July 23, 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

In the usual sense of the word, “tithing” means contributing to the support of a church. But the word also can refer more generally to putting a portion of one’s money, goods, or time toward charitable purposes. Sarah Ban Breathnach gives it the second, broader meaning when discussing the concept in her book Simple Abundance, in which she says that willingness to give is essential to creating an abundant life. Moreover, she observes that we naturally attract the things we choose to give.

“It’s been my discovery that when I tithe time, I receive more time,” she says. “When I tithe goods, I receive gifts. If I want more money in my life, I tithe money… Affirming our abundance now, by becoming generous givers, dramatically demonstrates our prosperity to the doubter within.”

Last week I learned that one of my coworkers had used up this year’s allotment of vacation days while caring for a relative who is dying of cancer. Another employee wrote an email asking people to help by donating part of their vacation time. I contributed two days, which led me to reflect on how we get more time when we’re willing to give it.

Obviously, giving away some of my vacation days won’t magically cause my employer to add more to replace them. So what’s actually going on—in practical, real world terms—when giving attracts abundance? I would describe it as a shift in attitude, which subconsciously prompts positive action. Our perceptions of time and prosperity are mostly based on our subjective experiences, rather than on measurable facts. Often we don’t appreciate—or even notice—when we gain more.

We have more vacation days after working for the company long enough to gain some seniority, but we still feel rushed and harried because our lives have too many distractions. We have more money because of pay raises, but our expenses are higher. We have more stuff, but we’re not enjoying it because the house is full of clutter.

So abundance is mainly about breaking out of those unappreciative thought patterns that leave us feeling deprived—it’s not really about acquiring any particular amount of money, time, or stuff. We’re all familiar with stories about people who won the lottery or got a fabulous job, but ended up being just as unhappy afterward as they’d ever been. To a large extent, prosperity is a mindset rather than a quantity.

Giving—whether we choose to give money, goods, or time—is a powerful statement that we have more than we need. Hoarding, in contrast, reinforces feelings of lack and scarcity. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. We can chant happy mantras all we want, but that doesn’t have much effect until we get our behavior in alignment with our affirmations.

When we feel confident that we have more than we need, the subconscious mind’s pattern-matching functions kick in to adjust our interpretations of everyday events accordingly, thus further changing our actions in a self-reinforcing positive cycle. Because giving money causes us to feel more prosperous, we’re more likely to be proactive about spending small amounts that result in larger savings—for example, buying a new setback thermostat that reduces energy costs. Giving away things we don’t need allows us to more comfortably use what we have, as well as enjoying our gifts and purchases much more when there’s no clutter in the way. And giving time leads to feeling that we have enough of it so we shouldn’t be in a rush, which in turn prompts reflection and positive action to better manage our time.

Although I won’t literally get back the two vacation days I gave away, I should certainly be able to find positive ways to avoid more than 16 hours of time-wasting by the end of the year. I’ll consider this a personal challenge!

Click here to read the next post in this series, Attracting Time.

Finding work in today’s economy is not easy. The recession has had lingering effects, and many people have been put out of work by globalization and automation. Some of those jobs are never coming back.

Retraining programs are available to help people start new careers. Many workers are skeptical about the long-term benefit, though. Getting certified to operate a manufacturing robot, for instance, wouldn’t be much use if the robot became obsolete soon afterward. Rapidly advancing technology has created the specter of a nightmarish future where workers routinely get laid off every few years as their occupations vanish.

Modern technology also has created great wealth for those in the right place at the right time. So it’s not surprising to see people changing careers in the belief they’ll find more success pursuing their dreams. “Do what you love, and the money will follow,” is a common adage nowadays. It often goes along with the New Age notion that visualizing success creates good vibes and thus naturally attracts the desired success.

We all filter our reality through the narratives we use to describe it. When we frame our circumstances in more positive terms, we’re likely to believe that more is within our reach. Visualization can be an effective tool for self-hypnosis and focusing the subconscious mind on a goal. The subconscious doesn’t distinguish between fantasy and reality as the conscious mind does.

To that extent at least, we do attract what we imagine, simply because we pay more attention to events that fit the storyline. We are more likely to overlook things when they don’t match what we expect to find. Some of that is just confirmation bias; but visualization also has a dress-rehearsal effect, making us more aware of the necessary details.

Regardless of what opinions one might have about attracting success with good vibes, I think it’s helpful to consider just what success is. Today’s culture encourages finding ways to “monetize” whatever we do. Until very recently, that usage of the word wasn’t even in the dictionary; monetization was something that governments did when they printed money and managed the public debt. But nowadays, there is a widespread belief that anyone who loves something ought to make a career out of selling it.

Of course, not everyone feels that way. The Information Age also has brought about a huge explosion in free creative content, such as open-source software, wikis, Creative Commons, and so forth. Free access is very important to these communities. Their philosophy can be summed up as “Do what you love, for its own sake.”

Although these two very different approaches to “Do what you love” may seem to be diametrically opposed, I see a lot of practical overlap. Putting time and effort into a hobby can improve an existing career. For example, when a software developer spends his evenings writing open-source code, he may end up getting a better job as a result of keeping his skills sharp. Hobbies and volunteer work also can provide valuable networking opportunities. And even if a hobby is completely unrelated to a person’s real-life career, developing a new skill has general positive effects such as feeling more capable and confident, which can lead to more success on the job.

Starting a new career based on one’s passion may seem a tempting idea. Anyone seriously thinking about it needs to be aware, however, that passion often is not the determining factor in whether a new venture succeeds or fails. Having a great love of gardening, for instance, does not ensure that a new landscaping company will be a success. The owner also must have enough business savvy to find clients, keep the corporate paperwork in order, manage the employees, and so forth.

Even if a small business owner does everything perfectly, the business may fail if the economy turns sour. Many companies went bankrupt during the recession because some of their clients went out of business or placed smaller orders, and the banks didn’t have credit available to cover the cash-flow shortfall.

That said, a business venture that doesn’t work out should be viewed as a temporary setback, not as a lifelong failure. Much can be learned from trying new things, whether or not they make money. As to both hobbies and career changes, when we do what we love, something good is likely to follow. It’s not necessarily going to be money, though, and we need to frame our expectations accordingly.