“The feeling of being owed will destroy our ability to do generous work….”

“It draws our eye to the mirror instead of the work….”

“Gratitude isn’t a problem. But believing we’re owed gratitude is a trap.”

“The feeling of being owed (whether it’s true or not) is toxic.”

“No one owes us anything. Or, if they do, it’s in our interest to act as if they don’t”

Seth Godin, The Practice, 89.

Society functions because of mutual obligations. “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine.” “I’ll do this job in exchange for a decent wage.” When people fail to keep their end of the bargain–the fallout could be very minor–but it could also be disastrous.

However, there’s a huge loss if we view all of life through an economic lens.

We also need the lens of gift. If we can shake the persistent feeling that we are owed–and that our work is done to fulfill obligations–we can enter into a more joyful space–one in which we offer our work as a gift, and receive from others the same. Obligation melts into generosity. Expectations fall, and gratitude can thrive. And we’ll work from a motive of joy instead of debt fulfillment. Relationships turn to friendship instead of servility as we can say and mean, “No strings attached.”

I’m not saying we should do our all our work for free. But I am saying that a gift mindset will make our work better, our attitudes better, our relationships stronger.