“…an icky sensation that welled up from deep inside her.” Good Busy, p.62
April is dedicated to Gungee, a practice about the importance of forward motion in the midst of emotional stress or hardship. Esther, a bartender in Las Vegas who I interviewed, coined the term Gungee. At times Esther has faced great difficulties in her life, which are detailed in Good Busy, and she has always figured out how to keep going. As I reread the chapter, I realized that often my own Gungee appears when I give too much to others and neglect taking care of myself. This revelation has made me think more deeply about my role as both giver and receiver. When you read the Gungee chapter, you will see how Esther has struggled with giving, both at work and in her family life.
Recently, The New York Times Magazine featured an article about giving in the workplace. The article focuses on the research and everyday practices of Adam Grant, a professor of Management at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Give and Take, Grant divides the world into givers, takers, and matchers, and argues that the people who get ahead in the work world are the ones who practice workplace altruism. Grant identifies himself as a giver. He rarely says no and always says yes to the five-minute favor. As a result, he is an award winning professor, in addition to being a well-published scholar.
While I was inspired by Grant’s research, it also made me a little queasy. My fear is that the givers are going to think they have to give even more than they already do. Some people, like Grant, are able to give massively without becoming depleted or sick. Many of us struggle to be generous and also maintain clear boundaries. Giving can also follow gendered norms that leave women with greater responsibilities around caregiving. For some, being too generous can lead to Gungee.
While I know I will benefit from Grant’s ongoing research and appreciate his personal example, I want to encourage the givers out there to steer clear of the Gungee that can creep into your life when you give too much. What would happen if you stopped being a giver for a week? What if you tried waiting a little before you volunteered to take on a chore? If you have dependents in your life, you may need to remember practices like Milk (Your Cows), as well. You can still nurture your people and tend to your responsibilities, but what if you experimented with being a taker (which might mean asking for what you need)? When you feel the impulse to give, consider what you might be able to do to fortify your own well being. Think of Mother Theresa taking a bubble bath. Givers often think, “If I don’t do it, who will?” This month, I encourage you to take a step back and see what happens if you don’t.