The Gratitude, Generosity And Good Work Approach  

There are many ways to live life. Some people follow the guiding principles of gratitude, generosity and doing good work. They aim to plant seeds of hope that encourage both present and future generations.

Different people choose to follow these principles in different ways. Some aim to be grateful and appreciate each day. Some have a generous spirit and love to give to people. Some aim to do good work that cares for people or the planet.

Looking at your own life, when have you followed some of these principles in your own way? What did you do then to be grateful, generous or do good work? Let’s explore these themes in more detail.


Many people have researched the topic of happiness. Some have asked the following questions.

What are the characteristics of people are happy? What are the principles such people follow? How can other people follow these principles in their own ways to be happy?

People who are happy often have a sense of gratitude. They count their blessings rather than their burdens. They focus on what they can do rather than worry about what they can’t do. This provides them with the strength to encourage other people.

There are now many books that focus on gratitude. These often mention the life and work of Brother David Steindl-Rast. Writing in Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer, he says:

What we really want is joy. We don’t want things.

Everything is a gift. The degree to which we are awake to this truth is a measure of our gratefulness, and gratefulness is a measure of our aliveness. 

Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or something more. 

You can discover more about the work of Brother David and his colleagues at the following site.

What are the things that you are grateful for in your own life? Here are some answers that people give to this question.

I am grateful for:

Having a happy childhood … Being helped to find my talents by a special teacher … Enjoying forty years of health … Spending several years in a soul-destroying job, because this made me appreciate the satisfying work I did later in life … Meeting kindred spirits.

Being with an encouraging partner … Being treated by wonderful nurses and doctors when I had a serious illness … The gift of music … Living by the sea for several years … Learning to love gardening … Relearning how to enjoy a sense of wonder as I got older.   

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you are grateful for in your life.

Describe the specific things you can do keep being grateful.


Many of the happiest people are givers rather than takers. They have a generous spirit and love to give to people. Some aim to create enriching environments in which people can grow.

During my work I visit many different organisations. It is easy to detect those that have a caring culture. The leaders of such organisations are often the main cultural architects.

Such leaders are often warm, human and relate to others in a caring way. It is interesting to watch their interactions with the receptionists, cleaners and other staff.

They like to make a person feel at ease and the centre of their world. They enjoy giving to people – whether it is giving them encouragement or opportunities to develop.

Adam Grant’s book Give and Take describes the different ways that people can operate in their personal and professional lives. Here is an excerpt from his website that provides more background to this work. You can discover more via the following link.

Give and Take changes our fundamental ideas about how to succeed – at work and in life.

For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others.

Give and Take illuminates what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. In professional interactions, it turns out that most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers.

Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

These styles have a dramatic impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries.  

This visionary approach to success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.

The website Brainpickings also provides an excellent introduction to Adam’s work. Here are excerpts from the article that you can find via the following link.

Brainpickings Give And Take

Takers have a distinctive signature: they like to get more than they give. They tilt reciprocity in their own favor, putting their own interests ahead of others’ needs. 

They feel that to succeed, they need to be better than others. To prove their competence, they self-promote and make sure they get plenty of credit for their efforts.  

Givers tilt reciprocity in the other direction, preferring to give more than they get.

Whereas takers tend to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them, givers are other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them.

If you’re a giver at work, you simply strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them.

In the workplace, however, few of us are purely givers or takers — rather, what dominates is a third style:

We become Matchers, striving to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting. Matchers operate on the principle of fairness: when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity.

If you’re a matcher, you believe in tit for tat, and your relationships are governed by even exchanges of favors.

Giving, taking, and matching are three fundamental styles of social interaction, but the lines between them aren’t hard and fast. You might find that you shift from one reciprocity style to another as you travel across different work roles and relationships.

But evidence shows that at work, the vast majority of people develop a primary reciprocity style, which captures how they approach most of the people most of the time. And this primary style can play as much of a role in our success as hard work, talent, and luck. 

Givers, takers, and matchers all can – and do – achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades.

When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch.

In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them.

Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.

Looking at your own life, what are the things you want to give to people during your time on the planet? Here are some of the answers that people give to this question.

The things that I want to give people are: 

A loving home … Nourishing food … Lifeskills people can use to shape their future lives … The chance to find satisfying work …  The chance for young people to work abroad … Helping people to learn life lessons through sports …Beautiful experiences.

A breakthrough treatment for a specific illness … A safe place where people can heal … A chance to regain their belief in life … Pastoral care for people in our organisation …  Helping people diagnosed with autism to find jobs working with data.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things. 

Describe the specific things you want to give to people during your life. 

Describe the specific things you can do to try to give these things to people.

Good Work

There are many ways to do good work. A person may cook nourishing food, make beautiful furniture, play uplifting music, nurse people back to health, help other to succeed or follow another path. You will have your own way of doing work that helps people or the planet.

One approach is to follow your vocation. Your vocation remains constant throughout your life, but you may express it through various vehicles on the way towards doing valuable work.

Another approach is to build on your strengths and do satisfying work. You may be good at encouraging people, managing crises, solving technical problems or whatever. You may use this strength to serve others and help them to succeed.

E.F. Schumacher believed in the importance of doing good work. Best known for his book Small Is Beautiful, he believed that economics should serve people rather than the other way around. He wrote:

The aim of societies should be to obtain the maximum amount of wellbeing with the minimum amount of consumption.

Call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations: as long as you have not shown it to be ‘uneconomic’ you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper.

Towards the end of his life Fritz, as he was known, wrote about the spiritual underpinnings of his approach. Central to this was his notion of good work.

Today many people are interested in the theme of doing well and doing good – rather than just doing well. Some people are pursuing this path by working as individual contributors. Some are choosing to join organisations such as social enterprises.

Here are videos from three such organisations. The Ashoka Organisation, Expeditionary Learning and The Unreasonable Group

Let’s return to your own life. How can you continue to do good work? How can you build on your strengths, do satisfying work and help other people to succeed? How can you do work that helps people or the planet?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to continue to do good work. 

Describe the specific benefits – to people or the planet – of continuing to do this good work.

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