I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about gifts, rewards and compensation, and the differences between the three.
A gift is often unexpected. It’s sometimes undeserved. It’s “no strings attached.” A gift is an expression of the giver’s generosity, abundance and affection. You can’t predict when a gift will come your way (other than birthdays and Christmas), and you can’t do much to directly induce someone to give you one.
A reward is earned, but not always expected. It’s like a gift, in that it’s often optional on the part of the giver. A reward is a bit fuzzier when it comes to obligation and expectation. There is a lot of room for misunderstanding and unmet expectations when it comes to rewards. But intermittent rewards are one of the most effective motivational techniques, according to psychologists.
Compensation, on the other hand, is clear. There’s an agreement in place. I will exchange this for that. You may not feel that the compensation is equitable, but usually it’s an agreement entered into freely. It’s “fair enough,” if not perfectly fair.
I’ve given and received unexpected gifts in the last few months. I’ve given and received rewards for going above and beyond what was expected. And I’ve both compensated and been compensated for services rendered. I’ve struggled to figure out what is fair compensation, both for work that I would be doing, and for work that someone else would be doing for me.
The conclusion that I think I’ve come to lately is: “do it for love.”
Whatever “it” is. Do it for love. Not in the hope that a gift will come your way if you do, or in the expectation of a fair reward or because the compensation seemed reasonable.
Do it because you love whomever you’re doing it for. Or because you love whatever it is you’re doing.
Gifts are unpredictable, rewards are unreliable and compensation only gets you so far. Ultimately, it’s your life, in bits and pieces, that you’re using up doing whatever you’re doing. And the only thing really worth trading your life for is love.