Giving Back: Don’t Overthink It
Back in high school, I found myself in a familiar pattern. Once it was my turn, I would get out of the pool and step up to the diving board with a mix of dread and determination. I would take a second to collect my thoughts, visualize the dive, and convince myself that this time was different. But inevitably, I would get to the end of the board and stop dead in my tracks. I'd balk. My coach had the diagnosis--I was an "overthinker". Even though I was capable of doing the work, I couldn't get out of my head and turn off my brain.
I've gotten better with practice but still find that overthinking is my default. My tendency is to strive for perfection, and I feel punched in the gut when I make a bad decision. But I know that making a decision and taking action is infinitely more important than perfection.
To get myself to do that, I create these little games that help coax me into action. Here's one that I created to get myself to start giving to charity and it has three parts: prioritize, search, give.
Prioritize: Below is a list of different types of charities I took from Charity Navigator. You can use any list you like, but let's use this one as an example. Scan the list and pick one that you think is the most important. Don't judge your choice, just roll with it.
- Arts, Culture, Humanities
- Community Development
- Human and Civil Rights
- Human Services
- Research and Public Policy
Search: Armed with your priorities in hand, think of a location that you care about. Open up your favorite search engine and string together a few terms. For instance, "animals nonprofits Chicago" or "education charities near me". If you're like me, you'll find links to "best of" lists of nonprofits that are working on solving the issue you care most about. Turn off your brain, trust your gut, and choose one that feels good to you.
Give: After you've chosen, think of a number that feels like it would be easy to give. How about five dollars? Roughly what you might spend on a coffee or grabbing a beer. Now set up a monthly donation of five bucks to that nonprofit.
If you're like me, you will start thinking of a million other questions. Is this the best charity I could have picked? Am I giving the right amount? Is that actually the most important cause that I could give to? These are all great questions to think about in a few months or next year. But for today, just take a breath and smile. You've carved out a piece of your life to make the world a little better. And that's pretty amazing.