A Rough Start…
I’ve always been a loner-type of guy who didn’t have many friends throughout high-school . I didn’t really care for much besides the video games I had at that time (I used to be a Video Game Addict). I could entertain myself for days and days on end without ever needing any social contact. It caused me to become pretty socially awkward, a bit shy and very unconfident. Many people thought I was strange or “nerdy”and didn’t want to connect with me for a loooong period of time (see the o’s? Yeah, that long!)
Bottom line is, I never really cared much for anyone else besides myself and my video games. I lived in my own world for over 8 years and didn’t want anything to mess with my reality. After this mindset partially destroyed my relationship at age 18 I couldn’t cope with myself any longer. I just knew it had to change. I quit my video game addiction and over time started to work on my social skills by going out more, making new friends (and actually hanging out with them besides school).
It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far (2nd to starting weightlifting ;)). It has allowed me to go trough a period of full immersion in self-improvement which is continuing until this very day. By reading books like “7 habits of highly effective people”, “Think and grow rich”, “Personal Development for smart people”, “Mastery” and “How to win friends and influence people” I started to note how valuable and important social connections are in life. Not only for your personal happiness but also to lead a balanced and fulfilling life. And frankly I didn’t have many social connections at that time… (if any at all)
Be Selfish… Kind of…
Therefore, I started to invest more in other people because I knew that I was severely lacking in this area. I realized that in order for me to get where I want to go I needed to genuinely and honestly help other people in getting where they wanted to go.
Although helping others is always projected as selfless it is a required component for your own happiness (yes, you read that correctly!) Contribution is required/necessary/obligated for your personal happiness! Without adding value to other peoples life we don’t get the feeling that our lives truly matter.
So basically, if you love yourself the next logical step is to love others. I’ve read a great article on the topic of happiness that goes into more detail on the topic of why helping others is actually an act of self-interest.
To quote the article;
“The implication is that we are hard-wired to be altruistic. To put it another way, it’s difficult for humans to be truly selfless, for generosity feels so good.”
“The most selfish thing you can do is to help other people, says Brian Mullaney”
“Let’s remember that while charity has a mixed record helping others, it has an almost perfect record of helping ourselves. Helping others may be as primal a human pleasure as food or sex.”
Note that this isn’t a quick fix I’m talking about! Loving people is a change in lifestyle that you should work on every day. True empathy and understanding can’t be faked (everyone senses flattery/dishonest compliments and no one likes it) Without people in our life we feel empty, unimportant and can even fall into great depressions.
A concept that has helped me in focusing more on other people is “oneness”. Oneness is A cool principle I’ve found in the book “Personal Development for Smart People” by Steve Pavlina.
Oneness is the idea that all living things are interconnected. These days our world lives in separation marked by conflict, judgment, insecurity, jealousy and so-forth whilst true interpersonal success lies in creating strong, interpersonal bonds. Just imagine a society where everyone feels like close family and friends, where everyone acts in the best interest of others and where everyone unconditionally loves others. This is exactly what “oneness” means; Knowing that all people are one, knowing that we’re all part of a bigger entity. Knowing that everybody is you. All parts of a bigger picture
Living according to this belief will make you unable to hurt, judge, lie to or condemn other people. Just as much as you’re unable to hurt yourself. You’ll be in a state of constant interest and empathy towards other people because you’re basically helping yourself.
This is a pretty abstract concept to grasp but it does add a deeper layer of connection to your day-to-day interactions with friends, family or strangers.
Off-course you’ll have people saying that if you treat people with love that they’ll just walk over you. That people can hurt you because some don’t really care about others (like I used to do). And that’s right! It’s completely true that the possibility to get hurt is present. But on the opposite side there’s also the possibility to deeply connect with other people and acquire a really strong bond between you two, which is one of the best feelings in the world.
Is the possibility of getting hurt worth the consequence of not knowing love at all? The answer to that question is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable” – C.S. Lewis
Quoting everybody today, haha
This doesn’t mean you should go out and help everyone in your vicinity. You can’t sacrifice yourself for others because you’ll deny yourself the opportunity to help others in the long-term. There’s a difference between being a good man and an overly nice guy. As with all things you’ll need a balance between selfishness and altruism.
