The Skill of Moving from Selfish to Selfless

In a recent discussion with a client, I was reminded of the importance of recognising our skill and ability to shift from being in a selfish place to one of being selfless.

Both of these positions can be thought of as emotional states that we ‘go to’ in certain circumstances.

The person I was speaking with recognised that he had been behaving somewhat selfishly in his relationship with his family.

I posed the question: Was being selfish in that situation a bad thing?

With a moment of reflection he felt it wasn’t. As he explained the context, I agreed.

It wasn’t bad, but was it good?

There is no doubt that acting selfishly – at times – serves a purpose.

It allows us to create boundaries around us when others are too demanding of our time or attention (think: a busy office environment where it’s hard to focus). It enables us to return to what is most important to us. It can also provide us with valuable time away from a sticky situation and give us the space to reflect and come up with better answers to the problems.

And yet, I would argue that being selfish is not sustainable. It does not lead to sustainable happiness, fulfilment and rewarding relationships.

We all go there at times, but how often do you do it? And how long do you spend there? Do you pass the point where even you feel it isn’t helpful?

The more people I have the privilege of helping and coaching, and the more I discover in this field of personal growth and development, the more I see that we humans rarely give ourselves enough credit of the control we have over our emotional state.

We have an innate skill to make a shift. We have the power to do that quickly. We have the ability to choose and decide how we respond to any situation.

Are there times where you have been a little bit too selfish lately?

Or perhaps, looking at it from another angle, how could your life benefit from being more selfless? More giving of your time, your attention, your presence, your love or your laughter.

Who do you know that would really really appreciate some of your generosity right now?

Who could you be more compassionate to this week? A friend? A partner? A stranger?

Who could you be more forgiving to before the end of this year?

You may find that being more selfless in one area is just the remedy you need to reduce your indulgence in being selfish in other parts of your life.

It’s a skill we all have.

And we should always remember that the more we practice, the stronger the skill becomes, enabling us to be more of the person we want to be.


Leave a comment and let us know how you’ve been able to make that shift and what you or others gained from it. We’d love to hear from you and your experience can help others.