The Power of Being Selfish

Mmm, being selfish. As a term to describe someone’s behaviour it probably ranks fairly low in the favourites list. We’ve been brought up to consider being selfish as a bad thing, to think of others before ourselves, that it’s not good to be self-interested or put ourselves first but I wonder … are we perhaps limiting our ability to get what we want out of this one precious life and even creating problems for ourselves and others with this way of thinking?

Let me ask you to think about it in a different way. If you’ve travelled by plane you’ll be familiar with the safety briefing advising you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others in an emergency. Now is that a selfish act? Surely you are putting yourself first? The argument of course is no…because it makes perfect sense. It’s also an example of making sure you get your needs met so you can effectively help others.

Now, consider your business or your team – how can you guide and nurture it to full maturity if you are you’re stressed out and exhausted? How will you maintain a satisfying work/life balance if you are constantly overstretched and juggling too many priorities? Doesn’t it make sense to put the oxygen mask on you first, to get your needs met so that you can be more resourceful?

In this sense, being selfish means accepting responsibility for making the most of yourself or as Charles Handy put it, “proper selfishness”, knowing what’s important to you, knowing where you are going and what you need to get you there. This kind of selfishness has a greater intention than just serving me. At the heart of it is the desire to serve others. It’s about inter-dependence not independence.

The great thing that I have realized is that the more I invest in myself the more I have to give to others because I am less frustrated, less resentful, less tired, more relaxed and generally more fun to be around. I think better. I make better decisions because I act from my values not what I think others expect of me. It’s not about me, it’s about us and contributing to something bigger than myself. The bonus ball is I attract more of what I want into my life and opportunities open up.

Establishing clarity about what is really important to you is key to establishing balance and enabling you to achieve what you want in the long run. It’s easy to be side-tracked by secondary goals.

Awareness of the needs of your strengths is also vital to ensure you are best placed to avoid frustrations and defensive thinking.

So give yourself a break and start to consider what you need to function at best.