Which brings me to the next topic…
Self-Sacrifice as Virtue
Some people might argue that living a life of service to others is the best option and the only morally justified one (and therefore selfish altruism is evil!). But this is where they are wrong (IMO). When you live your life in service to others (and basically sacrifice yourself for the less favored) you’re unable to help others to your full capacity.
Sure you can give compassion, empathy to others and make them dependent on you, but that doesn’t improve their condition nor does it serve them in a significant way. Whereas the person who’s life is “complete” (and acts out of his desire to contribute and personal significance) is able to provide much more than the selfless person.
A great read on this topic is the article “Why Doing Good Is Selfish” by Randy Gage
“And because they don’t look after their own needs first, they really can’t help others in a healthy way. They can console them, participate in their drama, or enable their co-dependence, but they can’t offer them real, meaningful help.
Or to repeat an oft-quoted line from a character in The Fountainhead, “To say ‘I love you,’ one must first know how to say the word ‘I.’”
I believe your highest moral purpose must be your own happiness. Because this is the only healthy, sane way to live. And the only way that ensures the survival of the species, and the well being of the most people. In fact, it is the only honorable way to conduct any relationship.
You must not sacrifice yourself to others because that is depravity. Depravity because it is a certain state of moral corruption and degradation.”
You cannot help others to your full capacity if you still need help yourself.
For example; If you’re in a crashing airplane you should first help yourself to get an oxygen mask or you’ll be rendered useless to help others. Sacrificing yourself will render you unable to help others in the long-term and will eventually result in the downfall of both of you.
On the other hand, acting solely out of self-interested is not justified in any way and will
eventually lead to your own doom. I’ve heard people saying that crooked bankers, thieves and frauds have a better life than them by “cheating the system.” By stealing money from others and escaping to foreign countries they’re able to live the life of their dreams happily ever after.
It seems like these impure minds get “rewarded” whilst they cause pain, jealousy and distrust. We on the other hand blame our virtues for our unfavorable circumstances and wonder why we’re even trying to be “good” people in the first place when the bad qualities are rewarded. Or so it seems.
In my opinion they’ve broken all three requisites for happiness and personal fulfillment in their life. They lack;
By compromising their values for money they’ve destroyed their own identity.
IMO a person like that isn’t able to stare himself down in the mirror and be proud of who he is. No matter how much money he has, no matter how many women he beds, no matter how much alcohol he drinks or how many vacations he has. No external escape can fill his internal void.
In the end when he comes home and sees himself in the mirror he won’t be able to stare himself down. That right there is in my eyes the most debilitating emotion a person can experience; the lack of identity. Being disgusted about who you’ve become.
They’ve “reached” their final destination in life and therefore just settle themselves somewhere on their big pile of money. They’ll have sacrificed their growth for something they thought would bring them great fulfillment. But eventually they’ll find out it was all a hoax.
And when they lie there on the beach in their swimming shorts, basking in the sun they’ll start to wonder what they’re missing. Why doesn’t it feel great to have everything someone could ever want? Why do I have this nagging feeling that I’m missing out on something?
Because life = growth
There’s no way around that fact. Settling = death. Whenever you start to lower your consciousness when you’ve achieved a certain level of comfort your mind starts to disengage and wear you down. You go into zombie-mode as I like to call it.
You’re lacking direction, purpose and a real reason to live for. The purpose of life is growing. What isn’t growing, is simply dying off.
He was constantly looking for ways to cheat the system and to get rich by taking from others instead of contributing value. Therefore he’s lacking the feeling of importance. He doesn’t perceive himself as valuable because he doesn’t add value to the world.
Contribution gives you the feeling that you truly matter. By cheating the system you skip on this key necessity for happiness.
Alright, now what should you take away from this post? Remember that you can’t really aid others to your fullest extent if you are also in desperate need of help. Focus on improving your capacity to help first (by creating yourself) before you “rescue” others.
Be selfish first and then help others. Strive for a balance between contribution and selfishness and don’t solely act out of self-interest. The one who’s focused only on himself has marked a surefire way to his own downfall.
Without contribution there’s no success
Without contribution there’s no happiness
Without contribution there’s no self
Anyway, that’s all I have to say on that topic for today but I’m sure more will be coming in the future. Before I leave you;
What is one thing you can do to improve your capacity to help others?
Let me know in the comment section below!