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“Giving” Leads to Resilience More Than “Taking”

“Giving” Leads to Resilience More Than “Taking”

It might seem counter-intuitive, in our modern business-driven society, that people who are “givers” are more likely to succeed, certainly to experience more well-being, than “takers.” But that’s precisely the point organizational psychologist Adam Grant makes again and again in Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.

Based on decades of collaborative research with business leaders and behavioral scientists, Grant analyzes differences among “givers, matchers, and takers” in styles and results and demonstrates that:

How we approach our interactions with other people – providing mentoring, sharing credit, making connections for the benefit of others, creating reciprocity circles – can contribute to our success in life and work as much as the other traditional elements – hard work, talent, and luck.

Building social credit and using “powerless” communication (humble “tentative” talk) can influence others even more than “powerhouse” presentations

Linking hard work with moral values and altruistic core purpose is essential to fuel motivation and perseverance.

These findings apply in any field of endeavor: business, medicine, education, artistic pursuits, sports.

What intrigued me the most was that for givers to maintain their energy and motivation, not burnout or become a doormat, they needed to consciously balance focus on others with focus on self. [Chapter 6 sub-title: Why Some Givers Burn Out but Others Are on Fire] That balance is not selfish, it’s wise and sustainable.

Reminded me of the wisdom of the Compassion with Equanimity exercise in the Mindful Self-Compassion protocol.  If professional caregivers and family caregivers are to avoid burnout, they need to cultivate nourishing and soothing for themselves as much as for the person(s) they are caring for.  The exercise is below. It’s taught as a guided meditation, but I use it myself regularly in my clinical practice so that I can maintain the “givingness” of being a psychotherapist and maintain my enthusiasm and well-being as well.

Exercise: Compassion with Equanimity

1.  Sit comfortably, closing your eyes, and take a few deep, relaxing breaths.  Allow yourself to feel the sensations of breathing in and breathing out.   Notice how your breath nourishes your body as you inhale and soothes your body as you exhale.

2.  Let your breathing find its own natural rhythm.  Continue feeling the sensations of breathing in and breathing out.  If you like, place your hand over your heart or any other place on your body that is soothing, as a reminder to bring not just awareness, but loving awareness, to your experience, and to yourself.

3.  Aware of any stress you are carrying in your body, inhale fully and deeply, drawing compassion inside your body and filling every cell in your body with compassion.  Let yourself be soothed by inhaling deeply, and by giving yourself the compassion you need when you experience discomfort.

4.  Now focus your attention on your in-breath, letting yourself enjoy the sensations of breathing in, one breath after another, noticing how your in-breath nourishes every cell in your body, and then releasing your breath.

5.  If you like, you can also carry a word on each in-breath, such as “nourishing,” or “loving,” or “compassion and care,” or “deep ease” or “inner peace.”  Give to yourself whatever you need in this moment.  You can also imagine inhaling warmth or light – whatever works for you.

6.  Now, bring to mind someone to whom you would like to send warmth and kindness and care and goodwill, either someone you love or someone who is struggling and needs compassion.  Visualize that person clearly in your mind.

7.  Shift your focus now to your out breath. Feel your body breathe out, and send warmth and kindness and care and goodwill to this person with each exhalation.  If you like, you can add a kind word with each out-breath – soothing, soothing, or ease, ease, or an image of caring and compassion.

8.  Now, feel your body breathe both in and out – breathing in for yourself and breathing out for another.  “Nourishing for me; nourishing for you.”  Or “soothing for me; soothing for you.”  Or whatever words work for you.  Eventually, you can simply say, “one for me; one for you.  One for me; one for you.”  Feel the breath of kindness flowing in, flowing out.

9. As you maintain that rhythm, listen carefully to these words, letting them gently roll through your mind:

S-61        Equanimity Prayer

Everyone is on his or her own life journey.

I am not the cause of this person’s suffering,

Nor is it entirely within my power to make it go away,

Even if I wish I could.

Moments like this are difficult to bear,

Yet I may still try to help if I can.

Breathing in for yourself and breathing out for another.  “Nourishing for me; nourishing for you.”  Or “soothing for me; soothing for you.”  Or whatever words work for you.  Eventually, you can simply say, “one for me; one for you.  One for me; one for you.”  Feel the breath of kindness flowing in, flowing out.

10.  You can focus a little more on yourself, or a little more on the other person – whatever you need. Repeat the phrases again:

Everyone is on his or her own life journey.

I am not the cause of this person’s suffering,

Nor is it entirely within my power to make it go away,

Even if I wish I could.

Moments like this are difficult to bear,

Yet I may still try to help if I can.

11.  Then gently bring your awareness back to breathing in and out, in this moment, in this place, and when you are ready, open your eyes.

12.  Reflect on your experience; Notice any shifts in your feelings for yourself or for the other person.

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