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Take this month's quiz to find out whether you are giving too much – and what you can do to restore your balance and wellbeing.

Tools for Restoring Balance

Exercise #1: Examine Your Motives

Many of us are experts at giving to others while depriving ourselves. Why would anyone do this? Why do you continue to say yes even when you're overextended? There are many possible answers. Look at the statements below and see which ones are true for you:

  • You think self-sacrifice is a form of virtue.
  • You want your good works to be spontaneously rewarded because they prove how good you are.
  • You view charity work as a kind of martyrdom, and that appeals to you.
  • By helping others, you avoid looking at yourself.
  • You hope your good works will solve your own unfaced problems.
  • Giving gives you a sense of control.
  • You give to relieve feelings of guilt.
  • You focus on pleasing others in order to avoid conflict, disapproval, or anger.

Keep in mind that most of us have more than one motive for any action we take. Sometimes we may give out of a genuine desire to express our love and affection. The goal here is to identify any hidden motives that keep the pattern of over giving in place. You’re looking at the shadow side of the over giver. Once you bring more awareness to your situation, you can begin to replace old conditioning with healthier, more life-affirming choices to better serve both you and the people in your life. Then you will be able to give because you want to . . . because it feels good and it makes you happy. When you can give fully of yourself out of your sense of wellbeing, while being detached from an outcome or expectation of being given to in return, then you are opening yourself to the full abundance and love of the universe.

Exercise #2: Connect to Your True Self

As Deepak observes in his letter this month, our essential nature is pure, unbounded spirit. The more time we spend connecting to this spiritual self, the more we will let go of old conditioning that drives us to give too much, to hold on too tightly, or to refuse to receive.

One of the most effective ways to connect to our true self is meditation. For thousands of years people have used this proven method of inner discovery to go beyond the mind’s mental confusion and emotional turbulence into the silence of pure awareness. When we meditate regularly, we go deeper and deeper inside ourselves, beyond the ego’s illusions, old thought-patterns, and rigid habits into the space of silent, peaceful, awareness.

Exercise #3: Create Your Absolute Yes List

This powerful idea comes from renowned life coach and bestselling author Cheryl Richardson. An Absolute Yes list is a list of your top five priorities. Cheryl suggests that people spend some time considering what is most important to them in the various areas of their life, including emotional and physical health, relationships, spiritual wellbeing, work, service/community, and adventure/leisure.

Once you have narrowed down your list to five items, make several copies of the list on index cards or sticky notes, and put them in places such as your appointment book, by your phone, on your car dashboard, your bathroom mirror, and anywhere you will frequently see the list and be reminded of what is most important to you. Then whenever you’re making a decision or responding to a request, it will become easier to honor your priorities and make choices that are in alignment with your highest good.

Exercise #4: What do I need right now?

If you are used to being a caregiver or someone who focuses on what other people want, you may often be unaware of your own needs and feelings. Or if you do notice them, you may quickly push them away, telling yourself you’re too busy to take time to address them. For this exercise, you are going to practice expanding your awareness of your needs and emotions.

Begin by setting a phone or clock alarm for three times throughout the day – such as 9 a.m., noon, and 5 p.m.  Whenever the alarm sounds, ask yourself, What am I feeling and what do I need right now? Just take a few moments to check in with yourself, take a few deep breaths, put your hand on your heart, and wait for the answers to come to you. It might take some practice to identify a need, so be patient with yourself.

Once you receive an answer, take some concrete step – no matter how small – to fulfill the need you have identified. It may be as simple as the need to get up from your desk and stretch your body, to go outside for a few moments, take a brisk walk, or call a friend. As you practice checking in with yourself on a regular basis, you will connect more deeply with yourself and  may begin to identify greater needs, such as, “I need to end this relationship” or “I need to cut down on the number of hours I volunteer.” As you honor these needs, you will strengthen your relationship with yourself and become more balanced in your giving.

Exercise #5: "Let me think about that and get back to you."

If your habitual response to a request is to say yes, it is very helpful to have in your toolkit a phrase you can you use to buy yourself time to check in with true needs and desires. A phrase such as “let me think about that and get back to you” is polite yet allows you to assert your need.  Let the person making the request know when you will get back to them, whether in a few hours or the next day.

If someone insists on an immediate answer, you can let him or her know that you have heard their request and then repeat your own need for time to consider. You might say, “Joe, I hear that it’s important for you that I give you an answer, and I’m going to need a little time to think about it. I will be able to let you know tomorrow.” Of course, if you know your answer is going to be no, it’s usually best to say so directly without delaying. You don’t have to offer elaborate reasons or justifications for your no – simply say that the plan won’t work for you this time.

Recommended Books for Self-Care & Empowerment

Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved, by Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt

Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg

Take Time for Your Life, by Cheryl Richardson

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most,  by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, and Roger Fisher

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