Everything You Do is Selfish

Everything you do is Selfish.

The sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.

I don’t mean you’re some terrible a**hole, only thinking about yourself.

I’d bet money that you’re a good person, hard working, and you do lots for others. But even the things you do “for others” come from a selfish motivation – you want to feel good.

We’re all hard-wired for pleasure. It doesn’t mean we’re hedonists, but we all want to feel good.

Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, you do things because doing them makes you feel better than not doing them.

You care for your aging parents, help a struggling co-worker, feed your crying baby in the middle of the night, or pick up trash on the street that you didn’t toss, because doing those things make you feel better than not doing them.

Right now you may rolling your eyes and giving me a big fat “Ya but… there are things I have to do, I can’t avoid them, and I wouldn’t choose them. I’ve got obligations.”

Let me say it again: You’re doing all of them for selfish reasons. And the sooner you accept that the happier you’ll be.

You visit your grumpy aunt Bessie out of a sense of obligation. There’s no fun in it for you. You do it for her.
Really: Visiting her frees you of guilt, and right now that feels better than doing something else.

Even though you’re busy, you volunteer at hospice care, regularly. People think you must be a saint.
Reality check: The honesty, intimacy and quiet you experience in that time touches you deeply and feeds your soul.

You’re staying in a loveless marriage, sacrificing your own happiness, for the sake of your kids.
Truth is: Right now you’re choosing to keep things stable for your kids, because that feels better to you than uprooting them.

Your self is the center of everything you do.

Having said that, I’d like to contradict myself right now:

There actually are times of total selflessness. Those times when you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose your sense of being a separate individual. You become one with life.

It’s the composer who merges with the music as it pours out of her. The dancer who becomes the dance – is being danced – as his movements create the dance. It’s the hockey player who loses himself in the game, and becomes so attuned to the puck that he’s always where the puck is going. It’s the meditator who completely dissolves and becomes the whole universe.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this state Flow. Mystics call it the Awakened State.

You’ve probably experienced this state of selflessness at times in your life. It’s freeing to lose your sense of self. It’s enlivening to merge with the energy of life. But how many of us live in that state?

Mostly we all live as if we’re separate, experiencing life from inside ourselves. And in that state everything we do is selfish.

If you’re willing to accept that, you can bring peace to everything you do. Here’s how:

  1. See everything you do as Your Choice.

  2. If you feel like you have to do something you don’t want to do, find the real reason you’re doing it. It may be several steps removed from what you’re doing now. It may be buried deep under some resistance or boredom. You’ll find your motivation down there.

  3. Listen to your language and change it to match your desire. If you say “I have to…”, switch it out for “I want to…”, “I’m going to…” or “I choose to…” Language matters. How you talk to yourself can change the way you feel.

“I have to do the dishes” becomes “I want to do the dishes”. In that moment you may not feel that you want to, but underneath your resistance, you can feel your desire to wake up to a clean kitchen. So you choose to do the dishes, because you want that more than you want to wake to a mess in the morning.