What happens when we give to much?

Sometimes people who are naturally giving by nature, or people who are opening themselves up to being giving, fall into situations where they give to much.  What do I mean by giving to much?  They give to the extent that they become tired, drained and worn out, to the extent that their own wellbeing suffers and their ability to continue to give is reduced.  Giving starts to feel like a chore or a burden, maybe an obligation or even resented, instead of the joy that it can ideally be.

I have seen this, and experienced this myself many times in different situations.  One such situation is serving in non-profit organizations – I’m going to save discussing that one for another blog post though, as there are some other issues to do with that dynamic that I would like to bring out.  Another more recent situation has been in hosting couchsurfers.


If you haven’t heard of couchsurfing I suggest you check it out – there is a website at www.couchsurfing.org  Basically it is a network for travellers where people can meet locals and request to stay with them short term during their travels.  There is no cost, and requiring payment is explicitly prohibited.  I think the underlying spirit of couchsurfing fits really well with the principles of Give Freely Receive Freely.

I have been hosting couchsurfers for the last year or so.  At some times during the year I get TONS of requests, and there have been times when I have taken the attitude that if I have space to fit someone in I would take them.  That has been fun at times, but then there have also been times when I have taken people in, and I have had too many people in a row, and some of them haven’t been entirely considerate as guests and it has taken up too much of my time and started to get in the way of my day to day activities and things that I need to get done.  These times have left me feeling a bit jaded with couchsurfing, and it has even been a bit stressful at times.  So I stopped hosting people.

End of the story?

The story could end there.  That could be the end of my couchsurfing story.  “I tried hosting people for awhile, then I had some bad experiences and it became a bit stressful so I stopped”.  Too often that can be what happens when we give too much.  We get drained and have bad experiences, so we get put off and think maybe its not such a good idea after all and stop doing it.  Fortunately with couchsurfing I didn’t take this approach.  Instead of stopping completely, I just stopped hosting for awhile.  I took a break so I could have time to myself and then came back to it refreshed and better able to manage my hosting so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and wear me down too much.  I now say ‘no’ to far more requests than I previously did and am much more careful to not host people at times when it may cause problems with my other activities, and also to just allow myself more down time when I need it.

I’m glad that I did this and didn’t just give up on couchsurfing, because I have met some really cool people since then through doing this.  And from time to time in the future I will continue to take breaks from hosting when I need it so that I can come back to it fresh each time and continue to enjoy the experience.

A bit like Italian parsley?

This reminds me a bit of an Italian parsley plant we had in my mothers garden.  Often parsley plants are quite small, and after picking from them a few times, there isn’t much of the plant left, but this plant was amazing.  It was allowed to grow until it was quite large and then when we picked from it, a few days later it seemed that it had regrown to the same size again.  We picked parsley from that plant again and again for several years.  In fact if we didn’t pick from the plant the leaves would start to get too long and the quality would deteriorate, so picking from the plant actually made it healthier.  There were times when we picked maybe a bit too much from the plant and then it would be left a bit bare and take awhile to regrow, but if we took care of it and gave it the time it needed without taking mare from it, regrow it did back to its former health and lushness.

I think each of us is a bit like the Italian parsley plant.  Giving makes us healthier and more lush, but we sometimes need to make sure that we manage the level of our giving so that it doesn’t make us weak.  If we do find that we have been giving too much, sometimes we need to take a break and take care of ourselves to let ourselves recuperate so that we can get back to giving joyfully.  When we do this we help not only ourselves, but also those we give to, as we are better able to give when we are healthy, strong and happy ourselves.

Focus On The Giving

Lately I’ve been thinking about some of what I do on a Give Freely Receive Freely (GFRF) basis and how I feel about it, and how I feel when I interact with others about it.

Sometimes communicating to someone about GFRF goes really well, it is easy and they get it.  Many other times it is awkward and they are a bit uncomfortable about it and really want me to just tell them a price – which kind of defeats the purpose to some extent.  I have wondered about why it feels so awkward sometimes and I think I have at least a bit of an idea why.

