One of my favorite quotes comes from the counseling theorist, Dr. Albert Ellis.  Commenting on our self-defeating tendency to be less than clear about our own actions and choices, Ellis observed:

                  We make ourselves unhappy by believing ideas that make no sense

This observation is relevant to some of our choices and expectations.  For example, imagine that you have volunteered to serve on the board of a local non-profit charity.  This commitment involves spending many hours weekly of your own time.  After a while, you are beginning to resent how your volunteer position is cutting into your free time and your pursuit of other recreational hobbies.  Staring at your unused golf clubs, bowling ball or gardening tools, you mutter, “You would think that the charity would at least pay us for our mileage or offer a stipend for serving on the board.” 

The above reaction takes us back to the title of today’s newsletter, that is, how do we expect to “get paid?”  Going back to the example of the volunteer board member, let’s examine his/her motivation for the original decision to serve.  Perhaps, he/she did so in order to make a positive contribution to the community or to enhance their resume by doing some charity work.  Or perhaps, the volunteer is a little bored after having recently retired from their full-time job and is filling that void.   These are all acceptable motivations for the decision to volunteer.  Financial considerations were not initially a part of their decision to serve on the board.

So why is our disgruntled board member whining over gas money or salary for their board service?  The answer lies in the question of how he/she sought “to be paid” initially.   It is said that we all get “paid’ in some way or other.  We may be paid with money, or with appreciation, or respect, or even revenge.  Going back to the Ellis quote from above, self imposed unhappiness flows from our lack of clarity as to how we expect to be “paid.”

The concept of “congruence’ suggests that our actions should match, be congruent with, our beliefs and motivations. There is nothing wrong with expecting to be financially compensated for services that we provide.  And it is certainly acceptable, even admirable, to perform good deeds pro bono, or to enhance our public image in some way.  But mixing our expectations regarding how we should  “be paid” is irrational and emotionally self-defeating.

Today’s principle about “payment” has applications that transcend the simple example of volunteerism.  When we lose track of our original reason for doing something, Ellis’ point about our creating our own unhappiness becomes relevant. 

Homework: The next time that you are annoyed with someone or something, consider how you have expected to be “paid” for your activity or involvement.  If you seek financial compensation for your services, then ask for it. If you can’t bring yourself to make that assertive request for payment, then simply accept that “virtue is your reward” and cease the grumbling. 

You will be happier for having done so.

If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal. Lombardi