This month, I’m celebrating one more decade of lived experiences. Most of my readers and students have already reached (and survived) this birthday milestone. Congratulations and Happy Birthday to you. Many of you are offering comfort by parroting the popular reassurance: “Thirty is the new twenty! Live it up!” (Thank you, but I’m only slightly concerned about being older—I mean, I’m occasionally asked which high school I attend.) So, what I am thinking about as I age into the next decade? How I can use this birthday milestone as inspiration to refine my life.
On birthdays, I think it’s helpful to reflect on the most recent year of life. I have noticed that days, weeks, months and years seemingly speed up the older I get. Which makes me wonder: “What moments did I allow to escape my notice? Which minutes did I miss?” After all, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how I spend my moments is how I spend my life.
I also think it’s helpful to set intention for the next year on your birthday. My intention for the next decade basically fell into my lap as I was listening to my favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett. In her interview with Adam Grant, professor of psychology at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Give and Take, Krista hypothesized that generosity may increase with age because we age past the mindset of self-building and age into the mindset of community-building. Adam Grant corroborated this with data from his research that found, “Basically, every decade you age, your odds of being generous go up and up.”
Basically, just by waking up on November 16, 2015, my odds of being generous increase.
Are you kidding me? That’s fantastic! It’s a completely factual, data-driven phenomena that I will become more generous every day I live. It’s completely opposite of the fear-based, media-driven campaign that I will become more prone to life-threatening wrinkles, unwanted aches and pains, and ‘life will never slow down for successful women in their thirties who want a family and a career’ induced anxiety.
Happy Birthday to me!
With that in mind, how will I refine my life over the next decade? I surely can’t give all of my time, resources, and energy away indiscriminately. Adam Grant’s research also showed that Givers were more successful, happy, and healthy when they exercised clearly defined boundaries about how they gave and when they gave. So my personal challenge, and my challenge to you, is to focus on what Adam Rifkin termed “The five-minute-favor.” Adam Rifkin posited that tech start-ups in Silicon Valley function on a favor economy and that a five minute favor can make a huge impact in your personal success.
In Five Minutes, I can:
- call someone just to listen
- pick up my neighbor’s recycle bin and take it to her front porch
- start chopping vegetables for dinner
- write a note of encouragement to a co-worker
- share a blog post that will inspire a friend
- recommend a book that has changed my life
- allow a driver to go first on a narrow street
- introduce two people who may have a connection
- share my empathy with a student who is having a rough day
These aren’t just niceties. (In fact, Adam Grant’s research also discovered that some of the most generous people aren’t actually ‘nice.’) These five minute favors are actual expressions of generosity that may increase the quality of my day. Therefore, increasing the quality of my life.
What a decade to look forward to.
I’m challenging you to commit to the “five minute favor” routine until the end of 2015. Once a week, spend five minutes doing a favor for a co-worker, a family member, a friend or a neighbor. After you’ve given it a good go, consider setting it as your intention for the next year… or maybe even the next decade. Remember: every day your age increases, your odds of being generous increases.
Happy growing up,