When You Give a Little, You Get a Lot

I'm one of those sappy people who can get emotional watching commercials. One of my favorite commercial ad campaigns is the Liberty Mutual campaign. The TV ads show people “doing the right thing” and setting off a chain reaction of other people doing the right thing. In one of the commercials, a woman stops a man from stepping into the street in front of a bus, then a man who witnessed that act allows someone to cut into line in front of his car. For the next minute or so, you witness a variety of good deeds. It always tugs at my heart and makes me want to do good deeds.

Some recent studies have shown that doing a good deed can enhance your mood and make you happier. A 2007 study conducted by the University of Louisville in Kentucky found that people who do things that are meaningful were happier than people who do things for their own pleasure.

Another study by Stanford University psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found similar results. She asked one group of students to perform five acts of kindness during the week but did not ask another group to do the same. Students who performed the acts of kindness reported feeling happier than the control group, and students who performed all five acts of kindness in one day were the happiest.

So if doing a good deed on an individual basis can make you feel happier, just think about what doing a good deed as a group can do for you, your staff and your members. Lately, we've had plenty of reasons to get depressed about things. The economy hasn't been kind to many fitness facility owners and operators. Some of you may have had to lay off staff. Many of you probably saw your membership numbers or revenue fall as you offered deals to entice prospects to your facility. Many of your members may be struggling without a job or with reduced wages.

So what better time than now to do a collective good deed? Many of you probably already collected money or food for the Haiti earthquake survivors. Why not expand to even more good causes? You could work as a club with Habitat for Humanity to build a house. As spring arrives, so will charity runs and walks for causes such as breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and diabetes. Why not get together a team to train at your club and then run or walk as a group?

Each year, for-profit clubs raise money for ALS through Augie's Quest. The big fundraiser is occurring this month at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, but you can donate year-round to the cause.

Late last month, many clubs participated in Ride 2 Recovery, a Spin event to benefit injured soldiers. Why not create a training team to prepare for the next Ride 2 Recovery?

The cost to get together a group to participate in any of these events is minimal — often just that of time. Participation in these events may bring in new members and additional revenue for your clubs, but that's not the main purpose for reaching out to your community. Helping others offers a feeling of connectiveness to those around you — the people you work with during the event and those for whom you do the charity event. And when you make someone else's life better through that connection, the change you create keeps right on giving. What a great way to lift up yourself and others during a time when many are struggling.

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