Giving And Receiving Are Both Important But…

I think part of it is to do with communicating that I am giving something to them, with no price attached, but I am also expecting something back from them.  I think the message gets confused somewhere in there.  They then seem to think that how much they give back will be judged and they have anxiety about how much to give etc.

In starting to experiment with GFRF at first I have put quite a bit of emphasis on explaining the exchange relationship, because for many people it is an unusual idea.  But the more I do it, the more I want to focus on just giving and not so much on the other person giving back.

This is interesting because I need to receive.  I am not independently wealthy and need to receive back financially in order for me to be able to continue my work and sustain myself, yet somehow setting the expectation of receiving back doesn’t feel quite right, or at least not as good as I would like it to be.

Giving More Freely

I wonder if I focus more on just giving freely myself, the receiving may take care of itself.  I wonder if naturally as a result of myself giving more freely, others will reciprocate in giving more freely as well, without having to be told or have it explained to them.

This is certainly what I feel like doing, so I am going to give it a try.

What I’m Doing About It

With my clinic work… not much, I’m reasonably happy with how that is going at the moment with GFRF.  Maybe I’ll make some changes in this area later.

The area that I will be changing things right away is with my online qigong courses.  I will be de-emphasising the GFRF aspect of the courses and just giving them away free.  I will still have donate buttons available for people to donate if they choose to, because I need to be open to receiving back and I need to have an avenue open for this to happen via.  There will still be a link to this site for anyone who is interested in the thinking behind why I am doing what I am doing, but I won’t put as much effort into explaining the two way exchange on the pages of the courses, I will just leave it up to individuals to give back if they want to.

It’s Still An Experiment

Of course this whole thing is still an experiment for me.  I expect there is still a lot to learn, and I expect I will tweak and change lots of things and I continue to try living GFRF.  I look forward to seeing what happens with this latest tweak.

Phase Three of my Give Freely Receive Freely Experiment

I know I haven’t completed phase two of my GFRF experiment yet (offering workshops on this basis), but I am already working on phase three.

Online courses

Phase three is going to be online courses offered on a give freely receive freely basis.  I think online courses are a great fit for expanding my use of this concept.  This is because there are between low and zero incremental costs for additional users of the material.

Problems with using printed materials for GFRF

At the moment I offer home study courses for some of  the things that I teach, these courses involve books, printed study guides and DVDs.  The problem for me in offering these courses on a give freely receive freely basis is the fixed cost of producing these physical materials.  There is a certain amount I need to receive for each course to just cover the cost of production, let alone to compensate me for my work and provide me with money to live on.  This would make it difficult for me to give these truly ‘freely’ at the moment as I do not have sufficient resources to lose money on the production of these if  people did not give sufficient in return (and people often seem to underestimate the cost of putting things like this together).  Online however, there will still be set-up costs, but once established each new user will have close to zero incremental cost.  This leaves me in the position of only having to re-coup my initial set-up costs and minimal running costs before I start to receive money for my work – ie money I can pay my living expenses with.

This means that it doesn’t really matter if some people take advantage of the give freely receive freely exchange, as if there are people who pay nothing or not a realistic amount for the courses, then at least it will not really be costing me anything.  Then I just have to rely on those people who do ‘get’ the concept to deal fairly with me.

Getting a fair exchange

I believe there are enough fairminded people out there who will voluntarily pay a fair price for the training they receive to make this work.  But I also realize that for many people the GFRF concept takes some understanding, and many people will fall into the old ‘pay as little as you can’ mentality which comes from the way our current exchange environment is structured.

Prompting payment

I have given this quite a bit of thought as to how I deliver the online content I am preparing, and I see this also as an opportunity to experiment.  I think a key to making the GFRF idea work is helping people to understand that there is a real person behind the product they are using that has put a lot of time and effort into it and that they need to be paid in order for them to be able to continue to provide the product to them and other people, and in particular they need strong prompts to actually make the payment.  I know that even in a price based exchange people often forget to pay and need strong reminders before they do. (Incidentally I actually think that this would be less of a problem in a well established GFRF community due to some of the underlying psychology, but I think will certainly be a major issue when people are new to the idea).

