“And there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”  Proverbs 11:24-25

One of the greatest causes of negative thinking and poor mental health is self-absorption. Selfishness inclines people toward failure because it keeps them in a negative mental rut. That is the reason that Dr. Karl Menninger responded the way he did when someone asked, “What would you advise a person to do, if he felt a nervous breakdown coming on?” Most people expected him to reply, “Consult a psychiatrist,” because that was his profession.

To their astonishment Menninger replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railway tracks, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”

My friend Kevin Myers says, “Most people are too insecure to give anything away.” I believe that’s true. Most people who focus all their attention on themselves do so because they feel that they’re missing something in their lives, so they’re trying to get it back.

Developing a giving spirit, as Menninger implies, helps a person to overcome some of those feelings of deficiency in a positive and healthy way. That’s why Menninger says, “Generous people are rarely mentally ill people.” A person is less likely to focus on himself if he is trying to help someone else.

Excerpt from Failing Forward