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Go-Getter or Go-Giver?

I read a great book recently – ‘Thrive’ by Ariana Huffington, the founder of ‘The Huffington Post’.

Was that because:

  1. I want to improve my professionalism and be able to help the boys here more?
  2. Because reading inspiring books is good self-help for me?
  3. Because feeling able to help boys here more IS self-help for me as it helps me to feel that I’m making a difference?
  4. All of the above?

The answer is, of course, d. To my mind, any act of altruism has an aspect of self-help because giving is good for us. For me, reading self-help books is win, win, win. They help me in themselves, they improve my work with the boys and that makes me feel better about myself! Result!

Read more on altruism here:

Ariana Huffington makes the point admirably, devoting a whole section of her book to ‘Giving’, recommending random acts of kindness, regular volunteering, financial giving and volunteering as a family activity at the weekend. (Wish I’d done the last one when my children were small but too late now!) If you feel uncomfortable at the idea of giving for your own well-being, join the club. In the nicest possible way, however, I suggest that you get over it! For me, Dorothea Brooke’s cry from the heart in ‘Middlemarch’ by George Eliot, precisely expresses my own conclusion:

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”

If I gain personal benefit from any altruistic action I take, then everyone wins. If I hold back, thinking my motivation is not pure, then everyone loses. So I choose to accept it and get on with life!

The question is, what are we teaching to our boys? So often our focus is on what they can ‘get’ out of life. They must ‘get’ the best grades, ‘take’ opportunities, ‘reap the rewards’ of their efforts, ‘get into’ the best universities and ‘get’ a great job. Their lives are so crammed with ‘getting’ that there’s virtually no room left for ‘giving’. For some boys, (not all, of course!) there’s no ‘give’ at all, in every sense. If they volunteer for something, it’s to ‘get’ Duke of Edinburgh or to ‘get something good’ to put on their CVS.

This, to me, is slightly different from accepting that giving helps our well-being. It’s still good, let’s make no mistake. I am delighted that so many boys do D of E and volunteer at hospitals and care homes in order to support their applications for medicine and the like. I wonder, however, if volunteering in order to ‘get something out of it’ has the same benefits for our well-being? At ‘The Huffington Post’, staff get three days paid leave annually to ‘do volunteering’. Is that really ‘volunteering’? I’m not knocking the programme – there are obvious other benefits but surely the ‘giving’ aspect is reduced? Does that mean the impact on well-being is also reduced? I have no idea!

So I present you with a challenge this coming week! In your busy lives and those of your sons, can you make space for ‘giving’? I’m sure many of you already are and are feeling the benefit. If so, it would be great to hear from you and even better to hear about how your sons are ‘Go-givers’ as well as ‘Go-getters’!

Just drop me an email at

Meg Harper, School Counsellor