Go Ahead, Be Selfish
Even though the end of 2014 is still over two months away, I’ve started to recap the year. I’m doing so because I felt a need to remind myself how far I’ve come in such a short period. At this time last year, I was still working in the corporate world and dreaming of a different life. I had a good idea of what I wanted to do, but that vision was still taking shape. (continued below…)
In general terms, the criteria I wanted for my life were pretty simple:
- Friends, fun, and laughter
- To do creative, rewarding work that engaged my natural enthusiasm and passion
- To be my own boss
- Wealth and abundance
- Domestic and international travel
I had no idea how I was going to achieve those goals, but I knew clearly that’s what I wanted. Even though I felt “stuck” in the corporate world, I took simple, daily steps in the general direction of where I wanted to go. Sometimes the only action I took was to visualize myself experiencing all of those things, and to align myself emotionally with my vision. Other times, I sought freelance opportunities to create presentations for professionals who used PowerPoint or Keynote. I also sought opportunities to speak in front of audiences whenever I could.
My desire to follow my vision grew stronger every day, until I finally saw an opportunity to leave my corporate job and I jumped on it. I’ll admit that I felt conflicted at first, because I loved the work I did and I loved my co-workers. But the desire to do what I wanted to do was too strong for me to ignore, and I had faith that the details would work themselves out as long as I continued to take consistent, daily steps toward my dreams.
Now that I look back, I’m amazed how far I’ve come in less than a year. Here’s a partial list of how my dreams have come true:
- I now work as a freelance presentation designer. (#2 and #3)
- I’ve been a featured speaker at conferences and gatherings in Boston, Key West, Chicago and Salt Lake City. (#2 and #5)
- I’ve had other opportunities to travel around the country – mostly on business – but I’ve been able to mix in some pleasure as well. (#5)
- I’ve met and made new, lifelong friends who have become an amazing support group. (#1)
- I have a blog that is becoming increasingly popular. (#2)
- My business is growing and I’m gradually replacing and surpassing the salary I made when working in the corporate world. (#4)
- I’m free to make decisions that I feel are the best for me. (All of the above)
That’s not to say that I haven’t experienced setbacks or major contrast. I’ve had times when my bank account was overdrawn and I didn’t have any work or prospects in the pipeline. I went through periods where I questioned my decision to leave the corporate world and when I felt sorry for myself. However, when I thought about abandoning my vision to go back to the “security” of a job that gave me a steady paycheck, the distress of that thought was far greater than the uncertainty of where I would get my next speaking engagement or presentation commission.
I realized that I would rather do what I’m doing right now, uncertainties, contrast and all, because the rewards are far greater than if I had not listened to my inner voice and followed my passions and desires. I would be miserable and slowly dying inside because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. Perhaps most importantly, every day someone touches my life in a way that could not have happened had I stayed where I was.
My life has been greatly enriched through the personal contacts I have . Every thank you I receive validates my decision to be selfish and follow my passions. When I create a presentation that someone loves, I’m thrilled. When I speak to an audience and I see smiles or eyes lighting up, I’m humbled. When I write a blog post that someone finds useful, I’m ecstatic. Best of all, when I do something that makes someone happy, I’m know that I’m fulfilling my purpose.
An important part of living a happy, fulfilling life and engaging our default setting of fun, ease, and passion is to pay attention to what it is that we truly want. For some, that’s finding a job they love and sticking with it. For others, it’s having their own business. The passions and desires that drive us are as diverse as the human family. It’s when we convince ourselves that we can’t have what we truly want that we disconnect from our inner selves and find ourselves being miserable and unhappy.
When I talk about selfishness, I like to point out that there are two ways of being selfish. One way is to just plow through life doing your thing without regard for how it affects others. You think of yourself and yourself only and to hell with everyone else. Sadly, that form of selfishness has a negative impact on everyone – but most especially you. The long term consequences of selfish selfishness can be emotionally and physically devastating. I’ve known people who were selfishly selfish, and they wound up forgotten and alone.
The other form of selfishness is what I call “divine selfishness.” It comes from deep within, and it drives us to engage our natural passions and talents in a way that benefits ourselves and others.
Think of the auto mechanic who is so passionate about his work he can’t think of doing anything BUT working on cars. He insists on following his passion, even though some people in his life think he should do something else. The mechanic’s work is fantastic and he has a steady stream of business. He has the option of owning his own shop, or he can choose to work for someone else because running a business is too much of a headache. Either way, the mechanic benefits from his passion. If he owns his own shop, the business thrives and he has a waiting list of customers. If he works for someone else, his boss recognizes the quality of his work, and that boss is willing to pay a handsome salary to keep his best employee.
The mechanic isn’t the only one who does well, though. His family prospers because he’s doing something he loves (which means that he’s also happy), and he can provide for them. His customers are happy because the quality of his work is such that they don’t have to bring their cars back to fix issues that weren’t addressed the first time. The ripple effect of that mechanic doing something he loves extends far beyond his immediate sphere of influence.
That principle applies to all of us. I spent years holding onto the belief that I couldn’t do what I really wanted to do, because If I did I was being irresponsible. I limited myself through my beliefs, and by doing so I prevented myself from living a truly happy, passionate life. It wasn’t until I decided to fully love myself that I went from being depressed and miserable to happy and thriving. In less than one year I’ve seen more of my dreams come true than in the previous two decades… and all because I changed my beliefs and chose to follow my passions.
Take a moment to think about your own passions. Are you doing what you really want to do, or are you settling for something because you think you can’t have what you really want? If you’re happy and thriving and you love what you do, then you’re listening to your inner voice and following your passions. If however, you’d rather be doing something else, then seriously start examining your thoughts and beliefs. If you find yourself making excuses for why you can’t have what you truly want, then it’s time to install new beliefs that serve you.
Oh… it’s okay if you’re having a hard time figuring out what it is you’re passionate about. I used to be there too. What got me around the “I don’t know what I want” phase was a simple question: What makes me happy when I do it? For me, it was writing and talking about life with my friends. I know that’s a pretty vague answer, but it put me on the path I’m on now.
By the way, I started asking that question when I was in a place of deep depression, so my original answer was not what one would expect. For those who know what depression is like, you already know what my original answer was… right? My answer was, “nothing.”
Fortunately, I knew that I was answering based on how I felt right then, so rather than asking myself the question in the present tense, I asked it again in the past tense: What things made me happy when I did them? By doing that, I tricked my brain into seeing a light at the end of the tunnel – even if that light happened to be behind me.
Ask yourself that question – in the past tense of necessary – and you will inevitably discover what passions drive you, and what makes you happiest.
I’d like to conclude by repeating something I said earlier; the principle of divine selfishness applies to all of us. No exceptions. I’m like you. I still put my pants on one leg at a time. I still experience challenges and setbacks. The only difference is that I’ve decided I’m going to do what I love no matter what, because I love myself enough to do it. So go ahead and be selfish. Follow your passions and think of how your passions will benefit you and those around you. I know without a doubt that you – and the world – will be happier for it.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.