The Great Give and Take

Dear HRart Worker,

In a world often divided into givers and takers, it’s crucial to recognize that the reality is far more nuanced. The label of giver versus taker is not actually an either-or situation; it resides on a scale where most of us find ourselves somewhere in between.

Whether you lean more toward the side of giving or taking, achieving balance means understanding and embracing the dynamics of both within your life. I’ve been wanting to share a valuable lesson I’ve learned about the delicate art of balancing giving and taking, a lesson that has increasingly played a pivotal role in my own life.

However, I hesitated to begin writing on this topic because I was concerned it might imply that one side is somehow inferior or undesirable. Additionally, I grappled with the notion that I might be struggling to strike the right balance, given my strong inclination toward being a giver and my reluctance to embrace the idea of being a taker. Despite my best efforts to seek opportunities for taking, I found it challenging to make both sides equal.

Then, I stumbled upon a quote that served as a perfect introduction to a profound discussion by Jean Oelwang, author of Partnering. This quote not only provided the context I needed but also shed light on the wisdom behind this lesson. 

“In his book Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant showed that takers, who focus on self-interest, might win in the short term, but people tire of constantly giving to them. It is the givers, as long as they protect themselves from being exploited, who have better prospects for success and happiness in the long term.” -Jean Oelwang, Partnering

I’ve absorbed and packaged this lesson into four guideposts that can assist us in achieving a harmonious balance between.

Guidepost #1 Relationships

Guidepost #1 Relationships

In our everyday interactions with people, we can observe the dynamics of giving and taking in action. It’s only natural that those who seek to take will be attracted to individuals willing to give. In a healthy relationship, this dynamic is never consistently one-sided. Even if one person naturally tends to be more of a giver and the other leans toward being a taker, there’s still a mutual exchange that happens. This balance occurs in relationships where the energy and willingness to give and take are reasonably aligned.

However, when a dissonance or mismatch starts to develop and continues to grow, it can become burdensome for the giver. They are asked to give continuously and at an excessive frequency, turning what were initially minor drains on their energy into a significant depletion of their reserves.

Call to Reflection

Take a moment to pause and assess your closest relationships—the ones that have significant access to your life. 

  • Reflect on the past year and consider the dynamics of the give-and-take in those relationships. 
  • Most importantly, be honest with yourself. Do you sense a disconnection from this person? Does it feel like you and they are in entirely different stages of your lives, with an ongoing struggle to relate to each other?
Guidepost #2 Reserves

Guidepost #2 Reserves

The concept of give and take extends beyond individual relationships; it should also be considered on a larger scale, encompassing the collective of giving and taking within your life. When our collective giving becomes excessive, an imbalance starts to emerge because we deplete our energetic reserves. To engage in healthy giving, it’s essential to acknowledge that we only have a finite amount to give before it starts hurting us. When we dip into these reserves to give just a little bit more, we are essentially using a rainy day fund of reserves that we may need in the future. These reserves are there to help us stay physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy when we face significant life challenges. If we deplete them entirely, how will we manage when we require extra energy just to survive?

The most significant contributor to draining our reserves is the demands on our time. Time is a finite resource, and when we have an excessive amount to do with too little time available, we tend to push ourselves beyond our limits, depleting our energetic reserves in the process.

Call to Reflection

Take a moment to examine your calendar. 

  • Who or what is demanding your time physically, emotionally, and mentally? 
  • What is the energetic cost associated with these demands? 
  • Are you receiving sufficient compensation or support to justify sacrificing these reserves? 
  • Look at your calendar and ask yourself how much time remains for you to replenish these reserves. 
  • How long do you think it will be before your reserves reach dangerously low levels, making it impossible for you to sustain the current demands on your time?
Guidepost #3 Resources

Guidepost #3 Resources

Sometimes, we tend to overlook the fact that our physical resources have their limits. We’ve been conditioned to believe that these limitations define us or prevent us from achieving our goals. As a result, we often come up with creative solutions to work around these limitations. However, these creative solutions can end up draining our energy because they add extra demands to our tasks or projects.

Consider a DIY home project that you decide to take on because you don’t have the physical resources to hire someone to complete the job. When you already have a busy schedule with personal and professional commitments, taking on such a project can stretch your energetic capacity thin. To complete it without depleting your reserves, you would need to plan and allocate time for it, which might mean sacrificing other demands on your time. Instead, what many of us do is force ourselves to make it work, which not only drains our reserves but also disrupts our natural flow.

As Eckhart Tolle wisely puts it, “Life is the dancer, and you are the dance. Don’t resist; let it flow.”

What if we reframed our perspective on resources? Instead of seeing them purely as limitations, we could view them as life’s boundaries. These boundaries help us let go of what’s beyond them so that we can fully focus on what’s right in front of us, allowing us to be fully present in the here and now.

Call to Reflection: 

  • Are there physical resources that you currently perceive as limitations in your life?
  • Are the creative solutions you’re using actually causing you to give more than necessary?
  • What might you consider letting go of in order to simplify your life?
  • What’s right in front of you that’s seeking your undivided attention?
  • How would it feel to be in a state of flow and experience a sense of grace, ease, and lightness?
Guidepost #4 Ration

Guidepost #4 Ration

When we intentionally manage our energy, we often fall into the trap of prioritization. Our societal way of life tends to place passion and purpose at the forefront, particularly for those of us engaged in meaningful work. This often leads us to give a significant portion of our energy to that particular area of our lives. Unfortunately, this can result in neglecting other crucial aspects, as we convince ourselves that they are patiently waiting for their moment in the spotlight, a day that may never come. This setup doesn’t come without consequences, though. While those neglected areas “patiently” wait for their turn, we often carry emotional guilt and personal judgment for not focusing on these equally important aspects, such as family and personal health.

Achieving true balance involves learning how to ration our energy effectively. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a primary focus area, but we must also ensure that we consistently allocate some of our energy to the other significant areas of our lives. Choosing not to do so can lead to not only an additional drain on our energy but also inner turmoil as we grapple with doubts about whether our current choices are the right ones.

Call to reflection:  

  • Where are you currently investing most of your energy?
  • What are you neglecting, that’s patiently awaiting attention?
  • How do you feel when you recognize you haven’t given energy to these neglected items?
  • What does it mean to consistently allocate energy to each of these neglected items? Think about starting small, like once a month, and then gradually increasing.
The Outcomes of Evaluating My Own Balance

The Outcomes Of Evaluating My Own Balance

In the past year, I’ve been deeply reflecting on the HRart Center and our mission. This work holds a special place in my heart and is a part of who I am. However, I’ve also come to recognize the impact it has on my energy and resources, and I need to practice what I’m teaching. This led me to make some tough decisions, like letting go of our building on North George Street in York. While it was like a second home, it was taking a toll on my energy.

As hard that decision was to make because our building is such a special place for so many, it was equally just as exciting to imagine new possibilities. This decision has opened up new possibilities for our team to envision the future of our work and how we can be of greater service.

I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll be moving at the end of January 2024 to a space that perfectly suits our next phase. While I can’t reveal all the details just yet, we’ll keep you informed through upcoming newsletters and social media updates. Stay tuned as we navigate this journey, proving that when you embrace the give and take, there’s room for so much growth and transformation.


Samm (she/her/hers) 

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