Do We Need To Be Selfish To Be Selfless?
To fully comprehend the perspective I write from it is needed to story tell this metaphor which encapsulates the vision for my life perfectly.
“Imagine every human on earth packed together in a giant desert. You raise your eyes to the sky and behold vibrant colours of pinks, reds and oranges cascading together as the sun falls. You notice there are people scattered among these clouds. As you look up in awe you feel a longing desire to be among the beautiful clouds and join these people. But as you shift your gaze back toward the desert you notice everyone else is either looking at the ground, or at each other. You feel trapped among those who can’t see your vision to reach the clouds. You feel imprisoned by the reality they’ve chosen to accept. But you fight anyway. You fight your entire life. You fight with every breath. You fight with every ounce of being in your soul, heart and mind to one day climb to the clouds. You do it all not just so you can attain glory, riches and a higher level of being. But so you can one day help someone else make that same journey you did to the clouds”
That is what it feels like for me.
That is why I so vehemently believe in what I believe.
As someone with such colossal ambitions for the life I want to create for myself and those around me, the question of selfishness vs selflessness has become almost a daily battle. In hopes of clearing the chaos of my mind this piece was created.
The following quote sums up my current thought process:
“People should be selfish in the first half of their life so they can be effectively unselfish in the second half.” ~ Walter O’Brien
Now to be competently transparent, I believe I am a self-centered person. (recently edited from selfish, after learning the difference in definition). I have admitted this many many times to many people. Difference is, I don’t perceive it with the stigma most of society does. I believe it pushes me forward in many areas of life, but I accept how it can hold me back in other areas. I know I have the potential to being massively selfless, but I don’t know if I am willing to pay that price…not yet anyway. Here’s why…
I believe our focus determines how selfish or, self interested we are. This focus determines our priorities and what targets we choose to shoot for in our life. An entrepreneur's focus is going to be wildly different than a nurse or volunteer at a homeless shelter.
I feel my focus is more entrepreneurial; I attempt to focus on daily self improvement as I look to execute off what I learn to create for myself, and vicariously help the world around me. (Example: this written piece and these videos, among many other things I create)
The phrase ‘self-improvement’ already has half the word of ‘self-ish’ in it. The focus is on self. No denying that. So to improve oneself I feel I need to be ‘self oriented’, or self centered. This is not to say there aren’t other ways to improve oneself without being so heavily self orientated. But my gut really tells me the vision I have for my life requires the former.
If we look through the 21st Century greats we can historically observe that it’s much easier for people to improve the world and perform philanthropic work (Bill Gates, for example, or even many pro-atheltes) only AFTER they’ve amassed a certain amount of capital and satisfied the majority of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy.
So to be as selfless as you are capable of, you might focus very selfishly on yourself for a period of time, to satisfy those needs. The ironic part is, in the process of being selfish, mastering those needs and staying true to your focus, you will by proxy, give back to the world through those selfish acts that transform into selfless generosity. It becomes this paradox of strategic selflessness from the foundation of self aware selfishness.
I speak from personal experience when I say in order to master the most critical of Maslow’s needs that will have the most influence on your focus, you may need to sacrifice another need in the process, such as ‘Love & Belonging’, for a period of time. You — we, just need to be very self aware of the consequences this sacrifice can have our lives.