Whether by nature or nurture, we’re raised to be ingrained with the expectation that when you give, you receive. Karma, love, effort, reward. We give with the understanding that something we want or need will be given back to us. We spend the better part of our lives working so that we’re given money to survive. We offer good deeds so we are seen, even if just in our own minds, as “good people.” We give our focus and attention with the hope that something will blossom or prosper for us.

This is why it seems second nature to love others unconditionally – or, in other words, to give without wanting or expecting anything in return. When we grow up believing that positive actions generate positive rewards, it becomes the basis on which we are motivated to do anything at all.

1. Stop ignoring your fear of choosing love. Choose love in spite of it.

Love is only scary when we attach ideas of what it “means” to have and to lose it to our relationships with others. When we are conscious of the fact that we are afraid to choose love, we are able to choose love in spite of it, rather than ignore it and reject it and run from it altogether.

The problem is that we’ve so deeply married love to self-worth, survival, meaning and purpose that we can’t see it for what it simply is: the love of being with, and giving to, someone simply for the sake of doing so.

3.  Realize that all actions have reactions, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always be the ones you anticipate or want.

Most suffering comes from the belief that you can predict or rely on the outcome of a certain set of actions you take. The only thing you can control is what you do – and the most quintessential trait of unhappiness is acting on behalf of what will transpire as opposed to what it means to actually do it. 

4. Realize that your love is not expendable.

If it is real, it is infinite – you can give it forever without getting anything in return, and you will always have enough.

5. Shift the reward.

Think of love as something you do to be rewarded by the good feeling of seeing someone you care about happy. Consciously open your heart to empathy, and let someone else’s happiness become your own (that is love, after all).

Make the reward the simple act of doing, not what it means to do it, not how you can think of yourself now that you’re a “good, loving person,” not how someone else will think of you, but simply how it feels in the moment to act on behalf of someone else’s happiness. There are few more beautiful things in the world.

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