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.


This deadly sin might just save your soul.

Ever heard of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Over the past few months I’ve noticed one of the these deadly sins showing up in my client calls, with some regularity. And you know what happens when you think of yourself as a sinner? Shame comes rushing in.

Shame likes everything to look neat and tidy. It hates the messiness of being human. So it brushes the debris of sin under the carpet where it can be forgotten. But dang, that just make things worse.

You end up tripping over it again and again.

What works a whole lot better is taking the rug out into the daylight and giving it a good shake.

“OOOH”, you think. “I don’t want everyone seeing my dirt”. I hear ya. That’s why you do it in private. Or with a trusted partner, who’ll hold the other end of the carpet, and cheer as the sin debris flies free.

The sin that’s been creating lumps under the carpet for my clients lately is Envy. You may know her by her pet name, Jealousy.

Whatever you call it, we’ve all experienced it. I certainly have! And it feels like crap. But sweeping it under the rug doesn’t make it go away. And pretending it isn’t there only trips you up.

A client, let’s call her Evelyn, was envious of her friend Jenny’s success. Jenny’d just been picked to be a back up singer for a hugely successful band. She was about to embark on a world tour that could be life-changing.

Evelyn was thrilled. She was inspired by how hard Jenny had worked to make her dream come true. She also felt relieved. The life of an artist can be a struggle. Lots of times Evelyn worried about how Jenny was going to pay her rent. This gig was going to make things easier for Jenny, and that made Evelyn so happy.

She was feeling all sorts of positive emotions about her friends success. She loved her like a sister. She was excited, but she was also jealous. 

Jealousy kept killing her joy. And long with the jealousy came shame.

“How could I be jealous of my best friend?” Evelyn questioned. “I feel awful. Even though I’m excited and I know she’s earned it, I’m so embarrassed to admit it but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want her to have it” Evelyn was ashamed of how she felt. She thought it made her a bad person. It was challenging for her to even tell me about it, afraid that I would judge her.

I asked if we could look a little more closely at the jealousy, rather than sweep it away. She was tentative, but willing.

She was most upset that she could be thrilled for her friend and also not want her to have this success. We teased apart these seemingly opposing feelings by first exploring the beliefs she had about Jenny’s opportunity to go on tour.

What might it mean to Evelyn? With a bit of time to sink into her own body’s sensations, she could feel her fear. While on tour Jenny wouldn’t have as much time to connect. Evelyn might feel lonely. Jenny might change and not be the sweet understanding friend that she is now. She might meet all kinds of new people she liked better. Evelyn might be abandoned. Evelyn was just afraid of losing Jenny’s love. I helped her see this was perfectly natural. We all have a need to be loved.

Then we looked at the envy head on. I encouraged her not to be all polite and sophisticated about her feelings but to be as honest and straightforward as a kid might be. Just say what came up without filtering. She said things like, “I want that.” “It’s not fair” “Me Too”.

With a little investigation, it soon became clear that Evelyn didn’t really want to join a band. She had no desire to be trapped in a bus with a bunch of other people, eating road food and sleeping in hotels. She didn’t even want to be onstage in front of thousands of screaming fans.

What she did want was a chance to be heard, to make an impact, to be acknowledged.

Turned out Evelyn wanted to write a book, but she’d never had the courage to do it. She knew she had something worth sharing but was afraid she might not be a good enough writer. With some support in facing her fears she decided to take a writing class to start building her confidence and her craft.

That would move her in the direction of writing her book, but it didn’t guarantee she’d be heard, make an impact, or be acknowledged.

I had Evelyn imagine her book was published. It was making a huge impact. She was getting all sorts of acknowledgement for it. As she imagined this, I asked her to describe how she was feeling. She said, “Generous. Kind. Patient. Accepting. Beautiful. Smart. Open. Strong.”

I asked her how she’d treat herself if she was all of those things. 

Ah, there’s the rub.

Turns out she’d treat herself quite differently. She’d dedicate more time to doing the things she wants to do.  She’d sleep more. She’d be on social media less and in nature more. She’d let go of some old relationships. She’d even shop at different stores and wear different clothes.

There were many things she’d change, but I had her pick the one change, that if she did only that, it would make all other changes easier. She chose it. She committed to it. I supported the change. It’s transforming her life.

You see the deadly sin of envy could very well be your soul speaking to you. It might be your highest calling showing you a glimpse of what you haven’t been willing to face head on.

Next time you feel envious (or jealous) you can use it as a way to hear your soul calling you.

Don’t judge yourself. Get curious.

  1. If someone achieves, or has, something you want, ask yourself what part of that you want for yourself?
  2. Give yourself time to imagine that you have it; whether it’s a passionate lover, a brilliant mind, beautiful body, wonderful career, or whatever it is you want?
  3. How would having what that person has, make you feel? Notice the sensations in your body.
  4. Then ask, how would you treat yourself differently if you felt that way?
  5. If there are many things you’d change, just choose ONE. Make sure it’s The One. You’ll know it.
  6. That’s the one your soul wants for you!

If you don’t want someone else to have something, be curious again. What do you believe will happen to you if they have it?

By staying curious you’ll get to the core of your fear, and on the other side of that fear there is love. There is always love.

So let yourself be totally jealous, green with envy. And then listen to what your soul wants you to know.



Learning how to deal with “unpleasant” emotions is one of the benefits you’ll get from reading my upcoming book, The Power of Pleasure.









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