Diane was a practitioner in a complementary health clinic. She always seemed to have a smile for everyone. Sitting on reception, I would notice that she was one of the therapists who always had a full client list; not only did she give great treatments, but clearly her patients liked being around her.

I felt irritated by her though – how could anyone be that happy? It took about a year of me noticing her steady, smiling demeanour before I began to think that perhaps she really was genuine. Perhaps she was, plain and simple, a love-giver.

You’ll possibly know someone like this in your life. Or maybe not, because sadly the “love-takers” are more predominant. People like Sandy.

Sandy, despite being reasonably well-off, with a good job, grandchildren whom she adored, and a partner at home, always seemed to be unhappy about something. You could guarantee that if there was anything negative to be found in a situation, Sandy would be the one to highlight it.

It was so wearing, that people started to avoid her, but that made it even worse, as she became more and more needy. Her offers of help would turn into muddled arrangements, moans about her home situation, and dramatic last-minute changes of plan.

As Sandy realised that her friends were becoming less and less, she became more desperate, more needy – and ultimately ended up pushing people away even more.

You quite probably know someone like Sandy. She is someone who, while professing to give love, actually takes it.

Of course, there has to be a balance. One cannot fully give without also being willing to fully take, or receive – in any situation, whether it be love or not.

But in general, most people will tilt towards one more than the other. So, what are you more of – a love-giver or a love-taker?

This is important to think about now, before it’s too late, because one of the biggest regrets of the dying is that they didn’t spend more (quality) time with family and friends. And quality time is determined by the amount of love floating about, regardless of what is being done with that time.

It’s also part of end of life planning, which is my specialty. Taking care of relationships, and keeping up to date with them, is equally as important as making a will and keeping that up to date.

So, here are 3 tips to help you find that balance between giving and receiving, well before you pop your clogs:

Be Willing to Receive (Not Take, Just Receive)

This means to simply open your heart, especially when you notice it has closed. You can do this by paying attention to what your heart feels like in the presence of the person you love.

With practice, you’ll be able to tell how open that door in your heart is. Sometimes it will be only just ajar, other times, wide open. It’s when it is closed (or worse, locked) that it has to be opened again.

Let Yourself Be Helped

Notice your mind probably wants to say, “No, no, not at all,” or “I’m fine, thank you,” when you are on the receiving end of a practical offer of help. But even if you start saying this kind of thing, you can stop halfway through the sentence and change your mind.

If this is a common problem for you, commit to practicing doing it differently. It’s only by changing our familiar, comfortable behaviour that we get to experience different results.

Be Clear About Your Boundaries

Boundaries are all about self-care. The old story about putting your own oxygen mask on first really is true.

If you don’t make sure that you are okay, how can you possibly be there fully for anyone else, whether they be children, other family members, or friends? Or work colleagues, acquaintances, or even strangers?

You can try, but ultimately, you will burn out, and then you will be forced to lie down and receive (sometimes literally, as when serious illness occurs).

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, the famous physician and author of On Death and Dying, was a very dynamic woman most of her life. But after experiencing a series of strokes at 69, she was heard to state that she was now having to receive, (i.e., be looked after) whether she liked it or not.

So, learn to listen to your body when it is telling you to stop; learn to say no when you need to; and commit to putting that into practice regularly.

If you had died yesterday, what would you have lived your life as? A love-giver or a love-taker? Or are you a genuine love-giver and receiver, like my colleague Diane? Are you willing to change your demeanour toward life and try to be more open to giving? Please share with our community!

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