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Take ESC's new 2019 "Happiness Challenge"

It isn't often that philosophers, psychologists, spiritual leaders and business leaders agree on an elusive and deep question that goes to the heart of what it means to be human. But when it comes to human happiness, at least in our modern Western society, there is surprising agreement: happiness requires finding meaning and purpose in life, and that involves giving to a cause bigger than one's self. 

Just take it from these notable thinkers and doers:


According to the British logician-philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who published the famous treatise "The Conquest of Happiness" in 1930, the key to happiness is that it comes not to the person who "demands affection" but to the one who gives affection to others. Interest in persons and things outside oneself enables one to feel "part of the stream of life, not a hard-separate entity like a billiard ball, which can have no relation with other entities except that of collision." 


New York-based psychiatrist and Yale clinician lecturer Dr. Anna Yusim, in her new book "Fulfilled: How the Science of Spirituality Can Help You Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life" (Hachette, 2017), identifies as a critical element of happiness qualities that take one out of one's own ego and into deeper parts of the soul, defined as "light, goodness, optimism, hope, love and generosity."  Finding deeper meaning and purpose aligns perfectly with giving to others; it is a practice that expands positivity and counteracts "darkness, fear and stagnation." Taking the Happiness Challenge may be the most therapeutic thing you can do!


As long ago as the 12th century, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimonedes set forth his famous eight levels of giving. Under Maimonedes' giving ladder, the highest level of charity is endowing a person with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his or her hand so that he or she will not need to be dependent upon others. That's what ESC practices every day with each of our volunteers and supporters when we strengthen the hands of the non-profit community in Chicago, which in turn strengthens the members of the community that non-profits serve. 


As a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the non-profit community in the Chicago metropolitan area, ESC's own mission necessarily includes increasing opportunities for happiness through giving to others. ESC helps non-profits strengthen their missions, develop their boards, increase their donor bases, and relies itself on the giving of volunteer executives (in time and talent, inspiration as well as financial contributions) to carry out its happiness-enhancing work. 


To promote increased giving to others and enable our community of friends, supporters, volunteers, agencies and clients to become happier, we are starting the "Happiness Challenge." Here's how it works.  


There are three types of Happiness Challenge Activities we want to highlight: (a) giving time and talent, (b) giving money and resources (or setting up the vehicles for giving; that counts too!), and (c) encouraging/helping others to do (a) or (b). In future issues of this newsletter, we will highlight creative, impactful and interesting ways to fulfill these alternative routes to happiness. 


So how do you Take the ESC Happiness Challenge? It's simple. 


   1. Spend an extra hour, extra day or extra week on a project or activity that gives to others or decide how to enrich the hours, days or weeks you are already spending to make you happier and more generous in your involvement, and

   2. Give an extra donation to your favorite non-profit or help that not-profit access resources it needs to grow or set up a new means of giving (becoming a monthly donor to ESC is one way to meet this challenge but becoming a donor or helping on a fundraiser for any non-profit organization counts) and

   3. Open up the value of giving -- the benefits for human happiness -- to someone who is younger than you. 

   4. Tell us what you did and how it made you happier. This will help us all stay motivated and encourage one another. Together let's put some positivity out there! Tag us on social media and use the hashtag #ESCHappinessChallenge.


We will run future articles that highlight creative, meaningful, interesting, effective and rewarding actions that create more happiness. Guess what? Sharing with a community of friends and supporters the meaningful ways in which we give builds friendships too and inspires others. 


Here's an initial inspiring example. New ESC volunteer Nancy Carstadt has already started doing and sharing under our Happiness Challenge when she reported on the most meaningful or rewarding example of how giving to others made her happy. She reported that the most rewarding thing she did with a non-profit was to arrange for children in the children's choir to meet Nelson Mandala. 


Nancy's donation of her time and talent put smiles on the faces of not just the children who got to meet Nelson Mandala and their families, but hearing about this makes us smile too. Just imagine what that opportunity meant for the children and their families. It is exactly the sort of "pass it forward" activity that makes the world a better place. That's the power of giving and then sharing. It's the power of inspiration. 

It doesn't take such a one-of-a-lifetime experience to take our happiness challenge (though we don't rule it out). We invite our community to share these gems like Nancy's. The road to happiness through giving is taken in small steps: the extra hour, the extra check at a time of need, the especially thoughtful contribution to a challenge a group faced, or a conversation that helped another person find their own way to happiness through giving. 


Please share the small steps and the most meaningful gifts you have given. By sharing what you do in our challenge, you will not just make yourself happier, you will make ESC happier too.



Future issues of the newsletter will share the resolves of our Happiness Challenge. And we'll talk about how to make the Happiness Challenge a habit too. 


To share how you are accepting the Happiness Challenge please contact Diane at or tag us in your social media posts with the hashtag #ESCHappinessChallenge and let us know what you did and how it made you happier. We're eager to hear.


The mission of the Executive Service Corps of Chicago (ESC) is to make nonprofits successful. ESC provides consulting and coaching to hundreds of nonprofit and governmental organizations each year.

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