Maybe you love the warm glow that comes from giving, but you hold back because you think others will walk all over you or you’ll wind up feeling overwhelmed. It turns out that ancient Buddhist teachings and modern psychology agree on the solution for that.
Buddhism describes 3 models of giving. A shepherd devotes himself to his flock and forgets about himself. A boat captain carries everyone to their destination together. A king gathers his wealth and power before taking care of his subjects.
If you guessed that the king has the only sustainable model here, you’re right. You need to take care of your own welfare to be able to serve others.
Try these tips for practicing generosity without burning out or becoming a doormat.
Giving Without Feeling Like a Doormat
1. Take care of yourself. Any successful caregiver knows they have to attend to their own needs as well as those they are trying to help. If you sacrifice your own strength, you’ll have little joy and few resources to share with others.
2. Screen carefully. Some dinner guests will invite you over to their house for the next meal, and some will ask you to pack up the leftovers so they can take them home with them. Give to those who appreciate your generosity, and ask for what you need in return.
3. Establish priorities. You may receive more worthy requests than you can handle. Decide what’s most important to you, whether it’s your immediate family or global poverty.
4. Ask for help. Giving is a two-way street. We empower each other by taking turns and providing support.
5. Create value. How do you negotiate when you and the other party want the same thing? Creative thinking can reveal new options that satisfy both of you. Split the last piece of pie and serve it with cheese for two full desserts.
6. Make your own choices. Giving is rewarding when it’s voluntary and meaningful. Decide how you want to give rather than giving into pressure or guilt.
Giving Without Experiencing Burnout
1. Focus on impact. It’s easier to stay motivated when you can see that your giving is making a difference. Participate in activities that provide quick and measurable results.
2. Enjoy rewards. On the other hand, many worthwhile endeavors take time to bear fruit. You may need other strategies to encourage you to hang in there. If it’s going to take all spring to clean up the local park, listen to your favorite music while you work.
3. Budget your time. Give more in less time by organizing your schedule efficiently. Designate quiet blocks of time when you can concentrate on your own work, while setting aside other hours for volunteering in your community or assisting your colleagues.
4. Encourage a giving culture. Encouraging others to give lightens your load, and gives your friends a chance to experience more happiness. Let others know about your good deeds so they can join you.
5. Leverage your strengths. Draw on your unique talents and abilities. Others will welcome your valuable contributions and you’ll enjoy the process more. If you have trouble carrying a tune, let someone else sing Christmas carols at the senior center. You can wow them with your homemade desserts.
6. Start small. Giving takes practice. Pick a few areas where you’re comfortable sharing your time, expertise, and resources. You’ll gradually find your own style, and generosity will become a habit.
It’s better to give than receive as long as your generosity is tempered by wisdom. Skillful giving invigorates you rather than draining your energy. The more riches you give away, the wealthier you’ll become.