Say you want to do good throughout your life. One unfortunate possibility is that your interest in doing so might fade over time. There are many examples of this happening, from youthful activists getting jaded to former nonprofit workers moving to money-making jobs. But this fading is not inevitable, and can be both understood and prevented. We all want to be good people, and there are simple tricks that can help us accomplish that and prevent our good intentions from fading away.
There are a few major reasons why we might do less good in the future, and they often work together. The first, and most common one, might be a failure of willpower. Just like going to the gym, doing the right thing can sometimes be hard even if we think we should do it. You might want to make a donation but also really want a little more spending money. Often, we just don’t have the willpower or energy to make the choices we want to. The second reason is distraction and forgetfulness. It is easy to forget things, particularly when you have a busy life. I know a friend who kept intending to donate but kept forgetting and getting distracted for months before they did so. Another common reason is a change in life circumstances or environment. Getting new friends or partners who are not supportive of your altruistic endeavours might change them. Another change in your life circumstances that could change how much you focus on altruism is having a child and prioritizing them.
Fortunately, there are a number of easy things that you can do to ensure you do good in both the short and the long term. One of them is doing a little more good now; if you might not always be able to support your cause then it’s worth focusing on what you can accomplish today. Another very easy thing to do is to set up recurring donations. These donations happen automatically and it’s then impossible to forget about them. The third thing anyone can do - and one of the most scientifically backed ways to ensure you follow through - is to make a public commitment. For example, many of the world’s richest people have publicly pledged to donate half of their wealth, and there are several websites where you can publicly state your donation plans. Telling your friends and family about your plans also helps you stay true to them.
The final thing you can do is to keep in mind how much your environment affects you. If you want to continue to be a person who cares about the environment, then find friends who also care about the environment. If you really care about poverty, pick a partner who shares that passion. This will not only motivate you to keep up the good you are doing but it might also motivate you to do even more good. I certainly know that when I changed to a more caring peer group it greatly affected how much time and money I dedicated to helping the world.
Doing good over the long term is important and we can greatly increase our odds of succeeding in doing so by making a few simple changes now. For example, by setting up a recurring donation today and publicly telling others about it you are not only spreading the word about an important cause, but also increasing the chances that you’ll continue doing good in the future.