Did I get your attention?
I wonder if that counts as ‘click bate’? If so, I’m sorry – I promise I mean well!
Today I want to focus on the importance of being selfish – at the right times – to ensure we are able to take care of ourselves, and can therefore give our best to those around us.
No one explains it better than the airline industry…
“Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.”
At first glance, that guidance seems very selfish. In the event of that type of emergency why wouldn’t we want to rise to the occasion and come to the aide of others?!
Well, as you likely know, you won’t be able to help others if you cause yourself to pass out due to the drop in cabin pressure. You are no help to others if you don’t help yourself first.
Stepping away from the airplane analogy, what are the areas in your life where others rely on you? Your family, professional life, team, community, or a combination of some or all?
As we aspire to do and become more, we will inevitably have more and more people relying on and looking to us to perform, deliver, inspire and lead.
Therefore, if we are to serve those that rely on us to perform our very best, then we must be selfish at times to make sure we are prioritizing our own body, mind, and spirit – we need to ensure our Inner Athlete is prepared and primed to play at its best.
So to clarify my message this week, be more selfish in order to best serve those that need you most.
The importance of being selfish is showing up for me more and more at work over the past few weeks. It is an exciting time at our client site, as they are kicking the tires on a very forward leaning IT strategy. Lots of change, opportunity, and interesting work to do!
The exciting part for me, is that I’ve been picked to co-lead a project / program that will lay out the organizational and technical processes and frameworks to help our client execute on their big vision.
The challenge with this project, is that I need to ramp up to the point where I can begin dedicating nearly 100% of my time towards the effort. The problem is that I have a pretty full plate already across a variety of projects.
So, after being assigned, I racked my brain about how I could somehow make all of these projects work… I could get up earlier and log some time before commuting into work, or log in late after the kiddos go to bed. Or perhaps it won’t really be a full time project load, so I should wait, see and balance all of them until I know for sure? Right?
Nope… it’s time to be selfish…
In this instance, it’s time to be selfish with my time and my priorities.
I could have made the argument to try and keep most of my current project workload, take on this new project, and try to make it work.
More than likely an average or below average performance across every project I’m running. Translation – terrible service to my client.
And if I logged all those hours before and after work? I no doubt would eventually burn myself out, and more importantly not be truly present to serve my family and my own well being.
The answer seems obvious – to offload the lower priority items and dedicate my ‘work self’ to this one top priority. And that is the path I’m now going down now. The struggle was handing things off… asking for help… shifting the workload. On some level it felt like I failed or dropped the ball. It felt wrong.
However, by looking through the lens of being selfish, it helped me to rationalize what I needed to do, in reality, to best serve those around me – namely, my client, family and personal health and wellness.
Be Selfish to Best Serve the World Around You!
Still battling to understand this concept? Don’t worry, I understand! It’s a tough tension to work through and manage – selfishness vs. selflessness.
We do need both if we are going to maintain a sense of balance as we approach the challenges of each day. So let’s look at some of the ways to leverage the necessary side of selfishness to excel in life:
Be selfish about building your foundation
Above all else, we need to make sure our inner house (self) is in order. Without a strong and reliable foundation, we won’t be able to confidently do what needs to be done and perform at our best on our field of play.
I know it can be tough with demanding careers, family obligations, and whatever else might be going on, however it is crucial to secure that time to maintain a solid base.
Prioritize your health – if you don’t, you will be laid up in bed when people need you the most. Get your nutrition, fitness and recovery in order – without it, your engine won’t be running at its best, and unlike cars, we can’t get a new one if we break down.
Prioritize a positive mindset – negativity breeds negativity – both internally and externally – and if you let it into your headspace you won’t be showing up the right way in any of your interactions or relationships. Make time for the practices that empower you to lead with optimism and positivity.
Prioritize the time to fuel your spirit – the constant grind of life can wear on you if you aren’t constantly filling yourself back up with what drives you and gives you purpose – make time for those activities that light your fire.
Own your time and say no!
I’ve mentioned it before and I have to do it again here – when you say ‘yes’ to something you are saying ‘no’ to anything and everything else.
So often I read and hear how the top performers across business and sports say ‘no‘ to the vast majority of the requests for their time.
They know the value of their time and are dialed into the return on investment (or lack there of) when it comes to the endless requests they receive.
If they said ‘yes‘ to everything, or even a small portion of everything, they would never be able to invest their time in the highest value projects or pursuits that keep them hungry and create their world class results that we all admire.
Be selfish with your time.
Invest it with the people who fill up your soul, and on the opportunities that enable you to make the positive type of impact that you want to make on the world.
For everything else… say no!
Be selfish with yourself
This recommendation really has to do with what that voice of temptation in our head wants as opposed to what our true self really needs to make an impact.
Sure, it’s great to put your feet up and binge watch your favorite TV show, sleep in when you have other important things you could be doing, or make it a habit of buying the next hot / popular thing that you don’t really need, but the flashy commercial says you need.
We need to be selfish during times like these and conserve our resources and free time for what really matters. Be selfish as it relates to that inner voice of ‘I want’ and give up the TV time, that fourth press of the snooze button, or any other zero-impact activities to make the right things happen!
Sometimes you need to shut down the stuff the world tells you to want in order to make real progress and real impact towards what you and the world around you really need.
Depending on how you choose to be selfish (ex: choosing to prioritize your nutrition and health, and therefore saying ‘no’ to that beer or batch of chicken wings your friends are pushing on you), you might get grief from people that just don’t understand why you are doing what you are doing…
Don’t apologize, back down, or give in. Be selfish about what is most important to you, and don’t think twice about it.
When it comes to bettering ourselves, some people may get it, and others don’t. For those that don’t, do your thing and be you – be unapologetically you!
Take more time for you in order to give more to others
There will be people in our lives who are textbook selfish – they only care about themselves because that is all that will ever matter to them.
What I am advocating for is not that, nor will it ever be. On the contrary, as we grow in success and influence, I will forever advocate that we actively give more of ourselves to the world around us.
I am challenging us to make sure we are being selfish enough to take care of our complete selves (mind, body and spirit) so that we are at our peak to best serve the world around us. We each have a unique calling to serve others, and we each have an even more important calling to ensure we take the best care of ourselves so we don’t burn out in the process.
Let’s make sure we are putting our oxygen masks on first so that we can create our maximum impact in life! So get out there, be a little selfish, and get after it!
Discussion Question: What is one area in your life that you need to be more selfish in order to be better positioned to serve and support those around you?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."