Sometimes It’s Okay To Be Selfish

Yes, I am asking if you are selfish enough?  And, no – I am not a fan of truly selfish people.

This as an outreach to those selfless individuals among us who are often so busy taking care of others that they rarely make time for themselves.  Of course, truly selfless individuals will likely struggle to recognize this about themselves. Not to worry… that’s just one of the many things that your friends and colleagues love about you.

Do you often find yourself thinking more about the needs of others than about your own?  When deciding how to invest your time or money, do you usually put a higher priority on what’s important to others than on what’s important to you?  Does helping someone else often bring you more joy than taking time for one of your favorite hobbies?  If so, please read on!

Thoughtful, caring and giving…selfless individuals like you are truly a blessing to those whose lives you touch.  I know, because I am blessed to have many selfless people in my life. And while I admire them and am humbled at the meaningful impact I see them have on others…I also worry about them.

Too often, I see these individuals struggling in their own lives…drained of the energy that they so freely pour into the lives of others.  Habit 7 of Stephen Covey’s, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” speaks about the importance of sharpening the saw.  In Covey’s words, “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have—you.” This is important for all of us.  It is important for you!  And because you probably struggle to make time for yourself, it’s also likely more difficult for you.

So, are you…selfish enough?

Let’s start with what fills you up?  What puts you at ease… helps you let go of stress?  What makes you feel renewed and energized?  The short version of my list includes mountain biking, sculpting, enjoying a motorcycle ride, relaxing with a good book or making time for meditation. While I enjoy these, what fills me up the most is quiet time in nature.

I recently made time for a 6-mile hike.  For two hours, I had a beautiful section of the Sonoran Desert all to myself. It was a great time to reflect, to ponder and to let go.  I returned home with a clearer mind and a renewed sense of purpose that carried me through the week.

I will admit to my own struggles with setting aside time for “selfish” activities like these. I often think about all the other things I should or could be doing.  Yet when I let too much time pass without investing in myself… without sharpening my saw… I feel it. I become less patient, less understanding, less creative, less focused, less supportive, less grounded.  I become…less.

Letting ourselves “become less” is not good for us and it is not good for those who we care about. So please take a few moments today (how about right now?) to make a list of ways that you can sharpen your saw.  I encourage you to include a variety of things on your list. And don’t be afraid to include things that might take a lot of your time.  You may not always (or often) carve out a couple of hours…or a couple of days.  But when you do, know that you deserve it.

Now, with your list in hand, please block time on your calendar for each of the next four weeks. This time for you! It probably feels a little selfish. Please…do it anyway.

While you’re at it, I encourage you to set this reminder for 30 days from now to check in on your progress – “It’s been 30 days since you chose to carve out time for yourself…to make sharpening your saw a priority. How did you do?  Are you selfish…enough?”

I hope you like the answer.


Ric Leutwyler
Ric Leutwyler
MY work journey has taken me from dishwasher to CEO, from fast food to cloud based technology, from Davenport, Iowa to more than 30 countries around the globe. Along the way I have enjoyed leading, learning, contributing, mentoring, strategizing, innovating and giving back. One important lesson learned along the way is that there are opportunities to make a difference in all aspects of our lives. This has made the journey all the more rewarding.

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