Author Topic: letting go of self-serving decisions  (Read 2466 times)


  • Member
  • :-)
    • life
    • green tea
letting go of self-serving decisions
« on: September 08, 2015, 07:05:10 AM »
I’ve begun to notice behavior in others that are frightening of some of my own behavior.

I met a girl who went to Nepal to help get technology/computers into a village.  I asked her, why did you do that? She said because she thought it would be fun to go to Nepal.  It was a shocking response.  Isn’t it enough to help people and Nepal is a bonus? She didn’t care about the people in the village or the computers really.  It was just fun to go to Nepal.  Her reasoning is actually not that different then why I might do the same thing I had just never considered it as so self-serving before.

A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend.  She told me she was, in a way, using him to get over her ex-boyfriend.  She didn’t care about him the new boyfriend ultimately, he was her emotional rebound.  Certainly feelings between them were there but ultimately she was taking him for a ride for her own therapeutic gain (ouch).  I've done something vaguely similar.

A friend of mine used to call me selfish.  His reasoning is because when I would choose or decide to do something it was almost entirely based on what do I get out of it… based entirely on what I wanted.  I didn’t really care about any of the other people who may be involved, it was about me.

Sure, it’s human behavior and perhaps is not that bad, but it’s that specific underlying motivation in the decision process.  The first question is not how will this help others but how will this help me get what I want.  The desire to do something but only for some sort of personal gain.

Years ago I was part of a group where they voted people as “givers” and “takers” … I ended up being one of the people with the highest taker votes.  A taker is someone who takes and perhaps gives nothing or little in return - selfish, self-absorbed, maybe an asshole.

Googled “Letting go of selfishness” and didn’t find anything of interest.  It mostly seems possible to choose differently, the choice is up to oneself.  In some cases the response is so automatic and ingrained, awareness is the first step.. then choosing, choosing different.

It'd be nice to hear an outside opinion if there is one, otherwise thanks for reading
Follow your nose


  • Member
  • :-)
    • life
    • green tea
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2015, 07:19:45 AM »
and now I was just about to write a message to a friend but stopped.  The message: "I'm kind of interested in reading the bible, where is a good place to start?"  I haven't talked with him in months and this is the first question to ask him.  It's not about him, it's about me and what I get.  I don't care about him in terms of the conversation.. I get the response that I want then everything else doesn't matter. a great opportunity to approach the conversation differently.  to ask how things are going (he's getting married soon, etc.).. anyway just wanted to provide yet another example.  it's interesting to observe my behavior... and choose more...well, thoughtfully.
Follow your nose


  • Member
  • Just be a witness.
    • Vipassana as taught by Mr. Goenka - Switched to Shamatha
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2015, 04:09:56 AM »
You are doing good Clayton. Keep watching this thing called self within you. And then reflect on the reasons behind why self does what it does without judging. Once you understand the reasons, this self will lose its grip on you. When you totally let go of the self, then you are free. I broke a lot of shackles in the last year and half. My contentment factor has gone up dramatically. I am more content than I used be and the result is I crave less than I used to.
Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Dharmic Tui

  • Member
  • Something
    • Some Theravada, some secular
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2015, 10:17:15 AM »
There's a few reasons being less self centred is a more sensible approach

- First is your own wellbeing, if you give, that can have a profound effect on your overall level of happiness, and it's a lot easier to rest if you haven't been raping and pillaging all day
- Also in a practical sense you get back what you put in. Being selfish often results in short term benefits, you can wind up being devoid of lasting relationships and having people close who can help you when you need it most, as life is wont to do.

I find a reasonable level of austerity can keep you sharp and full of energy.


  • Member
  • Write something about yourself here
    • Vipassana
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2015, 01:37:18 AM »
I think the more you agonize over your lack of altruism the more you are stuck with it. There must have been the reason why you have this character trait. Maybe social conditioning. Maybe your needs were not attended by your parents when you were a child. It does not matter now.

If you struggle with your selfishness you will not be able to help anyone anyway, because you will be too much preoccupied with your problem.

I suggest, stop judging yourself and make peace with what you don't like in yourself. We are fine the way we are. We just need to be aware of it. If you meditate and  your are mindful this problem might just go away by its own.

