Tag Archives: Leadership

Undeniable – our DNA tells the story of humanity and life…

31 Jan

No matter how hard I try, I can’t get the images of the grown American man crying at the airport because his brother who had finally received his LEGAL, BONA-FIDE, permanent resident green card (after years of vetting and background checks) was detained at the airport.  It was heart-breaking and moved me to tears.  Without bringing politics or partisanship into play, I feel for anyone who faces rejection for any reason.  That’s just who I am… (and I’ve personally been through the visa, green card and citizenship road – it takes years of poking, prodding, investigation, interviews, background checks, more investigation, more interviews, vetting, etc. – it is certainly not a slam dunk, passport stamp process!)

I am optimistically hopeful with the new USA administration, and I am also cautiously concerned about some of the sweeping rhetoric and views expressed by elected officials with “we, the people’s” best interests in mind.  I hope that calm heads prevail and that kindness and sanity become our moniker!  America is and was great… period.

As someone who is not a Native American Indian, I am among the 99% of Americans who immigrated to this country.  I am not ashamed to say that an IMMIGRANT and if you are American and reading this, so are YOU (most likely!)

I love the people, the ambition, the open-mindedness, and overall savoir faire attitude and freedom.

I am also learning that history repeats itself (and not always in a good way…)

Last year I visited the National Archives in Washington, DC where the historical documents dating back hundreds of years are preserved and displayed.  I took particular note of turn of the century (early 1900’s) manuscripts and documents authored by immigrants (who were now in power in the U.S.) who cast laws to prevent immigration of their own people  (at the time I think it was Italians, in particular) — just a handful of years later.

I was bewildered by the fact that these men felt justified to enter the country as foreigners through Ellis Island (and obviously, in their opinion, they were good, upstanding, worthy of entry, people) and just a few years later, judged their own countrymen as scoundrels with ill-intent.  I’m still perplexed how power and money changes people. (I still smile at lawmakers who judge the unemployed as “lazy” until they, themselves are unemployed…)

It is interesting how inclusion of ourselves is important, but exclusion of others (who are exactly us – just separated by time) prevail when it’s no longer us who are directly affected.

How easy it is to judge and make rules when they don’t affect us personally.  I agree that we need to keep the “bad people” out of our country (as should any country!) – it’s just common sense, and…

I am also disturbed and concerned that we continue to repeat our history, instead of learning from it (I am intimately familiar with this trend of “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” in software development!  But, that’s another story…)  There has to be a better way.

DNA doesn’t lie and we are all connected as humanity…

I’d like to share this video with you simply for your comments and consideration.  It brings me to tears every time I watch it, so I’m just leaving it here…

Comments?  Wishing you a peaceful, happy, optimistic and uplifting day, week, year!

Love, C

Living up to Expectations

10 Oct

I’ve been really disappointed lately, but I realize that the disappointment stems from my unrealistic expectation of others.

“Expectation” is an innocuous word according to dictionary.com:

1.the act or the state of expecting: to wait in expectation.
2.the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.
3.an expectant  mental attitude: a high pitch of expectation.
4.something expected;  a thing looked forward to.
5.Often, expectations. a prospect of future good or profit: to have great expectations.
It’s all very subjective, yet cleanly defined.
In reality, expectations are far more elusive and laden with emotional impact.  When others “expect” something of us, it is based solely on their perspective, their longing, their wish for what or who they want you to be.  Yet, seldom are these expectations stated or expressed and the person who projects his/her expectations on others is often disappointed.  When you consider that it is utterly impossible to read another’s mind (where expectations reside) – it is no wonder that expectations go unmet!

I know someone…

who often is deeply disappointed in others because they expect a “basic level of behavior” (their words) based solely on their judgment of such.  This person is a thoughtful, considerate, put others first type of person for whom I have a great deal of respect.  It is difficult to watch this person continually lament over how others behave – all because the expectation of behavior is seldom met.  She just doesn’t realize that others work from a different set of basic rules of life.
Realizing just how impossible it is for others to live up to this person’s expectations (“common, basic respect” in her words) made me realize just how utterly failure prone we make ourselves when we project our expectations on others – and how disappointed we continue to be.
In the words of don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, “Agreement #2 – Never take anything personally…”  When we project OUR expectations on others, we normally do not tell them what these expectations include, nor do we give them a chance to defend whatever actions offend/disappoint us.
As a result, we end up thinking “How could that person be so rude to me? (They probably never realized that they were rude) or “How could they not ask me how I AM doing? All we talked about was them…” (The others probably didn’t notice their apparent self-centeredness.)
The key to feeling happy around others is to have few expectations (if any!) of others, and let life flow!  Instead of being disappointed that someone you were hoping would call didn’t – take matters into your own hands and call them when they don’t “deliver” to your expectations.  Often there is a good explanation for their “lapse” – most notably that they didn’t have any idea that you expected them to act a particular way.
Keep expectations for yourself – and then try to live up to those, instead of imposing them on others.

