How to Give Without Burnout

On BeingHow do you give to others without overextending yourself? I have struggled with this question since I left my job as Executive Director of Housing California and moved to New Zealand to redesign my life. I liked my choices to work for an important cause and to give to friends and family with love and service. This extended to my church family and to others in the world. The cumulative impact over time was stress and burnout. I started listening to Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being at my friend Gigi Johnson’s recommendation. I just recently went back into the archives to hear her interview with Adam Grant.

Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist and teaches at Wharton School of Business. His research is on the givers, the takers, and the matchers of this world and he has learned that we find meaning in any kind of work if we feel that we can be of service. Furthermore, failed givers help anyone; successful givers are more intentional and keep good boundaries.

Ah boundaries. I have been taking Brene Brown’s on-line classes at and watching various interviews with Professor Brown. This video from the Work of the People website is a great summary of the importance of boundaries.

Give and Take book thumbnailMy challenge is converting my head knowledge to practice. In fact, this is true in almost every area of my life: eating, finances, exercises, work/life balance. I know what is in my long term interest and yet I make choices based on short term emotional needs. Boundaries–established and practiced–could make this all much less fraught. The “knowing-doing gap” is great in this area of my life and leadership.

This is my new practice. I feel a sense of urgency because I get great joy from giving and I do not want to be stingy out of some misguided sense of fear that I cannot maintain healthy boundaries. I want to be living into each day with joy and anticipation, knowing I can begin again tomorrow if I blow it and that balance is an ongoing act (not a static state).

I am going to check out Adam Grant’s book Give and Take and see if I can learn any more good ideas for avoiding burnout.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s