The thoughts start every time I put on my running shoes. Or grab my guitar to practice. Or sit down to meditate. Or go out of my way to eat real food. Or go to bed early to enjoy an early morning. Or travel alone to clear my mind. Or put energy towards a new business idea.
There are so many other things I should be doing with this time.
I should be spending time with my family. Finishing that work project. Cleaning the house. Catching up with friends. Doing anything, really, but taking this time for myself when other people and other projects also need my attention.
What kind of person does it make me if I actively prioritize these pursuits over other obligations? When is it okay to be selfish? How much is too much? How can I manage the associated guilt (self-imposed or otherwise)?
I’ve spent years thinking about and struggling with these questions. It’s been a mental and emotional tug-of-war between pursuing personal goals and time spent on other parts of life. I haven't found an optimal balancing point but, I do try to minimize the inevitable swing between extreme. I often wonder if others experience the same thing.
Ultimately, I’ve concluded that selfishness is okay when it results in a better version of me - free of regret, resilient and fully present.
Exercise, meditation, healthy eating, creativity, entrepreneurship all require a degree of selfishness in order to create positive habits, progress towards a goal and to experience personal growth. But, here’s the good news. That same selfishness results in me being a better person more able to adapt to inevitable change and provide attention, empathy and positive energy to my family, friends and community.
In my experience, setting and working towards goals is an important component of living a fulfilling life. The experience of working towards something with commitment and vigor spurs growth, self-confidence and happiness. Even more so when the goal has to do with my physical or mental health.
Now, I actively cultivate selfishness so that I can have the time and space to eat real food, calm my mind, protect my sleep and pursue my athletic, creative and entrepreneurial goals. I challenge you to do the same. You’ll feel and look more like the version of yourself you want to be.
Here are some tips on what works for me:
- Communicate your goals and related schedule with your family and friends so that they understand - and can be supportive of - your decisions.
- Surround yourself with people that care about your physical and mental health and, do your best, to avoid those that don't.
- Find the time. Even the busiest person can find 20 minutes a day to protect and use towards a goal. 20 minutes a day over time can achieve big things. I don’t recommend stealing the time from your sleep instead, cut out screen time. Most of us can find 20 minutes or more there a day and it takes no time away from family and friends.
- Write your goals down and be kind to yourself. Build patience and flexibility into your plan so you stay motivated when things don’t go exactly as planned.
- Be mindful of the self-imposed guilt trap. In my experience, 100% of the guilt I feel is self-imposed and therefore not real.
About the Contributor
Hello, I'm Justin Bigart. I'm the Founder of The Old Soul Projects and I help out with Sageborn. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about about the intersection of entrepreneurship, wellness and creativity.