Russell Grieger Ph.D.

Happiness on Purpose

Happiness With Others 7: Be A Relentless Giver

With others, you reap what you sow

Posted May 30, 2014


Legend has it that during the recording of their legendary “White Album,” Ringo Starr quit the band because he felt unappreciated. Here’s why, in his own words. “I went to see John, who had been living in my apartment in Montague Square with Yoko since he moved out of Kenwood. I said: ‘I'm leaving the group because I feel unloved and out of it.’ ”

So, Ringo left the Beatles. How did it work out? Let's turn to the sage psychologist, Paul McCartney, to give us the answer:

“I think Ringo was always paranoid that he wasn't a great drummer. But, I think his feel and soul and the way he was rock solid with his tempo was a good attribute. You could just tell Ringo how it went and leave him – there was always this great noise and steady tempo coming from behind you... So at that time we had to reassure him that we did think he was great.

That's what it's like in life. You go through life and you never stop and say, ‘Hey, you know what? I think you're great.’ You don't always tell your favorite drummer that he's your favorite drummer. Ringo felt insecure and he left, so we told him, ‘Look man, you are the best drummer in the world to us. He said, ‘Thank you,’ and I think he was pleased to hear it. We ordered millions of flowers and there was a big celebration to welcome him back to the studio.”

Wise words indeed. Everybody loves affection and appreciation. Who doesn't puff up when acknowledged, made to feel significant, affirmed? It warms the heart, it nourishes the soul.

But, here's the rub. We benefit as much from giving to others as do those to whom we give. How so? Well, in two ways. One, there can be real pleasure and joy in the act of giving. It simply feels good to be good to others, especially when we do so with a spirit of generosity. Try it and see if I'm not right.

Two, people remember how you make them feel long after they forget what you said to them. So, by being a giver, people are likely to hold good feelings about you and then return your giving in kind. 

The bottom line is that, by being a relentless giver to others, you can double your own happiness. All of us — you, me, everybody — would be wise to build in acts of giving in our daily interaction with others.

Live It

As I repeatedly preach in these Happiness On Purpose blogs, it takes effort and work to habituate the attitudes and behaviors that bring happiness to our lives. Being a relentless giver to others will aid you in your quest for happiness. To help you along this path, here are five practices through which you can habituate giving to the people you encounter as you travel through your day. Try them and see if you don’t get pleasure from doing them. Try them and see if the people to whom you give don’t respond in kind. 

1. Give compliments. This is easy. You can always find something positive to acknowledge, praise, or compliment when you encounter another — “You look good in that color.” “Your lawn looks great.” “That was an interesting thing you just said.” It's the hunger for these kinds of strokes that make people feel good about you and want to be a giver to you in return. 

2. Say, “Thank you,” often. All people appreciate being appreciated. “Thank you's” can be communicated verbally, by letter, by email, or whatever. Regardless, they mean a lot. And, here's a tip: little “thank you’s” count too. I appreciate it almost as much when my wife thanks me for picking up our son from the skate park as I do when she tells me how much she appreciates how hard I work to help support our family.

3. Treat people with kindness. With people, little things are the big things. Every time we act in a kind way, we not only create an opportunity for a personal feel good, but we also make a deposit in a person's goodwill account with us. We thereby invite them to act kindly to us in return. Kindness is the happiness gift that keeps on giving.

4. Express compassion. Compassion is perhaps the greatest gift one can give to another. When one is hurting, it does wonders to hear, “I'm sorry you're going through this,” “I'm here for you,” “I care for you.” It feels good to comfort another and it builds the bonds of friendship that nourishes our own happiness as well. 

5. Touch often. True, there are some people who are squeamish about being touched; it is too intimate for them to handle. But, the vast majority of people enjoy a good old-fashioned squeeze of the hand, a pat on the back, an affectionate hug. While being careful not to intrude on those who might be made uncomfortable by it, a friendly, affectionate touch can both give and get pleasure.

Going Forward

I emphasize to my clinical psychology patients that they would be wise to not view the measly 45 minutes they spend with me each week as their therapy. Rather, I encourage them to think of their therapy as their daily lives and emphasize that practicing each day the insights and techniques we talk about in our session is the only way they will make the changes they are after.

In this vein, I want to encourage you to incorporate — on purpose — the happiness-building strategy of being a relentless giver into your daily life. How about you take on this assignment for the next month: make a commitment, starting today, to show affection and appreciation to one person each and every day for the next week; then, do it to two people each day the second week; then give it to three people per day in the third week, and finally to four people per day in week four. By doing this, one day at a time, you can habituate this happiness technique and thereby increase your own personal happiness.

Do it. Please. Watch the results. Remember that being happy takes commitment and effort. Can you do this? Absolutely. Will it make a difference in your happiness? I guarantee it. Will you follow through? That I don't know. It's up to you.

Until my next blog, live healthy, happy, and with passion.

Russell Grieger, Ph.D. is the author of several self-help books, all designed to empower people to create a life they love to live. These include: Unrelenting Drive; Marriage On Purpose, and The Happiness Handbook (in preparation). You may contact Dr. Grieger for more information at