Balance… What have you done for yourself lately?

March, 2020

In the next two months I was scheduled to conduct four workshops with this same title. All but one were postponed, like just about everything involving groups over ten people. In this blog I will share a version of my workshop. It feels like the right time for this message.

The inspiration for this workshop comes from Wharton Economist, Adam Grant. In his book Give & Take Grant discusses three broad styles of interpersonal dealing: taking, matching, and giving. Takers are those who try to take more than they give. Matchers are those who try to give and take proportionally and conditionally. Givers are those who give more than they take. Takers are primarily self-oriented, matchers are other-oriented as a means to being self-oriented (I’ll help you, when I think you will help me.) Givers are primarily other-oriented.

Here’s the counter-intuitive part. If we look at the most successful people – the happiest, the most likely to be promoted, etc. – they are generally givers, and if we look at the least successful, they, too, tend to be givers. The failed giver is a person who gives to others, but fails to care for him/ herself.

The most successful givers, according to Grant, are what he calls “otherish” givers. They lead with sincere generosity, but have a healthy selfishness that protects them from burnout, illness, or being taken advantage of.

The first half of this workshop focuses on updating your personal, professional and community giving strategies. The second half focuses on what you want to continue, and what you want to change for your mental, physical, spiritual, financial and relationship well-being.

Leading with Generosity…
Building a legacy of personal, professional and community giving

Over the past thirteen years I have been one of the presenters at Leadership Philadelphia. This is a civic engagement/ leadership development program led by my sister, Liz Dow. In my session I ask the participants to answer this question: “If today was your 75th birthday, and life has gone really well for you, what would people be thanking you for?”

The Leadership Philadelphia program includes a full day of immersion into a different civic theme each month over a ten month period. I tell each participant that one of the most important outcomes of these deep dives is to ultimately discover and pursue their next community calling. Each year I have these 120 for-profit and non-profit leaders do this exercise because their 75th birthday vision can help shape more immediate priorities and actions.

Round one involves asking three imagined 75th birthday guests of your choice what they would like to thank you for. These guests include one each from your personal, professional and community life. Each table guest can be one person, or a composite of multiple people. If you were in this class, what would each representative be thanking you for?

Round two asks these same three people about today. What would each representative suggest you continue to do, and what would each suggest you change in order to achieve your 75th birthday vision? Please note when you do this exercise that each representative may be alive or not. Go ahead, try it.
After you are done, ask yourself, “What do I want to continue, and what do I want to change?”

The Counterbalance to Giving…
What is your well-being/self-care strategy? What have you done for yourself lately?

Key elements of a self-care strategy include our mental, physical, spiritual, financial and relationship wellbeing. Even though we are now more isolated and limited in the things we can do, it is time to find some safe forms of interpersonal, mental, financial, spiritual and physical activities.

What are you reading and watching these days? How are you taking good physical care of yourself? Do you have a spiritual practice? Are you keeping up with your relationships that matter most? Have you found a financial coping strategy, and the right people to discuss this strategy with? There are many good resources and people to tap for ideas.

For some excellent practical and creative advice, take a look at this recent article that includes links to self care resources in most of the areas I have highlighted in this blog: Morning Brew’s Guide to Living Your Best Quarantined Life.

In my workshop, I ask participants to pair up and identify the well-being strengths and strategies they can give to others, and what advice they would like to receive in areas of well- being that they wish to develop and improve.


I am happy to offer this blog as an alternative to the workshops that were scheduled for the next two months, and have now been postponed due to the coronavirus. I encourage you to try the exercises yourself, and team up (virtually) with others as well. In the workshop I did complete, participants had the opportunity to rethink and adjust their personal, professional and community giving strategies while focusing on the legacy they wish to shape in each of these three areas of life.

Another outcome of the live workshop was participants’ appreciation of at least one strength each had to give and the advice and support they wanted to take to improve their well- being. Each participant also left with an accountability partner to check on their progress the following week.

In addition to rethinking your giving and well-being strategy, please remember to read the article I referenced about living your best quarantined life. It is rich with ideas and links to help you now, and touches on most of the well-being elements highlighted in this blog.

Here is a humorous and helpful coronavirus coping video that came my way this week. Recorded in China, it is a five minute video from a Chinese speaking American comedian, Jesse Appell.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Let me know what you have done for yourself lately. How are you strengthening your well-being while at the same time giving to others? Let’s help one another get through this crisis, by sharing our best ideas and offering support along the way.

Take care, stay well,