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Be Charitable


Techniques Willpower > Be Charitable

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



A useful and good way of developing your willpower is to be more generous when you might otherwise ignore the plight of others. We know we should give more to charity, but then we have inner argument that make us more selfish.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Offer to massage your partner's neck and shoulders when they are tired, even if you are tired too.
  • Give money to someone begging on the streets, at least once a week.
  • Reject uncharitable thoughts, where perhaps you are being mentally unkind to others.
  • Offer to give up your seat on the bus or train to someone who may need it more than you.
  • At work or home, offer to make coffee for others even when you are busy.
  • Be the first to buy a round of drinks when out with friends, even though you know it is probably going to be the most expensive round of the evening.


A person does a couple of hours a week at a shelter for the homeless, even though the fear of being homeless themself makes them not want to do this.

It is a person's birthday so several friends club together their very small funds to get the person a nice present. This is organized by one person who is normally very careful with their money and are not at all good at getting others to help. They feel good afterwards and conclude also that it was a good way of getting out of their miserly habits.


Being generous and charitable does not come naturally to many of us and it is an act of will to get out the wallet and contribute or take time to go and help others. Just forcing yourself to do this is good exercise in developing your willpower for all kinds of other things.

Of course there are additional benefits to being charitable. It makes you feel good for complying with values. It makes the other person feel good (so you can get vicarious pleasure from this). You also may well get admiration from your friends and family, which provides you with a nice identity boost.

From an evolutionary pespective, prosocial behavior can seem counter-productive until you consider the benefits of tribalism and cooperation. If you are charitable to others, they will be inclined to reciprocate and help you when you need it too.

See also

Values, Identity, Exchange principle


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