Archives for posts with tag: Motivation

Why would anyone ever want to volunteer? There are absolutely no tangible benefits; you’re lucky if you get a gift card to The Keg after years of service, if that. There’s no pay, no money, no financial incentives, no personal economic benefit whatsoever. A Joker once said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” Our whole culture is built on the principle of selling our labour at admittedly below-cost wages, and who would stray from that? For something with even less pecuniary value! Makes absolutely no sense.

When you consider that money is actually garbage at motivating people beyond completing basic tasks, it makes perfect sense, and it turns out there are quite a few reasons why people give away their labour for free. Some reasons adhere to the ‘giving’ nature of volunteering: altruism, paying it forward, fighting for those with special needs (youth, the elderly, the disabled, etc.), and developing a helping culture. Others follow the ‘getting’ path: emotional rewards, meaningfulness and self-fulfillment, personal well-being, and a place in society. Some relate to both: gaining by giving (eg. I might need this kind of help later) and personal growth. And completely irrelevantly to the previous methods, people volunteer as an expression of their values, to follow their role models, to fill up spare time, to overcome personal matters, and most importantly, as a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism. This is going to come back later, so remember that: a continuation of a lifetime of volunteerism.

The benefits of volunteering are most felt among seniors. Compared to the equivalent non-volunteer, elder volunteers have better physical and mental health, they have better life satisfaction, a longer life expectancy, fewer bouts of depression, and they have greater access to pertinent health information such as exercise techniques and preventative medical care. If you’re old and you volunteer, you are literally less likely to die. The more volunteering you do, the better your chances, as there is a 63% greater increase in perceived health between those who volunteer at multiple organizations compared to those who volunteer at just one. The benefits go on: volunteering can prolong an independent lifestyle, extend participation in the labour force and community, prevent memory loss, and it can even help manage chronic illness. Perhaps you might associate healthy people with volunteering, rather than volunteering with healthy people, but luckily science has already stepped in and said, nah, volunteering does all this. It’s pretty great. In fact, it’s pretty dumb not to.

And, as with everything, we seem to be getting dumber, and shockingly, it’s not the Millennials’ fault this time. Everyone knows about Canada’s aging population, right? Well, more than just single payer healthcare is at risk. Retirees have all this free time, no family commitments, and our seniors today are way healthier and more educated than any group of seniors have ever been before, ever. Ideal conditions for becoming volunteers. However, the enthusiasm isn’t there anymore. It was: even though young people volunteer the most out of any demographic, seniors have traditionally devoted the most hours. On average, seniors devote about 223 hours to volunteering, compared to the next highest group (ages 15 to 24) who clocked in at 130 hours. Seniors make up most of what is called the group of Super-Volunteers, the 10% of all volunteers who make up about 53% of all volunteer hours. These Super-Volunteers aren’t going to live forever, and unfortunately the next group in line to take their position are Boomers.

The Report of the National Seniors Council On Volunteering Among Seniors And Positive Active Aging predicts a “void” which these Boomers are unlikely to fill. Considering that volunteering is estimated to contribute more than $14 billion to the Canadian economy annually (estimated because nobody gets paid, remember), it’s probably pretty important to figure out why Boomers are dropping the ball. There are two lines of thinking on the matter.

The first is that Boomers are such delicate snowflakes that they put the worst libtard SJW to shame. Just listen to this directive from Volunteer Canada to organizations seeking to lure in prospective Boomer volunteers:

Effectively engaging baby boomers requires careful consideration of the life circumstances of each volunteer. Taking the time to listen to the interests and motivations of a potential volunteer can serve to benefit an organization in designing a meaningful assignment that also meets the needs of the organization.

That Seniors Council report from earlier explains that Boomers need “stimulating volunteer experiences that respond to personal needs and interests.” Boomers need a sense of ownership over their work, and need to see its impact on society. They fear that organizations are simply dumping busywork on volunteers, and want volunteering opportunities that matches their skill set. Organizations that rely on volunteers are usually smaller, which typically require a more generalist approach, but Boomers don’t want to deal with any of that boring shit. Boomers want to change the world, but they don’t want to actually do grunt work in order to get it done. Dirt under the fingernails is for peasants, I suppose. There is also less religious incentive, as this incoming generation of seniors is less religiously inclined. Volunteer Canada says that churches, which used to serve as a formal and informal recruitment centre for volunteers, will no longer be effective with Boomers. Shame too, given that almost all of those Super-Volunteers identify as people of faith, even if they don’t cite religious motivation as their driving force.

