The two most unlikely words to be associated together – generosity and burnout. After all, generosity, kindness, and helpfulness are prime virtues. But one does get burnt out from giving consistently. It negatively impacts our focus, performance at work, and our happiness too! Yet, generosity is one of the most powerful ways to experience a meaningful life. The secret to doing it right: having boundaries.

Before getting into the best practices of giving, let’s look at the generosity spectrum, which will help you identify who you are as a giver. Yes, there are types:

  • Matchers. They trade favors evenly, and expect reciprocity. It is a transactional style of giving, which does not perpetuate the practice of generosity. However, if you are dealing with someone who mostly takes, then matching is helpful.
  • Self-protective givers. They are kind and helpful, and know their limits. Instead of saying yes to every help request, they look for high-impact, low-effort ways of helping, so that they can sustain their energy. These are also some of the happiest givers.
  • Selfless givers. They set few or no boundaries, because they have a high concern for others. By ignoring their own needs, they exhaust themselves and, paradoxically, end up helping others less.

You would have understood by now that we are encouraging you to be self-protective givers. Just so you can continue giving healthily. Here’s a classic example of that, shared by researchers Adam Grant and Reb Rebele:

Ryan Daly, a lieutenant, served in the army for 45 years. Upon leaving the military, he made a personal commitment to help others with their career transitions. As word spread of his vision, he started fielding 40-50 calls a month from veterans. And the requests only ballooned over time. By the time Daly got a full-time job himself, he was averaging nearly a hundred advice calls a month.

Feeling crunched for time, he first thought about creating an FAQ document. But, he decided that wouldn’t work because he wished to revert to everyone on time, and also wanted to personalize or customize his responses. He thought his wishes were conflicting. Until Grant and Rebele suggested a weekly video conferencing session, which people could join for free from anywhere. This way, he could still interact with them directly, and answer common questions in fewer conversations.

The result: He was able to help more people, feel less depleted with his time/ energy, build relationships with veterans, and focus on his full-time job too. Sounds like the perfect balance, right?

What would it look like for you, to change your generosity practices? While you think, we’ll share some ideas in our next post.

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