It is important that when pursing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish”. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is another Twitter-friendly shortened quote. The full quote is:
It is important that when pursing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish”. Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, shortsighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.
That is an interesting point, the differentiation between foolish and wise selfishness. In the quote, it is admitted that we often act in a manner that promotes our own self-interest. The point of difference is to be wise, to consider the impact of our actions on others, or to be other-than-wise.
It is one thing to act in our own self-interest, but if in doing so we harm others, I would place that action in the “foolish selfish” category. If what you do helps others as well as yourself, I would place that action in the “wise selfish” category. There is a wide range of behaviors between these extremes, but I would try to keep more on the “wise” end of things and avoid the “foolish,” or greedy, end of things.
Why is being considerate important?
Consideration for others is not only a kind thing to do, it also shows some wisdom. It shows the ability to think past our own immediate needs or wants, and consider the implications of what we are either doing or about to do. It shows that we know that our actions have consequences, not just for ourselves, but for others as well.
Being considerate is important because it shows that we are aware, and that we care. We make allowances for the needs and wants of others, even if they don’t know that we are doing so. This is, in my mind, the highest form of consideration, to make allowances for others, even if they don’t know that you did it on purpose, or even notice that it was done.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Considering the needs of others. Where can you do that? In the office, it might be as simple as only taking half of the last chocolate donut, especially if you already had one. It might be making the next pot of coffee, instead of leaving half a cup and claiming “I didn’t empty the pot.”
Everyone hates the smell of a pot full of burnt coffee. And who will clean up the mess and makes the next pot? The considerate person will pour out the last little bit, do a quick rinse, and make the next pot. If you are quick about it, they might not even know who did it.
The same principle applies when using the last of anything, from tissues to toilet paper, from soda cans to the last of the pitcher of beer, from the bowl of munchies to the last slice of pizza. If you’re going to do something that will impact others, take a moment and think about it. Is there a better way? Can you do something to help out?
In each case, there is a “wise selfish,” where the needs of others are taken into consideration and a “foolish selfish,” where the needs of others are not considered, or even actively thwarted. There are probably a few other possibilities in the pool of options, shades between them, but I believe the best path leans towards the “wise selfish” path.
Think about what things have annoyed you in the last few weeks, where someone could have done something that would have been helpful and not hurt them, but chose instead to leave things a mess for you? Even something as simple as moving over for faster traffic while you’re driving can make someone’s morning (or afternoon).
Grab some paper and write a few of these things down, four or five should be fine. Try to get a spread of locations, unless the only place people are “foolish selfish” is at work. Next to each, list the steps they could take to make life easier for everyone, if they would just be considerate.
If you’re willing, you can take this to the next level, and share your findings with the others in your life. Perhaps you can tape a note to the coffee machine at work. Perhaps you can remind a family member to clean up after themselves, turn out lights, turn off radios, or what ever it is they are not doing that is being less than considerate to you. It might not help, but you never know!
Now comes the fun part. We’ve talked about what others do to annoy you with their lack of consideration. What is it that you do that might annoy others? It might be easy, if people are always complaining or nagging you. I hope that it is hard, because you try to be considerate and have long since attended to all the ‘feedback’ you have been getting.
Take a moment and try to come up with a few things that you do that others might find annoying. Then consider what you could do to be less annoying. Can you practice for your tap dancing class when the person who suffers from migraines isn’t in the house?
It’s your life, and you can figure this out better than can I. Please take a few moments and come up with another way to do things. Make sure you still get what you need, after all, we’ve admitted this is a selfish act, but try not to annoy anyone unnecessarily. 8)