Living and Giving Without Expectations

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When We Make it a Transaction…

The idea of giving without expectations has come up a couple of times for me in recent weeks. I was in conversation with my husband—he'd brought me a cup of coffee and I thanked him.

Although I was grateful, I was slightly distracted and I could see my words weren’t quite enthusiastic enough for him. The look on his face told me he had an expectation of greater appreciation.

We all do this from time to time—we act (often unconsciously) in the expectation that we will receive a response or a reward. When we do this, our action becomes a 'transaction'—an exchange—I am giving you this so that I can get that.

What about those times when we do something without any expectation of anything pinging back? What doesn’t that look like?

…Versus Secret Santa?

Last week I had a conversation with a client about exactly this topic and why it might mean in a leadership context, including how it could impact his company and the quality of their service delivery.

He told me about a time when he'd worked in the hospitality industry where the business imperative to put a smile on someone's face without them ever knowing why or where it had come from.

How beautiful is that?

And, what a great way to get our own ego out of the way.

If our objective is for someone—at home or at work—to never feel the container of the service, only the impact, what might that look like?

Removing the Expectation of Reward 

For most of us in a work scenario, we imagine that we're in a transactional relationship: we do business for a fee, we turn up at a job for a wage.

And yes, it's true, there is an exchange. When I go into the supermarket, I don't expect to walk out with a bag of groceries that I haven't paid for.

But what if we separated them completely?

We're paid to turn up at work, and we turn up.

What we then do at work, or in business—the way we deliver the service—doesn't have to have any entanglement with the payment.

Let's mark them out as separate, for an experiment.

Just as the pint of milk might cost the same in the no-name discount store, or from the personal delivery to our doorstep by a friendly milkman, the payment does not relate to the quality of the service (or the product).

Why wouldn't we always give the utmost that we could in any scenario? What if we did that without ever expecting anything back?

It might mean we do different things, or we do the same things differently.

For those of you with children you'll spend many years of your life being under-appreciated for the things you are doing.

There are some things we do for the sake of it, we don't them because they will make us happy, we do them because it's the right thing to do and we can take pride in a job well done.

We do them for the love of the work. No matter whether there is a 'thank you' at the end of the day.


I'm not sure I believe in 'karma' exactly but I do believe that going about our day with a smile, without expectations, and I believe that being the best person we can be is more likely to create a positive experience for those around us.

Maybe they will be touched enough, at an unconscious level, to create that positive experience for someone else?

The way we act can resonate with the deepest part of the people around us and create a 'signal' that goes out to create wonder in the world.

The Best (and Easiest!) Job Ever

What if your only job was to go about your day, to do your best work, and to sprinkle joy wherever you went?

Would that change the way you showed up? Would it change the interactions you have and outputs you deliver?

It might be a very interesting experiment to try out for a week or two; even a day!

Let me know if you decide to give it a try and what happens when you do.

With love,