On Kindness

Did you know that the incidence of psychopathy in CEOs is 4 times that of the general population? Apparently a lack of empathy and kindness is great material for climbing the ladder all the way to the top!

I’m a firm believer that your selfish vs. altruistic mindsets are firmly cemented the more actions you make. For example, if we spend all of our working years actively chasing early retirement and choosing not to give (after all, one donation could mean 2 weeks/months/years more work!), we’re not going to one day wake up and decide the time is right to start giving. On the flip side, if we get into the habit now of charitable giving, it will become a habit and doing good with money won’t be difficult later.

Just as I think giving money is a habit, kindness is also a habit. Kindness may not make you rich, but it will definitely enrich your journey. Today, I want to make a case for being kind. There is enough rhetoric in the world about how to be cut-throat, ruthless, step on the little guy to get a leg-up, and not looking down on your way to the top. The world doesn’t need more of that. And if that’s the requirement for being successful, I’m happy to be a failure.

Kindness is Contagious

You know those commercials where one act of kindness turns into many? I love those! And it’s true. When you are the recipient of an act of pure kindness, you want to share that love!

People mimic behavior and kindness is especially contagious. In a social interaction experiment, participants were involved in a public goods game. When a person chose to be altruistic in their choices, this behavior caught on and other participants started doing it as well. The study explained: “each additional contribution a subject makes to the public good in the first period is tripled over the course of the experiment by other subjects who are directly or indirectly influenced to contribute more as a consequence.” Your behavior can be tripled because of your influence!

Kindness is Healthy

If you’re a Scrooge, just think about how miserable his life was! If you need a selfish reason to give kindness a try, just think of the health benefits!

A 2006 study looked at giving social support and blood pressure. They did find that people that gave social support had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but there were many secondary findings as well. Participants that reported higher rates of giving also reported “greater self-efficacy, greater self-esteem, less depression, and less stress than participants with a lower tendency to give social support to others.” These givers also reported receiving support at much higher rates. When we give, we are able to recognize how other people help us!

When you make a donation, your brain triggers a reward that is the very same response as when you receive a monetary reward! A similar study asked participants to spend a windfall on themselves or on another person. The people that spent the money on someone else reporting feeling significantly happier. Also, because of this happiness, they were more likely to spend money on someone else the next time! Giving leads to more giving and more happiness!

Helping others may even lower your risk of death compared to not helping!

Kids Know Kindness

Kids are born knowing kindness. I’m just going to leave this cute little video here:

When you say mean things, your kids mimic you. When you say you “can’t afford to help” or “don’t have time,” your kids learn that helping is only for times that are convenient.

So how do we learn kindness?

The Counting Kindness Exercise

In a Japanese study, participants were asked to be more aware of their own levels of kindness. For one week, they were asked to write down every act of kindness they performed and add them up.

When you know you’re being held accountable, you are more conscious about doing it. If you had to write down every single act of kindness you performed, do you think you would probably perform more? (I would!)

The study found that all participants that did the counting kindness exercise were happier overall by the end of it (compared to controls). It’s THAT EASY!

Kindness is worth cultivating. I have never regretted a time where I chose to be kind. 


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  1. TJ

    I’ve heard some folks say: “if you’re an asshole now, you’ll be a rich asshole when you have money. If you’re generous person now, you’ll be a rich generous person when you have money”.

    I’m very much thinking about starting a Donor Advised Fund this year. Last year I talked myself out of it because the $100 fee is 2% of the $5,000 minimum. And that seems high. But I don’t want to talk myself out of charitable giving when I “won’t get the tax deduction”, I might as well do a bigger chunk now and save a little bit on my taxes now and distribute it over time.

    I assume the psychopathy statistic is why so many people want to retire early. Who wants to put up with that BS?

    • MaggieBanks

      Well put. And good for you on the donor advised fund! And those poor CEOs… (and the people that work under them!) 🙂

  2. I absolutely believe that kindness is more rewarding and results is happiness more than selfish living. I am definitely still selfish quite often, but being conscious about choosing kindness is invaluable. Great post, thank you!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks Kalie. I really feel like the world needs more kindness and if we, awesome people in this community focus too much on the selfishness of attainment, the world is missing out!

  3. ChooseBetterLife

    We try to teach all the little ones in our extended family that being kind is more important than being right. It isn’t easy (especially when stubborn genes run rampant), but it’s a lesson we’re all learning together.

  4. We’ve been talking about this lately too. Filed under the ‘what can we do to help category’. I can either tack another percentage point onto my goals for the year or I can be content with the progress that I’ve already made and put the surplus to good use by supporting some organizations that can really use it!

    It will also be a good exercise to involve the kids and let them be part of the selection process for the charities that we will support.

    Great message, thanks for sharing.

    • MaggieBanks

      I love the idea of involving the kiddos. This community always renews my spirits!

  5. Great post, Maggie. I sincerely believe you get out of this life what you put into it. Have a generous and kind approach, and you’ll get blessings in return. Be a prick, and expect it in return. There’s more to life than money, and focusing on helping others will generate a lifetime of positive returns! Thanks for the reminder!

    • MaggieBanks

      I agree with you! Karma is a bad bedfellow! Be kind and it comes back to you!

  6. Love that video, and definitely have observed that spirit with my daughter and niece. So much we can learn from our kids.

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes. Kids are born kind. They learn selfishness as they get older. The more we can teach them to help, serve, and be kind (and model those behaviors ourselves!), the more hope I have for the future generation to stop hate in our world more than we have.

  7. Always a great reminder when we’re discussing money topics, Maggie! Kindness not only helps support others, but it truly heals yourself. Without kindness I believe life would be an empty pursuit (I’ve been there!). But, when you truly want to help others, you will experience fulfillment on an entirely different level. Awesome post!

    • MaggieBanks

      An “empty pursuit” – I like that phrase. Definitely a good reminder. What are we actually pursuing?

  8. “When you know you’re being held accountable, you are more conscious about doing it.” That was one of the reasons we started the blog and the reason I’ve been journaling about gratitude. And now kindness. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Accountability is powerful for all things! And we have a “Grateful journal” we do at dinner with all the kids. Big fan. 🙂

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