What is Important to Me?

Monday, May. 21st 2012 9:28 AM

While we are all selfish, most of us do plenty of nice things for others. It feels good to make people we care about happy and to provide support. But if we aren’t not careful, we can lose sight of our original intentions (i.e., the good feeling that comes from giving), and instead start to ask, “But what’s in it for me?” This is not a bad thing, but the egocentric desire to keep score can ruin the enjoyment of simply giving.


For example, I recently ran into a family friend who owns a business, and I happened be wearing one of his company t-shirts. He was quite tickled to see this, and when I explained that I was happy to show support for his company, he promised to send me one of their polo shirts. I assured him that I would wear it. True to his word, he delivered, and true to mine, I wear it.

But then I started wondering if he would wear my company’s shirt. And if not, why should I wear his? My conversation with myself got pretty heated, despite being completely hypothetical, because I had never even given him a shirt.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had lost focus on what was important to me in this situation. I didn’t wear his shirt so he would wear mine. I wore it for the same reason that I wear promotional items for my other friends’ companies. I want to support them because I care about them and/or for being courageous enough to chart their own course in business. I respect this, in part, because it is exactly what I am doing. It has never been about getting other people to support me; yet, here I was, ready to start stuff.

How often have you done something for your own reasons, or based purely on your desire to help, but then found your original intention at odds with your ego? Suddenly, you’re asking yourself questions like, “Would he reciprocate my kindness if the tables were turned?” or “Why isn’t she treating me the same way I’m treating her?”

In these situations, you can save yourself a lot of angst if you simply focus on what is important to you. Why did you do something nice for this person? In my example, I realized that I was much more at ease and at peace when I was simply doing what I wanted to do – before I asked “what if?” So, I rewound and erased that question from my inner dialogue.

This same dynamic often plays out in romantic relationships. Perhaps you like to cook, so you prepare the meals. Then, you think to yourself, “My partner is getting off light on kitchen duty. That’s not fair.” Or maybe you regularly perform some other act for yourself, from which your partner also benefits, and you suddenly realize that he/she doesn’t do the same thing. You may start asking “what if?” questions in order to establish equity, or just to see if your partner appreciates you.

Next time you feel compelled to do so, consider how you felt before you asked “what if?” If you were good, take note of that, and then consider if your ego is motivating you to ask such questions. If your ego is doing the talking, it might benefit from a good talking to (i.e., “Ease up, ego. I’m happy and on track.”).

Sometimes, our egos can get us into trouble just for the sake of stirring up trouble, whereas keeping our minds focused on what really matters to us is more likely to make everyone happy. And that’s pretty Powerful.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love


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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

11 Comments on “What is Important to Me?”

  1. The Silverback Says:

    Once again, an Alpha Male perspective is required. Are you in a Coma Frank?! I don’t know a man that keeps giving and doesn’t tabulate some sort of score. I have never done what you are suggesting, nor do I know the person that’s doing it. I suggest to anyone to periodically look up at the scoreboard, lest you find yourself getting blown our by 30+ points and they have to cart you off the field. Unless you like being manipulated and handled…Stop doing this to people Frank. Someone on this blog may be taking you seriously. Do you want to be responsible for further weakening society with your “extra sensitive” views?

  2. Lesley S. M. Says:

    Hi Frank I really enjoyed your article. I think we all too often do things naturally because we enjoy it and then suddenly find ourselves discussing with that little voice in our head something that we hadn’t thought about probably because something was said in innocence that made us think about it in a different way! not always helpful but human nature.

    I find that understanding as you say what is important and staying true to that is fantastically important and shouldn’t be ignored.

  3. Jacquie H. Says:

    What’s important to me is finding balance within all areas of my life…spending time playing with my kids, going for dates with my husband, taking my dog for walks or runs, going out with friends, having alone time, doing my passion (my business of helping people to light’n up), getting exercise, playing, laughing, basically enjoying LIFE and spreading my light as i do it!

  4. Frankie P. Says:

    With me it’s Breathing….I get up every morning just wanting to breath…once I do that I know I have a shot at the rest of the day…

  5. Pat Westermann Says:

    Relationships are not unconditional. Character traits or personality traits can not be expected to change, however, learned behaviors can be expected to change if they are unacceptable to a partner. Of course, this only holds true if the other partner is willing to change that behavior. The other partner can then decide if the behavior is worth breaking the relationship over. http://www.daisynut.com “Long Lasting Relationship Help”

  6. Catherine R. H. Says:

    @ Wendy… you are smart to pay attention to those warning signs. Behavior like that is a sign of an abuser. You’ve paid attention to your instincts and that is very wise! 🙂

  7. Pat Westermann Says:

    @ Catherine…no one should stay in an abusive relationship. And no one should ever think they will wake up one morning and it will stop. It won’t without help. Abuse is a learned behavior and unless that person recognizes it and is willing to get help, they will never stop it by themselves.

  8. Philippa W. Says:

    @Pat…Yes Pat I agree, personality and character traits rarely change while a partner is holding certain values that are driving their behaviour and maintaining their persona. For example a person who highly values order, rules, stability and behaves in a structured way cannot be expected to behave spontaneously and throw caution to the wind. Equally person who is highly ego – centric (not necessarily narcissistic) but relatively selfish and puts a high value on getting all their needs met before others, may not behave in a way that considers your needs first. However if a person’s values and drives shift there can be dramatic changes in their behaviour. A London-based financial trader I knew went into a personal crisis after the financial meltdown of 2008. Suddenly seeing only futility and selfishness in his previous job, he left the city, re-trained and took up work as a teacher. In the space of a few critical weeks, he had moved from holding a set of values that drove him towards personal ambition and material gain to valuing helping and nurturing others.

  9. Jennifer L. Says:

    It’s a balancing act isn’t it? Empathy without compromise of your own values. However- how I enjoy walking the tightrope.

  10. David O. Saenz PhD, EdM, LLC (Consulting Psychologist) Says:

    I often ask clients such questions as:

    >> Why are you here– what’s your purpose on earth?
    >> What would a wiser 85 year old version of you tell you about who you are and what you’re becoming (or how to solve this issue)?
    >> Life is led in 3 acts, you’re at the end of act 2 (or 1 or 3)… how would you like this act to end so that it held the most meaning for you and prepared you for the next act?
    >> What are you most grateful for in life?
    >> What are your values? What do you represent? What do you want to embody?
    >> Look at your life now. Are you living the life of your dreams or the life you want to live now?

    Such questions shift the focus way from the “ego” you mention and turn the client towards convictions and life values– this makes therapy that much more purposeful and meaningful.

    Often, in therapy, we will complete a Life Balance Wheel (Coaching Mandela), and it’s an eye opener because it compels the client to take stock of their life along 8 self prescribed domains (e.g, health, financial independence, family, romance, etc.). It leads to considerable action on their part, but it also helps lead one from doing and having… to BEING.

    Good post Frank, as always!

  11. Natalie R. Says:

    I think if we’re not careful when we do many nice things for others, others will take advantage of our unselfishness, resulting in people being unappreciative.

    I think if we’re not careful when we do many nice things for others, others will take advantage of our unselfishness, resulting in people being unappreciative.

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