A Season of Smart Service: How to Avoid Giver Burnout

Are You a Selfless Giver?

This time of year is made for givers with countless opportunities to offer time, money, ideas, skills and cheer. However, after giving thanks, giving gifts and giving toasts we can be left fatigued or burned out. Burnout looks and feels differently for many of us, but for me it typically surfaces with feelings of resentment, lack of interest and sloppy work with little follow-through. If you have a giving personality, you’ve probably felt like this from time to time.

I come from a family of “take the shirt off my back,” or “selfless givers,”as described by Wharton professor Adam Grant. In his illuminating new book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Grant describes selfless givers as, “…people with high other-interest and low self-interest. They give their time and energy without regard for their own needs, and they pay a price for it.” According to Grant, the price that selfless givers pay is more than burnout. Over time, selfless givers earn less, are judged as less powerful and are more likely to become victims of crimes.

So, you may be wondering, “What is all this giving for anyway?” If we look at giving or service as a civic duty or a responsibility we can see that our responsibility represents our unique gifts in action. The basis of the word respond is from the Latin respondere, which means, “to promise in return.” Our responsibility is the one thing or gift that we can offer that no one else can. If we are not fulfilling our responsibility, no one else is. If we think of service in this way, we can see how important each of us is to the greater community. Our service is essential to the growth of the community and to receiving the energy that we need “in return.” Giving fulfills a deep need that we have for connection with others. So how do we receive the benefits of giving without burning out?

We have a long season of giving upon us. Here are some tips to give the most out of it!

  • Don’t give to get! Giving in a “tit for tat” style leads to a closed loop.
  • Give to projects that inspire you so that your self-interests are also being served.
  • Bulk giving or service hours together instead of sprinkling your energy out over too many projects. This way you experience your impact more directly.
  • If you can help someone in five minutes or less, give the help indiscriminately.
  • Check in with yourself before saying yes. Do you have time in your schedule to give to this request? Does it align with your values?
  • When hearing a request for giving, listen for areas you can add value.
  • Remember that giving creates a network that can serve you when you least expect it!

If you need some help reorienting yourself to give with intention, give me a call!

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