I used to expect a lot from other people…

– courtesy, respect, love, reciprocity, – all of the valors I grew up to think were part of the adult world.
Today, I’ve relaxed and redefined most of my former expectations – my new definition of respect is one where people don’t DISrespect me.  Love, I’ve learned is primarily conditional and never ever can be expected.  I used to expect unconditional love from loved ones (especially family) which is simply non-existent.  One cannot conjure up love from others – only for and  by oneself.
Reciprocity, I now know is a bonus – you can be nice and giving for your part, but that doesn’t mean that others will necessarily react in kind.  Others  follow their own path, not yours – which may not even consider reciprocity as an action.
Courtesy (especially “common courtesy” such as opening doors for people, giving up one’s metro seat for elderly, etc.) has been redefined for the 21st Century (at least based on behaviors in Florida!)  One person’s courtesy is another person’s great surprise – it is always a matter of subjectivity.

Expectations— only of yourself…

Today, I expect respect, courtesy, unconditional love, and reciprocity ONLY from myself.  Anticipating that anyone else would bestow these same behaviors on me is no longer part of my outlook.  Relying on my own resources to meet (and often exceed) my expectations has been wonderfully successful.

Maybe this would work for you too?

Have a great week!

Carol

Is anything “real” these days?

6 Sep

 

 

The internet has spawned an “International Attention Crisis” where people worldwide are addicted to constant (24×7) updates and instant gratification by social media, email, voice mail, and other “indirect” (i.e., non-face-to-face) contact with others.

 

Walk into any restaurant, bar, coffee shop, or even car, these days and you’ll seldom find anyone to talk to – in person that is – and you’ll find the same with everyone else.  It’s as if we’ve all become zombie slaves to our electronic connection tools.

 

Sometimes I wonder if there is really any communication happening in person today… except on reality TV shows where fantasy and reality blend seamlessly to convince us that non-communication in our homes and personal lives is okay.

 

Tell me what is real and what is fantasy in these situations:

 

– People sitting at the same table in a restaurant or bar (who are in-person friends) all texting others who are not there;

 

– Drivers in cars watching their smart phone screens instead of traffic all around them;

 

– Children who text their parents from their rooms instead of walking into the same room to talk;

 

– Facebook members who brag about having 5000+ “friends” when research proves that the human mind can accommodate a mere 150-or so friend relationships;

 

– People who call out or disrespect others using Facebook because they lack the guts to communicate directly;

 

– Unlimited texting is more popular than unlimited talk on cell phones;

 

– Twitter is replacing email systems as the preferred method for some corporate communications;

 

– When you meet someone they ask you if you are on Facebook or Twitter before they ask for your phone number or other contact information;

 

– People know you by your photo on social media and don’t recognize you in person;

 

– Interactive voice recognition (IVR) computer systems block access to real people when you need help desk support – sometimes there is no possible way to reach a live human being who can solve your problem;

 

– The only way to bypass circular menu systems and reach a live person at banks or cell phone providers is to say “Cancel service”;

 

– When people say “I’ll call you right back” it usually means they are bored of talking to you and will often text instead of calling back;

 

– “Events” from Facebook or social media fill out your social calendar where you mingle with mostly people you don’t care to meet again;

 

– Life becomes more isolated, more self-reliant, more independent, and less connected (even though it seems you are ultra-connected!)

 

Perhaps it is a sign that I am getting old, but I long for the days gone by when people went to restaurants and bars to meet and mingle rather than post photos and check-in on Facebook.  I’d like to go out “with” people who are not tethered, have a real date with a guy who isn’t constantly checking his email, and have good conversation with friends who are truly interested in my life and vice versa.

 

While it does happen from time to time, the reality is that nothing that was real yesterday (true communication, compassion, connection, and genuine interest) is real today.  Technology is supposed to be a communication “enabler” but I’m wondering just what kind of “enabling” it is really doing to our life today.

 

Is anything (or anyone) real these days or are we all living in the fantasy of virtual communication?