This is my way of dealing with my problems. It works for me. It might not work for you. I am sure you will come to the right conclusion eventually.


  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Member
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2015, 02:26:51 PM »
Hi clayton,

What you have discovered is something that all meditation practitioners discover at some point on their journey. I don't suppose this to be the normative position for human beings, however, it is my experience that it is the normative position for all of us in this world we live in.

The reasons, like most things, I find to be multi-factorial and gasteria alludes to some of these: most societies teach selfishness as being good and normal, at least to some degree. Even Asian societies where selfishness is "frowned upon" unknowingly inculcate these values through a slightly different mindset of fitting in with the family and clan (which requires you to do the right thing and get the right reward).

Also, generally, it is a learned behaviour - and from a very early age; when we are children first learning about the world: we do have a need to "fit in", to be "accepted" - and this is achieved by mirroring the adults and older children around us as we grow and mature. Those people will, consciously or unconsciously, be looking to be "rewarded" for "good" behaviour and thus a very subtle selfishness becomes a part of the psyche, quite deeply rooted and often, as you have noticed, masquerading as concern for the other.

You have become aware of this tendency in yourself and that is a big step forward, though I know it can be quite a shock at first to see for yourself just how self-serving even "altruistic" behaviour can be. This awareness can be the start of the undoing of this tendency, especially as gasteria says if you can "make peace" with it. You notice, become aware. You cringe when you hear yourself saying something - and a moment later realise there is a self-serving motive underlying this.

As you become more aware you will - by this very awareness - start to untie the knots of clinging that are the foundation of it. You will start to let go of the self-serving intentions and begin to form more positive ways of interacting that are "other-centred". As there is less "self" in you, there is more space for the other.

And as DT suggests there are good reasons for following this path: the greatest happiness comes not from material gain, personal reputation or the like. The greatest happiness comes from selflessly helping others. And that isn't some hippy bullshit .. there is a fair weight of scientific research that shows empirical evidence that happy people are people who spend their time doing the things that benefit other people rather than themselves.

Having said all that there is still, and I suspect always will be, a need for what I term "proper selfishness": looking after your own basic needs of physical and psychological health, nourishment (physically in terms of food and psychologically in terms of good companionship), shelter and continuing life.

This "proper selfishness" allows you the resources, both physical and psychological, to be of service to others. Without it you are no use to anyone.

I'm interested if you asked the other people who were acting from selfish motives questions that helped reveal to them the self-interested basis of their actions? It sounds like you may have been too shocked to do so!


~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~


  • Member
    • I practise one hour of Goenka style Vipassana a day and one hour of Mahayana meditations.
Re: letting go of self-serving decisions
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2015, 03:47:06 PM »
Dear Clayton,

I think we are all selfish to a certain degree. Even the givers are, in way, since they expect something in return for their generosity. But feeling bad about that won't help and change anyone. Meditation will help you recognizing you true needs, which are generally quite simple to satisfy. Clean air, water, some food and a shelter to name some. And of course nice people around you.

It may also help to live for some time on very little money to really experience what you need to be happy, maybe on a rainbow gathering. There you will also have the chance to experience how much will get back once you start giving and how much better life is in a society that favors sharing over owning.

But the best remedy is truly selfless action. Try to do some really selfless action. You could donate a lot of money to a charity and don't claim the tax return. It should be so much, that it feels really hard to give the amount away, but of course you should still be able to satisfy your basic needs.

To sum it up, doing altruistic things will train you being more altruistic in daily life. Try to act against you habit, you will feel when you do. And don't forget to meditate regularly, in order to have a clearer view of yourself. In the beginning this may be hard but in the long run you have a much better life.


Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
10 Replies
Last post February 18, 2012, 03:05:12 PM
by Matthew
10 Replies
Last post June 19, 2013, 11:06:31 PM
by dimeo
15 Replies
Last post November 25, 2013, 07:53:56 AM
by Matthew
8 Replies
Last post February 08, 2015, 06:38:24 PM
by Quardamon
8 Replies
Last post July 09, 2018, 10:34:33 PM
by dharma bum
4 Replies
Last post April 05, 2020, 08:58:57 PM
by Dhamma
34 Replies
Last post November 17, 2020, 10:42:14 AM
by JAB2202