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Do you love to go the extra mile for people? I do. It’s a matter of pride for me.

However, when you do it consistently and it regularly goes unnoticed, you can find yourself running out of steam.

There is a fine line between going the extra mile and being taken for a ride. Getting the balance right can be tricky.

If you don’t want to run out of petrol when you go the extra mile, you need to understand the difference between reciprocation and appreciation.

As I mentioned in Grand Giving – How to Set Boundaries and Improve Life, natural givers do not keep score. They are not in it for a possible return on their investment. They are in it for their own personal satisfaction and joy. That is the reward.

I once had a lengthy argument with a friend whose job was all about saving lives.

A firefighter, he regularly put his life at risk in order to save others.

I shared my belief that any altruistic act is also an act of selfishness. We do wonderful things for people in order to gain the reward of how it makes us feel about ourselves.

My view did not diminish the brave and amazing job he does but, in hindsight, I probably came across as not appreciating just how dedicated and courageous he is. Thus, we spoke for hours on the subject and left off agreeing to disagree.

I still believe that giving is ultimately a selfish act. Those who do it regularly understand the internal high it can produce – the personal payoff. That feeling makes you want to do it more.

However, when it becomes an expectation or is taken for granted without any appreciation, then it can take its toll on you.

IMPORTANT DISTINCTIONS WHEN YOU GO THE EXTRA MILE

Reciprocation is a return in kind or like value, a mutual exchange. You scratch my back and I scratch yours.

Recognition can be a form of reciprocation. For example, a recommendation given for a person or business in exchange for a job well done.

Appreciation, on the other hand, is simply an expression of gratitude – letting someone know that what they do matters.

These distinctions are important because natural givers do not expect reciprocation or even recognition. However, they risk running out of petrol when they feel unappreciated.

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Often, a lack of appreciation goes hand in hand with higher expectations, creating a vicious cycle where the giver ends up feeling like nothing they do is good enough.

YOU CAN RUN OUT OF PETROL ANYWHERE

This is often evident in the workplace.

I have a friend experiencing this at work. He does his job ‘by the book’ and always goes the extra mile. In fact, his dedication has resulted in customers specifically seeking him out and refusing to deal with other people in the business.

However, the managers he works for continue to pile on the pressure for him to do more while refusing to show any form of appreciation for the wonderful results his work attracts.

He has run out of petrol and is now looking for another place to work.

I was recently involved in a group project which required each participant to do a certain amount of work individually.

I did what was required, plus went the extra mile, doing a little extra.

Someone in the group failed not only to notice the extra mile, but also the required parts of the assignment that were completed. They suggested I hadn’t completed my part of the project. I was forced to defend myself and prove that I had. And that I had done even more.

There was a mild apology when my defence proved my point, but the lack of appreciation shown took the wind out of my sails a little. It made me question the wisdom to go the extra mile.

YOU CAN END UP ON A DESERTED ROAD WHEN YOU GO THE EXTRA MILE

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Lack of appreciation can destroy personal relationships when the giver feels they are being taken for a ride and used.

I once had a friend who didn’t drive and I often offered to take her to appointments and shopping. She showed her appreciation in the form of heartfelt thank yous when I started doing this. The appreciation was soon replaced with expectation. I put up with it for a while but could feel the effects of it making me run out of petrol. I eventually realised my energy would be better spent where it would be appreciated. She became a former friend.

Even family members who take you for granted can make you run out of petrol – if you let them.

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A popular tactic for those who will take you for a ride is to convince themselves they are in fact doing you the favour. This lets them off the hook when it comes to showing or even feeling, appreciation.

THE DANGER OF RUNNING OUT OF PETROL

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When you allow yourself to run out of petrol, you find the things you did with such joy and enthusiasm become burdens that fill you with resentment. A beautiful thing turned ugly.

If you allow this feeling to take hold, you risk ending up on the other side of the road, where you expect payment for everything you do.

To avoid this, you need to do a bit of road marking. Put in place some boundary lines before you run out of petrol.

  • Watch out for signs you are used by people you are trying to help. When you see them, change the terms of the relationship so that you are not forced to end it.
  • Don’t do more for people than you feel happy doing, regardless of their expectation. If you are a giver, you are already doing more than most. If you give more than feels comfortable, you will find you are not doing it with a generous heart. You won’t get the inner glow that giving gives.
  • In work situations, determine when going the extra mile will lead you to joy and when it will lead to a dead end. It may be that by saving petrol on one trip, you can go further where it will really count.

Happy travels and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.