 

Wishing you genuine connections with real-life people!

 

Carol

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day – be a Mother to Yourself!

13 May
Mother's Day card

Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might sound a bit circular to you to suggest that you be a mother to yourself – but I believe that most mothers (no matter how wonderful) fall short of being the nurturing, caring, unconditionally caring mother we all need to get us through life.

Through this blog and in everyday interactions, I hear stories that range from mothers who are exceptionally giving and accepting to downright bitches on steroids who poison every person they meet.  We cannot choose our mothers, but we can choose how they affect our adult life (or at least we can try!)

Just as I believe in the Type Y management theory (most people will do the best job they can given the knowledge and education at hand) versus the Type X (people innately need to be micro-managed or they will cheat and do the least) – I believe that most mothers (and fathers) do the best job they can given their knowledge and education about parenting. (Of course there are exceptions – we read about them in the daily press or see them on Reality TV!)

Because today is Mother’s Day in North America, I’d like to focus on mothers (and the same wisdom can apply to being a father to yourself!)

What We Need from Mothers

Childhood memories might not be as distant to you as they are to me, but no doubt the good, bad, and the ugly of childhood sticks with us all.  We all bear the wonders (and the baggage) of growing up and I venture to guess that no matter where or when you grew up, it was not all honey and roses (if it was, then I applaud you for an ideal childhood or a selective memory!)

What would the ideal mother give? Here is my “laundry list”:

  • safety (from the physical and emotional affronts we face in the outside world);
  • security (with basic food, shelter and clothing taken care of);
  • acceptance (to know that we are whole, complete and perfect just as we are);
  • love (unconditional if that is even possible);
  • truth (that life isn’t fair, that there are good and bad people, that we deserve love, and that no matter what we can make it.)

Moreover, the perfect mother would remind us that we are good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, deserve love, and can make it no matter what or who life throws at us.  But, like a Barbie doll – such an ideal is only a fantasy.

My mother did her best to raise five children (only seven years apart) and offer a nurturing environment – given her knowledge and parenting skills, and I am truly grateful.  I always had a home where I knew someone would know my name and I could fall asleep without fear of violence or hunger – I am grateful, especially when I know that not everyone had this luxury.

Lifelong Mothering can only come from Within

Regardless of what your mother was like, I believe that EVERY mother falls short of being the ideal mother we need(ed).  The good news is that no matter who was/is your mother, we all have the opportunity, starting today, to be the ideal mother to ourselves.  We can give ourselves the inner pride, security, safety, unconditional love, acceptance, and truth to become the best we can be!

Many books attempt to teach us how to nurture ourselves and overcome our childhood – including  as the Inner Child, I’m Ok- You’re Ok, There is Nothing Wrong with You, Co-dependent No More, The Four Agreements,  etc.; but few teach how to be the mother you need(ed) for yourself.

Being able to rely on unconditional love and undying support of the ideal mother can only come from within. We owe it to our inner child to give him/her the nurturing in the way we need, from someone who knows us better than anyone possibly can.

Starting today – evict the Inner Critic

The first step to being a mother to yourself is to evict the harsh inner critic who takes up valuable real estate in your mind.  Replace this critical voice (you’re too xxx, you’ll never be yyy, don’t even try to do zzz!) with that of the ideal mother (you are perfect the way you are, you can become yyy, don’t just try but do zzz!, you can do it!)

Tell yourself what an ideal mother would say:

...you are extraodinary…you are beautiful…and you are loved.

In The Four Agreements, author don Miguel Ruiz says that Agreement #1 is Always live with integrity.  In other words, never tell yourself anything that you would not tell a best friend.  Be supportive, loving, accepting, proud, nurturing, and giving to yourself!

The second step is to write down the characteristics an ideal mother (or father) would have (or could have) provided in your life, and then start doing them for yourself!

Does this make Mother’s Day sense?

What do you think? Is this simply airy-fairy, psycho-babble?  I can tell you that the Royal We (me, myself and I) plus my inner Mother is a formidable team (newly formed!)

Does this ring true for you (or anyone you might know)… please comment!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Carol

Celebrities among us…

23 Apr

This past weekend I attended a “wrap party” for a local film festival where a smattering of celebrities graced the event and gained local entourage and special treatment.  It must be life as normal for the celebrities who hailed from Hollywood, New York and elsewhere, but for local Florida residents, it was a chance to rub shoulders with some more rich and famous.

