After speaking at a large conference a few months ago, one of the audience members came up to me with a perplexed look on her face. I had presented cutting-edge research on neuroplasticity and shared how to enhance nerve generation in your brain to optimize work performance. The woman standing in front of me asked, “How can you do those things (strategies I had provided) without being selfish?”
And when I say, “great question,” what I really mean is, what a vital aspect to explore because that thinking interferes with many people being the best… “thems.”
It is also a great example of perfectionistic, all-or-nothing thinking. “Either I do something for others, making me kind OR I do something for myself, which makes me selfish.”
One OR the other.
I say, why can’t it be both?
Consider the following:
I worked with the president of a company who struggled with anger management issues. After learning and practicing meditation on a regular basis, his angry outbursts significantly subsided, eventually halting altogether. The people who worked for him no longer felt like they were walking on eggshells. Instead of being overshadowed by fear of how he would react, his employees felt comfortable sharing their ideas and were able to work in a more relaxed environment. Sales increased over 60% that first year alone. Selfish?
When my husband was in the hospital for 80 days due to severe health issues, I was with him all day at the hospital, then came home in the evening to be with our daughters. Each night, I did my best to get to bed by 9:30 so I could get eight hours of sleep and still be up with our daughters in the morning so we all could have breakfast together and I could get them off to school. My being well-rested allowed me to be a better decision-maker for my husband’s medical care as well as a strong pillar of emotional support for him and our girls. Selfish?
A client who wanted to lose a few pounds started going to the gym three days a week in the morning before work. On those days, she would have a few minutes with her high school-aged children before going to her workout, but she did not wait with the kids until the bus arrived. Not only did she achieve her weight goal, but she noticed an increase in energy, productivity and positivity as well as less stress. This benefitted her, her work and all the people around her. Selfish?
The term “selfish” is a rather all-or-nothing term: I focus on me OR others.
When I asked my daughter last night if she had finished her homework, her response was “yes… Ish” By that, she meant she had finished some, but not all.
While that is not really what I was hoping for regarding her studying (resulting in a conversation with her), I appreciated the concept of “ish.” And, it seems like a very applicable concept when it comes to being selfish.
So, instead of selfish, let’s try on the term self-ish.
Self-ish means it benefits you. But not ONLY you. It can also benefit others.
The research is overwhelmingly positive when it comes to the benefits exercise, meditation, sleep, and even happiness have on your work, health and overall well-being. Regarding work, productivity increases, creativity boosts, sales are higher, turnover decreases, mistakes are lower.
Looking at happiness alone, we find that happier employees have a 37% increase in sales and a 31% increase in productivity. Those numbers are staggering. What would that mean to your work, your team’s output, and your company’s bottom line to enjoy those gains? Plus, happier people live an average of eight to ten years longer. Taking self-care steps to be happier seems like good business sense to me. Sure, it helps you, but it also benefits the people and the work you care about.
Not only that, but consider how you taking care of yourself will serve as a role model for others. An executive client of mine started going for a walk a few times per week during lunch. He found that this mid-day exercise helped him to be more focused and less stressed throughout the rest of the day. His team witnessed him prioritizing his health and started taking their own steps (no pun intended) to incorporate self-care habits into their lives.
So, yes, self-care is self-ish. It will benefit you, your work and those around you. Why not start practicing more self-care and let your work, your colleagues, your company and your loved ones benefit along with you?