Different delivery models

So I am planning three initial courses all set up in different ways which offer different opportunities for payment prompts.

1. Open Access on Youtube – No advertising

I will use this for my first course which will be on qigong.  This gives people very easy access to the material.  Payment prompts will be included in videos at the start and end of the course, in the written video information that shows below the video and in some of the downloadable material at the associated website.

All these prompts are quite passive, in that they can be seen and ignored, or the person can think ‘I’ll do it later’ and then forget about it quite easily.  But there will be several of them, so hopefully this will be enough to prompt some people to actually follow through and make payment.  It is also easy to set up.

2. Open Access on Youtube – With advertising

Very similar to option one, but with ads enabled.  This will mean that even if people do not pay me due to the prompts, I will still receive some payment from advertising shown along with the videos.  I am somewhat hesitant to use this (to do with my thoughts on advertising and society – more on this in another post), but figure it is a good opportunity to experiment and see the different results.  I don’t expect a high number of people to follow through on the relatively passive payment prompts, so using advertising would ensure that I get at least some money for the people viewing my videos (it is not a lot, but can add up if there are enough people watching).  I will be able to compare the money received from my course without advertising to the one with.  If enough money comes in without advertising, I can always turn the advertising off later.  Alternatively if not enough money comes in, I can always turn the advertising on on the other course.

I will use a self defence course to test this model.

3. Pay what you want ‘Pay Wall’

The final option I am planning to test initially is to create a ‘Pay Wall’ where people cannot access the content unless they go through a payment gateway.  In this case it would be a pay what you want gateway, so they can still put in zero as their payment if they want to, but this is a much stronger prompt to make payment as it is right in front of you and you have to click past it to move on.  From a theoretical point of view I like this model best, I think it has the best probability of actually prompting payment from the people using the course.

I will probably set it up so that the initial material is open access, so the student can see how they like some of the material before they are faced with making a payment, and I think I’ll put another prompt at the very end of the course for those who paid zero initially, if they have reconsidered after using the whole course they can make a payment then.

The reason I will use this model last is because even though I like this model the most, it will be the most difficult to set up and require the most time and expense.  I will have to host the videos somewhere other than on youtube so they will be secure, and purchase software and become familiar with it etc etc.  Basically this one is going to take me awhile to figure out technically and I want to move ahead and start offering the courses now, so I will start with the youtube based models first to get me started and hopefully have things figured out by the time I am ready to put my third course online.

I will trial this model with a course on breathing.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m kind of excited about it as well.  People have always enjoyed these courses and told me that they’ve got a lot out of them when I’ve delivered them live or through my offline homestudy courses.  I think that putting them online in an easily accessible format will open these courses up to many more people – maybe even internationally, and provide really useful resources to my current students as well, with the added bonus of it being better for the environment as well due to physical materials not having to be produced. I’ve been working on the first course for a couple of weeks now, and I am hopeful that if I work hard I will be able to get all three courses up by the end of the year.  I will announce on this site when the first course is available online.


The ‘Give Freely, Receive Freely’ experiment

Hi everyone

A few weeks ago I started an experiment with giving freely and recieving freely.  I am doing this with my clinical work (I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong and also offer Massage and Lifestyle Advice).  You can read what I initially posted explaining the idea, on my website for my clinic here: http://developyourqi.com/?p=468

The experiment is off to a fairly uneventful start (not a lot of people know about it yet), but as I have thought about it more and had conversations with people about it, I have realized that I have a lot more to say about the ‘give freely, recieve freely’ concept.  I think that it not just about an alternative way to look at money and exchange, but a concept that bridges over into other areas of our lives and how we view the world and interact with others.

So I have created this blog to share my further thoughts on giving and receiving freely.  I hope that you find them interesting and that I inspire a few people to look at the world a bit differently as a result.