I came to be at this event by assisting with coordination and on site logistics and I greeted guests as they arrived at the event.  I am not one to fawn over celebrities (or even recognize less famous ones) so it was interesting to watch others who did. I believe that everyone, no matter their rank or whether they are  peers, strangers, or celebrities, deserve the same level of respect and courtesy (unless they violate that right).  But, this is not a universal stance.

I found it interesting to watch as various actors arrived with large entourage (who walked dutifully behind them) and who expected (and received) special treatment.  It seemed a bit excessive to see “herds” of ten or more being led into the event. (Sheep came to mind…)

At one point, a group of four drunken baseball fans showed up without passes and expected to waltz off the street and be admitted  as if the party was theirs. Without credentials or passes, they grudgingly left.  Two returned later after befriending an actor smoking on the sidewalk, and felt justified in waltzing in as his new best friends.

Who (and what) makes a Celebrity?

In the field of acting or sports – normal human beings are raised to icon-status with outrageous salaries and fame.  From relative obscurity they are catapulted into fame and fortune – with often more luck than stellar ability, and their meteoric rise often falls equally fast. Yet, their claim to fame (for however long) lies with what our society values and holds in high esteem entertainment as a chosen career, over and above professions or occupations that make a difference to others.   We seldom see doctors, health care workers or teachers (whose impact can be far greater than entertainment value) elevated to any sort of “special” status.

Everyday celebrities…

If one stopped to view life as a series of adventures and survival experiences, more of us and the people in our lives would become celebrities, and that might be good.  In my books, everyone who succeeds through life (through the good, the bad, and the ugly) deserves the same respect, honorable treatment, courtesy, love, and decency that award to celebrity.  We ought to be celebrating (and “celebritizing”) everyone when they succeed in life.

Celebrities are all around us – take a look at all the parents, caregivers, workers, friends and colleagues who choose to make a difference, yet whose lives are normal, everyday, and without fanfare.  Would it not make sense to spread the celebrity status around (and maybe gratitude?)

What do you think?  Can you think of someone you know who might deserve a bit of celebrity status today?

Have a good week.

Carol

Sticks and Stones are Secondary

30 Mar

Did you grow up in the era of  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Childhood memories can be brutal – especially if you were ever accosted by a bully.  It didn’t happen more than a couple of times to me, but I remember yelling these words hoping the bullies chasing me would somehow get tripped up by some magical force that the words conjured up! They never threw punches, but the unkind words they flung could be far more damaging.

“Ugly duckling!”  “You look like a boy!”  “Pigeon toes!”  Words thrown in haste that decades later, for most of us, can still sting.

Names and words can be powerful weapons that can inflict pain, rejection or verbal “spanking” of others.  I believe that words can turn into W.O.M. – weapons of mass destruction, and cause widespread damage to whole societies.  (Hitler used words to effectively control a nation and alienate the world.)

I recall the story of a bully whose father caught him taunting the neighborhood kids. As punishment, he made his son put nails into a fence for each name he had yelled.  The fence was covered with nails by the time he was finished, and the father talked to his son about the damage he was causing.  The son recognized the bad behavior and promised to stop bullying.  When a day that passed without name calling, the father allowed the son to remove some nails from the fence, until it was finally clear of nails.  The lingering message came on the last day when the father showed the son the holes that remained in the fence.  The son then realized the lingering damage of careless words.

Today, many parents refrain from corporal punishment (physical spanking), but fail to recognize the harm they inflict by the verbal spankings they unleash with their words.  (It is oft quoted that children hear the word “no” around 67,000 times by the time they reach the age of two, and the word “yes” far less!)

What is worse – physical or verbal abuse? 

If you believe the opening line of this post (sticks and stones…), you may not agree that words and tone can cause damage.  But I would bet that unless you have the most confidence and the most wonderful parents in the world, you probably still cringe when you recall harsh words of grownups from your past.  Why do we convict those who use physical abuse as their weapon and not those who use words to the same effect?

This week, a new documentary called “Bully” opened in select theatres across the country.  The filmmakers chronicled the life of a teenage victim, in the hopes of raising awareness and curtailing bullying in schools. I agree that it is time we take action to stop school yard bullies so that all children can concentrate on learning (a good strategic move for our nation!)

Next steps…

Maybe the next step after that will be to face the less obvious, but sometimes worse, cyber bullying and verbal abuse.  But, first, we as adults, need to stop and recognize the power of words to cause harm.  Guilt, shame, rejection, and embarrassment… these are but a few of the emotions we can stir up with pointy words.  We would never poke someone’s eye out with a stick, but we don’t think twice about stabbing them with words.

