I’m seven years old and I just got a Batman action figure at the store. My neighbor Robbie wants to play with it, but I just got it and I want to play with it. His mom tells me to share and that I’m being selfish. I grudgingly let Robbie play with it and he loses one of the little batarangs right away.
We’re taught that “selfish” is a bad thing. The term is used almost entirely when someone wants a situation to go their way instead of yours. There are times when being selfish might be measured against the greater good, and there are times when people are most definitely too selfish.
But I think we’ve become a little too selfless, and not in the noble intentions of that word. I think we’ve lost ourselves in the thoughts and opinions of others. I have to tell you: no one’s opinion of me has ever paid my bills.
Why Selfish is a Good Thing
I was talking with my mom a few hours before writing this to you. She was telling me how proud she was of me. She asked me if I’m happy when my kids do great things. I said I’m happy when I’m happy. I pin none of my happiness on my kids or anyone else (as best as I can help it).
The reason is simple: when you let others define your happiness, you get a lot more opportunities to be let down. I make myself happy. That’s my job. First and foremost. No one else gets a vote above my own for my happiness. Sometimes, others make me happy, but I don’t count on it.
You’re Going the Wrong Way
I’ve heard this a million times in my life. If I’m behind the wheel of a car, it might actually be true. I might be going the wrong way. But in life, I’ve perpetually made decisions that didn’t make sense at first, and that always landed me with greater rewards than what others saw.
When we let others navigate for us, we end up somewhere between where they intended us to be and where we thought they wanted us to go. No one is satisfied with the outcome.
Navigate for yourself. Pick your path and head there. Others might not get it. But if you’re clear and true to it, that’s the ultimate in power.
Seek Integrity (It’s Not What You Think)
The word integrity has roots that match “integrated.” When all parts of your life are linked and coordinated, you operate from integrity. We accidentally assign some kind of lofty value to that word. “Now there’s a man of integrity,” one might say.
The most evil people you know have more integrity than some of the kindest. It all boils down to whether their intentions match their actions and whether they hold fast to their perspectives and aim.
Confidence Comes From This
I was sitting across from my very expensive but very good shrink (he doesn’t take insurance). While wallowing in the worry that I’m crazy and that I was messing up all over the place, he said, “Did you ever stop to think that if you’d just be straightforward and clear with everyone about your intentions that it would’ve turned out better?”
No, I’d never thought that.
That one question set me on a much better path for my life. I make my own decisions. I choose. And sometimes those choices upset others. And sometimes, I feel all kinds of anxiety when dealing with the outcome of my choices. But the END results are much better.
I wish this for you. I wish for you to find your self, and to be a lot more selfish. The results will astound you. I promise with all that I am.
But do it for you, not because I asked.
Chris Brogan is a business advisor and New York Times Bestselling author. Learn more about him at http://chrisbrogan.com
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