22 Days Of Doing Better: Day 14

January 19, 2018  |  

Trying to live your best life in 2018 — or at least a better one? We’re here to help with #DoBetter2018, a 22-day series of how-to articles to help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions and personal growth goals.

The holidays are over and, if we’re being honest, gone with it is most of our resolve to give back. When snow is on the ground and gifts are under the tree, the less fortunate are at the forefront of our minds, but when we have to get back to our regular lives — and for most of us that means anywhere from 8- to 12-hour work days — offering up what little me time we have outside of our familial and professional obligations to volunteer becomes harder and harder.

There’s no shortage of causes to support with one’s time and money. And if you’re doing the latter you should always make sure to check out the organization in question to ensure it’s the actual charity you want to give to, as Art Taylor, president/CEO of BBB’s Give.org, a charity evaluator that helps verify the trustworthiness of charities, explained to us last year.

But short of taking the time to actually research opportunities to volunteer in our communities, what really stops us from giving back is time, specifically the perceived lack of it. But volunteering isn’t just donating a few hours of your Saturday to make yourself feel good, it’s a way to bring about real change. As Gary Morton, a West Point distinguished graduate, and author of Commanding Excellence, explained, “When a large number of people feel that they are the one making a difference, that’s when you get an extraordinary change—think the difference volunteers are making in devastated hurricane areas. Millennials are making major strides in this area.”

But you don’t have to wait until crisis strikes to act. One of the best ways to make volunteering more of a priority in the new year is to get involved with a cause that’s near to your heart. Katherine Ludwig, coauthor of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age, in explaining how to get parents to encourage their children to volunteer more actually offered advice that’s applicable to all adults. When it comes to volunteering, she said, “This shouldn’t be viewed as a nice-to-have only if and when they have the time, but a top priority… Help your kid (and yourself) find ways to serve others in a manner that is personally meaningful to her.”

National organizations like Volunteers of America can help you find local opportunities to aid the homeless, at-risk youth, senior citizens, children and adults with developmental delays, domestic violence victims, and those affected by HIV/AIDS. If education is a personal passion, you can tutor kids at schools in your neighborhood; if you have a zeal for health and wellness, offer a free workout class at a local community center. You can even use your professional skills to assist individuals with things like tax preparation.

And if you want to go really big, you can consider volunteer tourism, either taking a trip solely for the purpose of aiding communities abroad, or incorporating some sort of volunteer element into an already planned vacation. “There are so many opportunities, and in some cases, for little cost,” said Tam Warner Minton, travel blogger behind the site www.travelswithtam.com, who has traveled all over the world on volunteer trips since 2012. “I have some advice for you: be bold. Why not look at it? Eco-tourism, volunteer tourism, or citizen science will take you to places you’ve never even dreamed of.”

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