(Sidenote:  sometimes parents even use these tactics on their grown children to coerce or manipulate them into submission.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of this from friends whose parents don’t realize they are no longer children.)   

Perhaps the first step towards healing our societies is to reword the childhood adage… to maybe “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will ever hurt me.”

Just food for thought…

Carol

Friday Folly

23 Mar

What if, just for today, everything was perfect in “your” world?

  • If all your thoughts were happy ones free of worry about yourself or anyone else?
  • If every cell and muscle in your body were pain-free and excited to be alive?
  • If every person you meet today is happy to see you?
  • If every sensation from your six senses (including intuition) was positive?
  • If you felt gratitude just for being alive?
  • If your soul felt optimistic about your future?

Author and sage, don Miguel Ruiz, says:

The dream of the planet is just a dream. It is not even real. If you go into the dream and start challenging your beliefs, you will find that most of the beliefs that guided you into the wounded mind are not even true.

Spend the next 24 hours Dreaming that all the above are already true – just as a Friday folly – and see if your Saturday doesn’t turn out to be just as awesome…

Have a great weekend!

Carol

Living Life Fully… 5 minutes at a Time

12 Mar

Life can be wondrous, exciting, frustrating, passionate, stressful, exhilarating, and sad, and sometimes it can be all of these at the same time! And that can bring on moments where we feel completely overwhelmed and incapable of thinking or moving forward.  When this happens to me, I remember one of the best pieces of advice from a friend:

You only have to make it through the next five minutes – one minute at a time…
and you WILL be fine.

She was right, and I share her wisdom with others when I see someone under stress.  If it works for me, why not for others?

Take a deep breath, inhale and exhale and simply breathe through the next 60 seconds, then 60 more until the magical 5 minute point.  At that point, nothing has changed but the wave of utter helplessness has somehow subsided.  Feeling overwhelmed is like the perfect storm – all things seem to collide at the same time making the negative waves seem like they are drowning us!

When we are overcome by emotion (positive or negative), financial or physical stress, or when something happens that “breaks the camel’s back”, we might wonder if we can make it through life – but we really only have to make it through the next five minutes.

Even 5 minutes can seem like an eternity!

But… when you set aside the massive pile of things that overwhelm you at the moment, and simply concentrate on making it through the next five minutes, five minutes at a time, things often become easier.

Five minutes are akin to bite size pieces of our lives. (Have you heard the famous answer to: How does one eat an elephant?  “One bite at a time.”)

Living life fully is sometimes as simple (and as difficult) as living it in bite sized pieces… five minutes at a time.

Wishing you a low stress, happy week ahead!

Carol

 

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

The more you Give, the more you… Give

13 Feb

As a classically trained engineer, I know that there are some immutable (unchangeable) laws of physics such as:  an object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a moving force; an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by and equal and opposite force; the law of gravity (gravity works); etc.  These are guaranteed laws that hold true no matter the where or when.

When it comes to people, however, there are few immutable laws. People behave well or badly often without logic.

Nonetheless, there are marketers who promote their workshops and profess networking prowess based on what they tout as an immutable law:

The more you Give, the more you Receive…

What a nice momism (things moms say to make the world seem nicer!)  Certainly the world could be more harmonious if this was a law of nature, but the two concepts (Giving and Receiving) are not coupled.

This causes undue stress when we believe that Giving and Receiving are related because it gives rise to unrealistic expectations.  Giving does not necessarily have anything to do with increasing the amount one will be given TO.  It is simply a fallacy to relate the latter as a natural occurring result of the former.  The truth is simply that the more you give, the more you, well, give.  Nothing more.

The expectation of reciprocity implies balance, of give and take in equal amounts, and when it comes to human beings, this simply is not the case.

There are those who give and give and then give some more, while there are those who readily take and take and take.  In between the two extremes are those who give and take and take and give in equal measure, but the two are still not related concepts.  There is no guarantee that giving will result in reciprocal giving – it might be a nice bonus if this happens, but that’s it.  A bonus.  If you are a frequent giver, there is nothing that says you will ever receive anything in return, nor should it ever be associated with the giving.

Now before you cite me as being critical and negative, think about this for a minute.  If you give unconditionally and altruistically, why is it that if you gain nothing, ever, in return do people get upset?  It is the anticipation that there will be giving and receiving in some equal portions – and this is simply an unrealistic expectation (leading to disappointment).

