The Power of Asking “What is this really costing me?”

Originally published here for the Institute of Organizational Mindfulness.

No service professional likes being run around. We retrace the same task for people who asked for one thing but needed another, we get absorbed by the endless questions of anxious clientele that aren’t even willing to listen to the answers. We carry the water of people’s dysfunctionality and it can deplete us.

Mindful service demands that we have a sense of generosity…and this doesn’t mean indiscriminately giving things away. Most of the time real generosity doesn’t even concern physical commodities, but “priceless” things like time, energy and emotional capacity. Generosity is a mindset that refuses to believe that offering ourselves in some way means somehow losing something that is irrecoverable. This sense of loss we get from giving comes from believing we are someone that is fundamentally lacking to begin with. Really, generosity requires the sense that offering a resource to someone doesn’t really take away from the fullness of our lives.

There is no inherent value in anything aside from the story we tell ourselves about its importance to us. And they should be important to us. But to be of service, we need to let go of the story that we are losing something when we share. In fact, availing our resources to others with a caring intent tends to do nothing but add to the fullness of our lives.

It will cultivate an abundance mindset, which state of being that tends to attract reciprocation (but forget I said that since I spend so much time talking about the power and possibility of serving with no expectation of anything in return – and I mean anything: gratitude, validation, any reward whatsoever). Plenty of great service professionals will run around getting taken advantage of.

Doing things with a spirit of generosity will not make the efforts we go to for others feel as draining – they are more likely to be enriching. Often, what compounds the depletion is our mind grumbling, resenting and generally feeling sorry for itself. However, self-care is also an important part of this process since often, the person we most need to be generous with is ourselves. Regular meditation fills our sense of abundance through its ability to charge our capability through the dynamic rest process.

It requires the willingness to bring attention to situations where we feel that something is being taken from us and that whatever is being taken is somehow a limited resource that we don’t have enough of and will never recover what we provided. To serve generously requires that we’re willing to always stop and ask the question: “What is this really costing me?” And you can keep asking and keep uncovering why you’re resisting showing up for someone. This will reveal what your mind really believes it depends on for happiness.

A generous mindset could become the difference between whether a discussion becomes an argument or mutual experience of growth. This is especially applicable now, during a time of social unrest and tough conversations. People are finding themselves shocked at someone’s accusations that they are participating in racism. But all we’re being met with is someone’s suffering who is reaching out and asking for your participation in healing it. Someone who listens and sees how they can help before reacting indignantly is bringing generosity into the situation. They become a powerful outlier that’s willing to let go of their mind’s beliefs that listening, compassion, and a willingness to question themselves will somehow cost them something.