Reciprocity is wired deep within our psyche. As a result, our natural response to getting help tends to involve asking ourselves “how can I pay this back?”
It isn’t a bad question. Every once a while, we might find ways to give back to the folks who helped us.
But, more often than not, this isn’t possible because it is context dependent. Many of the folks who’ve helped us out in times of need in our careers (for example) are often many years ahead of us in terms of the problems we’re facing. The best we can do in such situations is express our gratitude.
That’s why asking ourselves – “how can I ensure I’m paying it forward?” – tends to be a better question.
If someone gives you a great gift, share that gift with two others. If someone gives you great career advice, find two others who would love to receive career advice from you.
There is always someone we can help. There is always an opportunity to pay it forward. And, letting someone know of the ripples their gift to us created is often the best gift we can share with someone who helped us.