Several years ago, I realized the only thing I can control is what I am doing right now with my own body. I can only control what I am saying and doing in the very present moment. I can change nothing about the past and I know nothing about the future. I can’t make anyone else do something against their will. I realized, unexpectedly, that I didn’t have as much control as I always thought I did.
I brought this knowledge to the attention of a few people in the boarding school I worked at and had varying responses. A few said in shock, “Oh, I don’t believe that!” So, I asked them what they can control. “My schedule” and “my students” were their responses. One woman understood what I was saying and went a step further: “Sometimes I can’t even control myself in the present moment!”
This revelation comes with a great responsibility. We must make choices for our own self-benefit and those of others, without compromising our morals. Feelings, while neither good nor bad, do sometimes stimulate actions that go against our values.
Sometimes I feel agitated or flustered, and I don’t practice everyday pleasantries. If my son is screaming, I sometimes walk away instead of bringing him the calm presence he needs. I must choose to be really conscious of controlling my own behavior so I do not unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings.
And, so, I’ve learned that my own choices are unpredictable. Other’s choices are even more unpredictable. Now, I’d like to double-down and ride the changing tides of life with a zen-like attitude. I’d like to make choices I am proud of. I am the navigator of my life.
“Meditate,” they say. “Eat healthy,” they say. “Exercise,” they say. But, I say, “Give and be grateful.” To give is like a boomerang—coming back at you. To be grateful is like a gift to yourself to look at the positive. Giving and gratitude go hand-in-hand. They attend to our hearts and the hearts of others.
It’s been proven that volunteering is good for your health; it’s been proven that relationships are good for your health. I’m not saying anything new. I’m just packaging it differently. I’m advocating for you to enjoy the benefits of volunteering, because giving is selfish.
I started out in this career wanting to make a difference in the world, and that is what I’ll end my career doing. By the time I retire, I will have spent at least 40 years in nonprofits. And, that’s why I decided to call myself a philanthropist—because what we do with our time is the most valuable resource in our lives that we have.
I hope you join me in giving back to your community. What do you want to be a part of? How can you be a part of improving our society? How can you practice giving and gratitude today?