How often do you give something to someone without expecting anything in return?
Most of the time, people are expecting to get something in exchange for the time and effort they spend helping someone else. Do you know what happens when you start giving without expecting anything in return?
Unconditional giving is your ticket to freedom. In this article, I’ll tell you why.
The Limits of Reciprocity
Have you ever bought a product you didn’t need just because it was free? Have you ever given something to someone solely because they gave something to you? In other words, have you done things you regret or didn’t need to do just for reciprocity’s sake?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reciprocity. It’s great on many levels. It ensures that we all help each other and prevents us from getting taken advantage of. But it can also become a problem for those who don’t know how to handle it.
If you lack a firm grip on reciprocity, you might encounter the following unpleasant scenarios:
- You feel obliged to help even if you don’t have the time or resources to do it.
- You abandon opportunities to do something of significant value for yourself or society as a whole because you’re too busy helping someone else.
- You do something that’s not aligned with your values or ethics to help someone.
- You feel guilty if you don’t help someone who has helped you.
The Alternative Mindset of Unconditional Giving
So far, we’ve mentioned a traditional mindset that most people take for granted: I gave you something, so you should give me something in return. Or, conversely, you gave me something so I have to give you something back.
What if there was another way to go about it? What if you decide that, whenever you think of a way to help someone, you will do so without expecting anything in return?
You could contact someone because you found a great book that could help them in their career.
Or maybe someone you know is working on a project and you have a particular skillset that will help them.
Or perhaps you discover a great French restaurant you think your colleague would love to take his girlfriend to.
You Don’t Owe Anything to Anyone!
When someone helps me in some way, I experience the following train of thought: I didn’t force them to help me, they chose to do it. Therefore, whether or not they expect me to help them in return is not my problem. I have nothing to do with that.
Does that sound cruel? Well, it’s actually kinder than it may seem. I don’t want people to feel like they owe me something simply because I did something for them. I value freedom more than anything, and I want people to reciprocate ONLY if they really feel like it. Naturally, I want the same thing for myself.
If people help you just because they want you to help them, I don’t call that help. I call it manipulation. It’s like free samples in the supermarket. The reason those work so well is because people feel the psychological need to reciprocate by purchasing the product. That’s nonsense.
You don’t owe anyone anything to anyone, nor does anyone owe anything to you.
Free Yourself Through Unconditional Giving
Now, consider the following mindset: I help people without expecting anything in return, and I expect others to do the same. Does this make you feel guilty? Well, if you sincerely help those around you whenever you can, you’re less likely to feel obligated to reciprocate in a mechanical way.
By mechanical, I mean the “you gave me something so I must give something back” school of thought. Instead, you’ll become more flexible and allow more freedom for yourself and others.
Let’s look at some of the benefits that come with unconditional giving.
1. You’ll Help Others from a Place of Sincerity Rather than Obligation
Because you’re frequently helping others, you’ll have a broader view on giving. You’ll no longer see giving as a highly codified contract between people. You’ll see it as a flow that can come and go in any direction. You’ll help someone without expecting them to help you in return. You won’t worry about what or when they should give something back to you.
The fact that you help others on a regular basis will also lessen the feeling that you’re obligated to reciprocate when someone gives you something or helps you in some way. You’ll know that sometimes you’ll help people who won’t reciprocate in any way, but you’ll also receive help from people you may not help in return.
2. You Can Focus On What Truly Matters
By giving unconditionally, you create more freedom in your life regarding how, when, and to what extent you should reciprocate, or whether you should reciprocate at all. You’ll also feel less guilty if you don’t reciprocate.
All of this will enable you to focus your time on what really matters to you. Of course, it’s much easier to concentrate on what’s most important if you’re clear on your core values (see Identify Your Core Values).
Does this sound a bit selfish? I actually think that focusing on yourself is a prerequisite for effectively helping others. If you become mired in helping people with things you aren’t equipped to handle just because you think you have to, you won’t have time for what you’re good at. You won’t have the energy for that which allows you to help the greatest number of people. This also applies to helping people with things that go against your ethics.
For these reasons, I think what I’m saying here works better than constantly worrying about whether you’re reciprocating enough (or, worse yet, refusing to get help for fear of being unable to reciprocate).
3. You Can Receive Help More Freely
You’re going to come across people who genuinely want to help you and sincerely want you to succeed in life. However, for reasons such as pride or fear of being a burden, you may be reluctant to accept their precious assistance. Fortunately, giving unconditionally will help you feel more entitled to receive help when it’s offered.
I like to think of help as a gift. Have you ever refused a Christmas gift from someone? I haven’t. How do you feel when you genuinely want to help someone or give them something, but they refuse it? You feel badly, right? Well, so do the people who are trying to help you!
When you start giving more, it will become easier for you to receive.
4. Giving Makes You Happy
I believe we’re designed to give. Studies show that spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending money on ourselves. Giving makes us happy, but it must be a choice, not a duty. Unconditional giving allows you to tap into this natural instinct by freeing you from the rigid contract we tend to impose on ourselves.
Through unconditional giving, you gain more freedom regarding whether you should give something to someone. You can start choosing to give instead of doing it because you have to.
Unconditional giving goes beyond the traditional concept of reciprocity. It sees giving and receiving as a flow. It prevents us from getting stuck in inflexible relationships that are beneficial neither to us nor society as a whole.
So give it a try. The next time you want to give something, do it without concern for what you’ll get out of it. And when you’re offered help, take it without worrying about what you’ll give in return.
- My How to be Happy Series here
- 10 Tips to Know Yourself Better and Get What You Want From Life
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