Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Give and you shall receive

That’s how the saying goes, right? At the root of almost every act of giving, you will find the expectation to receive. It’s only natural. Last week I discussed giving to my children. But it hasn't been without expectation that they will be grateful, and eventually wildly successful because of it, right? And I'd be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I thought dedicating time to this space would bring a little compensation (turns out that’s no easy task).

Even with the purest intentions, we give in the hopes of eventually being on the receiving end.

These expectations are typically pinpointed; only allowing for a specific result. In the case of this blog, for example, I anticipated earning a small amount of money through advertising to cover my expenses. Well, I’ve currently earned 36 cents, people! Instead, what has happened, surprised me. I’ve had friends reach out to share what something I’ve written has meant to them. I’ve been asked for advice. My relationships with family and friends have deepened. This gift has been so much greater than my narrow-minded expectation.

But what if the results aren't as great? You tirelessly give your child the world and he finds himself in trouble anyway. Or you work really hard on a project and your boss doesn’t give you the recognition you deserve. What happens when the expectation is never realized? Failed expectations lead to disappointment, repeated disappointment leads to resentment, resentment leads to unhappiness. You can see where I’m going with this.

On the contrary, can you remember a time you approached something without expectation and were pleasantly surprised? There has to be a happiness study being conducted on this somewhere because gosh, those have been some of the greatest joys in life.

But unless you’re an amazing God-like person who can constantly give only as an act of love and kindness (the ultimate goal, but one that can be so difficult), you have some expectation of receiving. How do we eliminate this to uncover greater happiness?

The short answer is we don’t.

The long answer is we change our mindset. Expectations are typically outward-focused, meaning we are seeking an outcome from someone or something that is entirely out of our control.

If I slave over dinner anticipating my family will love it and instead my children tell me it’s gross, I’m resentful. But if I’m making dinner because I enjoy cooking and want to practice a new recipe, I’ve succeeded before the meal hits the table.

If I spend hours perfecting something I’ve written here expecting it will be groundbreaking and increase readership, and it bombs, well, I’m disappointed. However, if I writing in hopes of achieving personal growth, I’ve succeeded no matter the external response.

If I’m understanding and supportive of my husband after a terrible day at the office, expecting he will later acknowledge my efforts, and he misses it completely, I’m bitter. But if I’m making a personal effort to practice patience and empathy, I’ve succeeded.

If we shift the expectations inward, it is always sustainable.

Where have expectations failed you? How do you give, no strings attached?

I also want to take a moment to thank you for reading. Please keep your messages coming (although I won’t expect them. Ha!). I’m so grateful for each and every one of you that has read, shared, or shown interest in this space. Look for some fun, lighthearted posts in the next couple weeks, including a delicious recipe on Thursday that's guaranteed to make your weekly dinner rotation.

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