Living Beyond Ourselves
Posted by Todd Smith
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Lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the concept of selfishness. Perhaps that’s because it’s an area in which I personally struggle. I know I am not alone in asking the question, “Is it our natural human tendency to be selfish?”
One could argue that our economic system rewards greed and selfishness and that while putting others first feels good, most of us put our personal interests and desires first.
And on a more basic level, how we conduct our daily lives says a lot about whether we are selfish. Do we only think about ourselves or do we have concern for others? Are there circumstances where it’s appropriate to be primarily concerned with one’s own personal profit, pleasure or desires? What’s the proper balance?
As you can see, I know the questions to ask but don’t necessarily have the answers. Here are some of my observations.
I feel like there are more people today who are selfish than at any other time during my adult life. I am witnessing a higher percentage of people who won’t let you in when changing lanes, who hardly acknowledge the store clerk who serves them, who won’t return a call, email or RSVP for a party or insists on being the center of attention. It’s like people are living in their own self-serving cocoon with little regard to the world going on around them.
The good news is that for those of us who want to attract success into our life by striving to be our personal best, we can stand out from the crowd if we will put the interests of others before our own.
In writing this lesson I made a list of all the people I know who are unselfish. I then racked my brain to think of other words that would appropriately describe these people. Here are the words that apply to each person on my list: likable, friendly, trusted, caring, thoughtful, respected, integrity, giver and leader.
It seems as though all the positive attributes a person should have go hand in hand with being unselfish. Intrinsically, I knew it was important to be selfless but this little exercise reinforced its significance. Here’s an exercise for you. Make a list of the people you know who are unselfish and see if these words apply to them.
Assuming that our natural tendency is selfishness, we must be extra intentional about putting others first. I want to challenge you over the next week to put the interests of others before your own. Your daily routine will literally present hundreds of opportunities.
Here are some things to consider as part of this exercise.
When you pull out your gum or mints, graciously offer one to those around you before taking one for yourself.
As you walk through doorways, smile, hold the door open and say something nice to the other people, even if you have to wait a couple seconds for them to enter the doorway.
When you are walking and someone is going to cross your path, stop, acknowledge the person and let him or her go first.
If you live in a home with other people, keep your stuff cleaned up, so they don’t have to see it or clean it up on your behalf.
If you work in an office, keep your personal work area clean and make sure the overall work environment is one that all of your co-workers can appreciate.
When driving, show courtesy to the drivers around you.
Here’s a tough one. When having conversations with people, listen more than you talk and wait until it’s your turn before talking.
If you have friends or family members going through a difficult period, pick up the phone and tell them how much you appreciate them and offer a word of encouragement.
If we stop and think about it, there are many opportunities in the course of a normal day to be unselfish and do something nice for another person. I want to encourage you over the next week to be aware of these opportunities.
And then there’s the chance to take your selflessness to a higher level. Millions of people need food, shelter, access to health care and protection from abuse. Count your blessings and give from your heart. Time, money or both.
If you will accept my challenge, your efforts will be recognized and appreciated. You will develop deeper friendships; people’s respect for you will grow; you will enjoy a better love life and you will feel better about whom you are becoming as a person.
When you put the needs, desires and interests of others before your own you will feel and see the rewards of your unselfish efforts.
“You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
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