Why you give too much + how that depletes your happy tank

Give. The four letter word that allows our best self come forward and also depletes our sense of well–being at the same time.

I never considered myself as a giver. For most of my life, I always thought I hated helping people. Unbeknownst to me, I didn’t hate being of service at all. What I hated was that when I give, I give too much, and I give none to myself. Good deeds turned resentful.

Can you relate?

I spent the majority of last year supporting my dad through his health crisis. In and out of hospitals, schlepping the many miles to and from his home and mine, picking him up, dropping him off, day in, day out. I love my dad to the moon and back, and would do almost anything to make his life easier and more comfortable.

Not only that, I wanted him to be certain he was never forgotten or had to face anything alone. I gave myself this monumental responsibility of saving his life.

To accommodate this, I put aside my dreams, my business and my self–care to make space for what was not only important, but also urgent.

Eventually, my spirit broke down.

If you are a Giver who gives too much, you are probably all too familiar with this plight. It’s a blessing that our hearts are made of gold, but it’s also a burden to take on all the problems of the world. Is my capacity to love a gift or is it a curse? Some days, I really couldn’t tell.

During that time, I was wondering to myself, why is it so easy to give to others but why is it so hard to give to myself?

This is the answer I came up with:

President Eisenhower

Did you know that President Dwight D. Eisenhower made all of his decisions based on one little chart? This principle is called the Eisenhower Matrix. He ran the country this way, by separating all of his responsibilities into 4 quadrants:

• Quadrant 1 is work that’s urgent and important
• Quadrant 2 is work that’s not urgent but important
• Quadrant 3 is work that’s urgent but not important
• Quadrant 4 is work that’s not urgent nor important

If you’re scratching your head, let me get right down to it and explain what this all means.

First, let’s look at what types of activities belong in each of our own quadrants:

Quadrant 1 is time–sensitive, urgent stuff, things which can’t be put off. For example, tending to your family’s needs or boss’s needs are considered Quadrant 1. When that urgent stuff calls, you’ll drop everything you’re doing and start rescuing. (Oh, not again!)

Quadrant 2 is your long–term stuff, which are things you can put off now but you won’t be able to sooner or later. It’s the stuff that’s easy to shelve to the back burner because it’s not yelling and screaming for your attention. Exercise, self–care, marketing, running your business, going out to make new friends, learning something new, and traveling all belong in Quadrant 2. (Scary, but exciting!)

Quadrant 3 is the annoying little stuff that just show up unannounced in your day which keep interrupting you. It’s not hard work, but you just do them to get them out of your way. This is the area where we don’t ask for help because sometimes it feels easier and faster to take care of it yourself. (Red alert!)

Quadrant 4 is where we go when we’re feeling resistance from doing what’s really important to us. Instead of taking action on what matters, we choose to waste time on doing things which are neither urgent nor important. (Uh oh!)

What President Eisenhower is saying is that we should focus almost all our time on Quadrant 2 stuff — like activating our dreams, taking care of ourselves and doing things that make us happy, purposeful and deeply fulfilled.

In time, all the other stuff can be delegated, eliminated, planned and forgotten.

I can hear you gasp — wouldn’t that be too irresponsible?

It feels that way, and for the majority of my life, I thought that’s how the world worked too. I’m all about taking on more responsibility than I need to. But President Eisenhower said:

“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

Is that really true?

You see, here’s the key:

Urgent is what we do for others. Important is what we do for ourselves.

In other words, if we are constantly focused on taking care of the urgent things for other people, we are always going to be giving way. too. much, and neglecting our bodies, our happiness and our dreams.

Think about it. When someone asks you to drop what you’re doing and help her with something, why does it feel so terribly hard to say no?

That’s because when we are Givers, other people’s requests always feel totally urgent. You’d think to yourself, “Ooh, this sounds urgent and I better take care of this now and make her feel better.” Her anxiousness, her impatience, her neediness, your sense of responsibility, your love or your dedication to this relationship will cause you to always put her needs ahead of your own.

In actuality, maybe what that person is asking you to do is not urgent at all. She even tells you that it can wait. But in your heart, you’re in emergency mode, trying to satisfy this request at once.

Here’s the part that kills: it’s not that it’s urgent to her, it’s urgent to you, because if you don’t do this damn thing right this second, something you really want but cannot have is going to be upset, taken away or threatened.

Like what?

Your sense of being responsible. Your sense of pleasing others so they won’t dislike you or leave you. Your sense of insecurity about your own worthiness. Your sense of safety in a relationship. Your sense of not trusting your place in the world.

In other words, you think: I must do this NOW or else this (whatever this is) will be gone.

That is where the underlying sense of urgency exists. Not in the truth, not in the facts, not in the situation, but in your fears.

That is why it is so easy for Givers to give too much, because in that moment, we can’t properly diagnose what’s truly urgent vs. what feels urgent (because it might upset something we dearly hold).

When you’re frantically trying to satisfy every request, that gives you no energy to nourish yourself. In fact, nourishing yourself might trigger your sense of guilt. And this gives you no time to play, experiment, incubate, reflect, imagine, visualize or move your body.

When you’re busy giving too much to others, your dreams will feel like a faraway fantasy. But if you’re always giving back to yourself and filling your happy tank, your dreams stand a chance.

Practice giving to yourself regularly, not when you’re completely depleted and your sense of well–being turns into a crisis.

It all starts with looking at what you are doing for others vs. what you are not doing for yourself, and having the courage to say no.

As you start to make these changes, you’re going to realize that you haven’t loved yourself this much in a very long time. From that moment forward, make a vow to yourself that you’re going to release the guilt, change your beliefs and change your life.

Over time, your Giver’s muscle will strengthen, that boundary will tighten, and self–care will become utterly joyful and also non–negotiable.

Hi, I’m Ana Coeur

I teach entrepreneurs how to create their business straight from their soul. I offer a complete Intuitive Business Suite to help you create, design, write and sell all from your intuition. Here’s the services you can take advantage of to empower your business: Intuitive Web & Brand Design, Intuitive Copywriting and Intuitive Selling. If there’s anything I can help you with, I would love to hear about it! You may email me at anaatintuitivepicture.com

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  • May 14, 2014

    Very good and I like it. I would love to know how you changed things regarding your Dad. My daughter has certain issues at the moment that require me to drive her to medical appointments and to have her around me a lot more than I had got used to – she is now half home schooled. The client sucks aside, I find that my daughter is draining the life out of me some days. How did you change that around?

    • Anni
      May 14, 2014

      Hi Louise,

      I empathize with you – thank for sharing. With my dad, I had to learn 2 things: one is that my business matters. It wasn’t a variable or a negotiable or a “I’ll take care of it when it’s convenient for me.” I learned to give my business (and me) equal weight and importance. It’s not less than or “doesn’t matter as much.” It does matter, so step one is to honor that, because it’s not only your financial livelihood but it’s your dream, your happy place and also your compass in life. Without those things, we get lost and stop feeling connected to our life.

      Second is that I learned to ask for help and scale back on what isn’t totally necessary. I learned that I didn’t need to drive my dad to every appointment – so I asked my brothers to share that responsibility. It was hard because I wanted to do it myself because if I did it myself, it would be done perfectly. Sometimes, I sent car service to pick him up from across town and I’d meet him at the hospital. I also guided my mom on how to help him instead of trying to do everything myself. And I also learned to let things go and realize my dad is ultimately the one responsible for his healing. So if he didn’t want to do Qigong everyday, I let that go and honored his choices.

      It would be tough for your daughter if she’s young and really needs you. But we can talk more about that privately. 🙂

      I hope this helps and sending lots of love to you and your daughter.


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