regular post in a 9 week series.
If you have a giving strategy that you’d like to share on this blog, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strategy 9: Check in with yourself
|Immediately after you make your next gift, I invite you to pause. Go to a quiet place in your house where you won’t be disturbed. Put away all distractions (that means you, smartphone!), set a timer for five minutes, and sit. Stop. Then ask yourself “How do I feel about the gift I just made?”
Observe your emotional responses. Use the entire five minutes, even if you feel you are done sooner.
You might be surprised at the mix of feelings that reveal themselves.
These are some of the emotions that reveal themselves when I pause and observe:
I feel proud: proud that I kept my word, proud that I am financially successful enough to help someone else. I feel relief that I met my obligation and don’t have to worry about it for a while. I feel guilt: “Shouldn’t I have done more? Certainly I could have …” I feel fear: “What if I need that money!?” I feel irresponsible: “I should be taking care of my own family, not someone else’s family.”
You may find a completely different range of feelings. Or you may feel almost nothing.
As logical and rational as we try to be, we are only human. That means we have to deal with our sometimes illogical and irrational human emotions. The point of this exercise is to become aware of the emotions tied up with your giving so you can respond to them. Positive feelings can help you keep your pledge – revisit those feelings to stay motivated. Other feelings (like the fear, guilt, and irresponsibility I encounter) can sway you away from keeping your pledge. You’ll need to figure out how to respond to those feelings if you’re going to keep your pledge long-term.
Because I am aware of my feelings and how they are trying to sway my behavior, I use my good friends logic and reason (I <3 you guys!) to counter my emotions and keep my actions consistent with my values. (After all, I don’t actually believe I should feel guilty, afraid, or irresponsible when it comes to helping others!)
So here’s what I do with my emotions:
To my guilt about not doing enough, I say “It is better to do something than nothing. Today, I will do a little bit of good by keeping my pledge.” To my fear, I say “There is enough. I have enough to share with others. Look at the abundance I have in my life!” To my feeling of irresponsibility, I say “The whole world is my family. And part of that family needs help. I have a responsibility to help them and I am being responsible by keeping my pledge.”
If you find you are struggling to keep your pledge, for whatever reason – money is tight, you’re busy and forgot, you just haven’t found the right charity yet – check in with yourself. Is your struggle truly a practical matter? Or are your emotions swaying your behavior?
We all handle money differently, and our relationship with money changes overtime. You know best what strategy will work for you. Mix and match the strategies on this blog, or come up with your own. Just keep giving!
Have you found a great way to keep your pledge? Share it with us!
Claire Knowlton is President of the Board for The Life You Can Save. She lives in Los Angeles and works as an accountant and auditor of nonprofit organizations.