There is no relationship between giving and receiving, and it is about time that society (and parents) realize this. These are two separate concepts:

  • Giving is sharing and providing something to another without strings or conditions.  A giver that gives freely should never anticipate or expect anything in return – ever!  This is the simple concept of giving.
  • Receiving is a completely different concept and is the opposite side to giving.  Those who give need to give up the notion that there is a relationship here.  What you get has no dependence on what you give.  If someone decides to give something to you, they may associate it with an action you took, but it really is an independent self-contained action on its own. One can give without receiving, but one cannot receive unless someone else gives.  Giving is an independent, receiving is a dependent action.

Why is it so important to separate giving and receiving?

Only recently I woke up to the fact that I am an obsessive OVER-GIVER, and this is as unhealthy as being an OVER-TAKER.  An over-giver gives of him/herself relentlessly and often at their own expense (the classic sign of an addiction).  Conversely, an over-taker is often a narcissist who simply takes and takes without notice or regard for anyone else – this is not an addiction as there is no victim when it comes to overtaking!

Problems arise when an over-giver succumbs to his/her addiction and wakes up to the reality that s/he gave away too much and it is too late.  Over-givers lose friends, family, and loved ones in the process because they do not give others the chance to make it independently (over-givers do not like to watch others struggle – especially when s/he could ease the suffering through sharing and giving).  Over-givers need to step back and take care of themselves first (see earlier post – Put on your own mask first!)

Confessions of an Over-giver

Being an over-giver came naturally and quickly took its addictive hold.  It started innocently and early: as the oldest of five children, I already had four siblings by the time I was seven.  I had to share everything with everyone, and then some.  Growing up I can recall my father emphasizing Matthew 19;24 “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” and once I hit adulthood it stuck with me. I recall feeling like every cent I ever made was destined for sharing with everyone around me, lest I be a bad person.

Naively, I trusted that those with whom I shared would in turn be kind or at least appreciative, and instead they responded with entitlement or worse.  I did not realize that there was no connection between giving and receiving.  I gave and gave to others before giving to myself.  It didn’t stop with money – my over-giving extended to time, energy, expertise, passion, kindness, etc. – even if it meant that others gained, and it was to my detriment.   Giving the shirt off of one’s back was my mantra.

Today, at mid-life, I realize that my current financial, career, and relationship situation is a direct result of my compulsive over-giving.  It has rendered me powerless, almost penniless, at times jobless (I would spend time finding work for others first), and it caused conflict with former friends and family.  I have a feeling today that over-giving is a common addiction, but it is seldom talked about because there are no obvious victims aside from the over-giver him/herself.  And those who are over-takers love to be taken care of!

I am not alone in Over-giving…

I take comfort that the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert struggles with her own over-giving and wrote about it in the December 2011 issue of Oprah magazine: Elizabeth Gilbert’s Confessions of an Over-Giver  (Dec, 2011):

(As a great British wit once quipped, “You can always tell people who live for others, by the anguished expressions on the faces of the others.”) All I know is, those friendships withered under a cloud of mutual discomfort, and now we cross the street to avoid running into each other.

Years ago, in India, a monk warned me, “Never give anyone more than they are emotionally capable of receiving, or they will have no choice but to hate you for it.”

The blog The Curvy Life, featured a post on May 4, 2010 called The Trap of Over-giving.

Here is an excerpt:

For many of us, giving comes so naturally and easily that we have to be reminded not to over-give, either by giving beyond our means, beyond our time constraints, or beyond our energy levels. While I think that over-giving is often motivated by a heart full of gratitude and love, I also think that giving to the point of discomfort or pain can be motivated by a feeling that what we have to give (within our means, time, energy) or even more tragically, who we are as a human being, is not enough…

Over-giving is a trap. What may start as heart-centered giving can become a burdensome obligation. Those around us can begin to expect and feel entitled to our over-giving, thus depriving of us our rightful recognition and further feeding our sense of not-enoughness.

Where do you fit in?  Are you a freely giving person who can accept that the more you give, the more you give?  Or do you expect some level of reciprocity with those to who you give?

Or are you a taker who revels in the fact that people routinely and happily give to you, without consideration of giving back?

A counselor once told me that my ex and I were polar opposites:  I was the classic addicted over-giver who “enabled” his over-taking.  Receiving remained an unfulfilled and unrealistic expectation on my part.  I know better now.

What has been YOUR experience?

Have a stress-free week ahead!

Carol

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