The other line of thinking for the volunteering decline is the reason the Boomers give themselves: they simply don’t have the time, both in their day to day lives and in their inability to make a year long commitment. Now, that’s a safe answer to give and perhaps the real answer is one that Boomers simply aren’t willing to divulge in a survey, but it’s worth looking into. Boomers do seek casual commitments, swiping left more often than right, testing out organizations before making real commitments. Our oft cited report defines their volunteering as “episodic,” with a greater emphasis on specific projects rather than committing to a single organization for any significant period of time.

Boomers are the first to endure being nicknamed a Sandwich Generation: a generation that must care for its aging parents as well as its stay-at-home children. Obviously this isn’t a new phenomenon, and it is quite common in certain cultures, but it is of growing concern due to the work commitments that households face today that they didn’t before, on top of these additional caring obligations. People are working more hours than ever, and wages are not keeping up with worker productivity, which means people are working harder for less money. With that less money, Canadians owe $1.67 for every dollar they make, with the total Canadian personal debt burden topping over 2 trillion dollars. For reference, from that same year (2016), the Canadian federal debt was 1.3 trillion. Remember that bank employees are pressured to deceive their customers in order to up-sell credit spending, even if you want to forget the practices of credit card companies that target those in poverty with high interest, high penalty rate offers sold under the guise of solving their financial woes. So it’s no wonder that folks are working more. Seniors especially need to put off retirement or continue to work part-time just to survive! Who can volunteer when you’ve got to work essentially forever and take care of kids who can’t move out because they’re even worse off than the Boomers?

In all honesty, the answer probably lies somewhere in between. Boomers don’t want to drudge through the muck in order to help others, they want to be the champion that saves the day with their unique talents. Those are the lucky ones, while the rest are stuck in an increasingly exploitative economy that doesn’t allow time for community work in the first place. Hmm. A community that is failing to take care of itself in any meaningful way due to a cult of individualism and structural economic inequities… hmmmmmmm….

There is a way out. When looking at seniors transitioning into retirement, the greatest factor in them becoming volunteers isn’t religion, altruism, or any ‘giving’ or ‘getting’ motivating factor. The increase of new volunteers upon retirement does not even come close to those who simply continue to volunteer. Those who have been volunteering throughout their entire lives. We shouldn’t be trying to convert Boomers as they stumble into retirement; they’re already a lost cause. Start people volunteering at an earlier age, and those will be the ones who become the next Super-Volunteers when they discover all that free time you’re supposed to get at retirement.

We need to create a culture of volunteering. Remind people that there are better ways to find fulfillment than just earning a paycheck. Try to avoid falling into the trap that an individual can save the world on their own. Superman is a fiction. The reality is that groups of people are the ones who make change. We need to reconnect people with their communities. Rebuild the idea of neighbours. This idea of community rebuilding is quite prominent in progressive circles, and perhaps a culture of volunteering is the path to its fruition.

Life is finite. There’s no question about it; what we’ve got on this earth is going to come to an end. If it is seen as inevitable, the when and how don’t really matter. What matters is everything that comes before that point.

How does one measure an experience? It can make you happy, it can make you sad. In either case, it doesn’t last long, in the grand scheme of things. And as previously mentioned, it all comes crashing down at one point or another, so the value of a single experience is either very minimal, or meaningless entirely.

So really, the only way to measure the quality of a life is to measure the quantity of experiences. It literally doesn’t matter at all what you do, since each individual experience, value-wise, is no different from any other. There is only one thing that can stop the flow of experiences, and that is the end. One should accept death as inevitable, but in doing so, recognize that it is the only thing stopping the one point of life: to live.

It doesn’t matter what you do; just go out, and do.