I recently saw this brilliant video by The School Of Life (all of their work is worth checking out) and it got me thinking about this topic.
More accurately, the video helped me to make sense of a few things that have been sloshing around my brain ever since I set up my own business and particularly once I started focusing on The Influence Expert.
As I have come from the charity sector the idea of selflessness and trying to do the best for others is a particularly important concept. Before that I was involved a little with politics (which I also studied at university) because I wanted to make my mark on the world and to help other people.
Many people who want to do good in the world don’t spend enough time thinking about themselves. I of course don’t mean that they are perfect people- but that they think that spending time on themselves is somehow selfish, or a waste.
However, the more I have thought about this and the better I have got at noticing when I am feeling burnt out and unable to do my best work, the more I have realised how important it is to care about yourself in the right way.
I now see this as a key part of growing your influence.
Aside from doing good for others it can sometimes feel that if we focus on ourselves that we will miss out on everything that the world has to offer. There is a real fear of missing out and the world moves very fast. However, sometimes it is important to take yourself out of that and to focus on the things that you know are really important to you.
In the past couple of years I have made a conscious effort to focus on myself. The biggest change has come about through becoming a digital nomad with my wife- and living in three countries so far as well as spending time in our home country of the UK.
Being a digital nomad has allowed me to:
- Assess how I could make the biggest difference to the world- setting up The Influence Expert
- Get better control of my fitness and losing some weight through more exercise and fresh air, healthier food and more sleep
- Spend more time with my wife, the person who makes me feel happiest and most fulfilled in the world.
- Take time to pause after a busy first part of my career
- Get new inspiration from other countries and cultures
- Get into some better habits around things like personal productivity and improve my skills in areas that I need to, to be a success in my area of focus
Of course, it hasn’t always been a smooth journey. I didn’t, for example, manage to get a bit fitter without a decent amount of effort- and I have a way to go before I reach my goals. But at least I have had been able to take the time to get myself on the right track and hopefully to put in place some things that will bear fruit in the years to come.
I now know that only by focusing on myself can I help other people properly.
One of the most important parts of influence is understanding what the other person wants and the only way you can do that is to cater to your most important needs first.
It is like on a plane where you are told to sort your own oxygen mask before helping others.
If you don’t focus on your important needs then you can’t hope to help other people with theirs.
Of course this doesn’t mean catering to your every whim without helping other people.
Nor does it mean not caring about the world around you just because you are busy. You will always care about the world, but you need to know when the focus should just be on you.
Focusing on yourself isn’t a licence to treat other people badly- (if you have made a commitment you should do your best to fulfil it- the trick is not to make it in the first place if you are at a point that you need to be focusing on yourself).
Another thing to think about is that sometimes you may need to be selfish because other people are being selfish- and for at least some of them, not in the right way. For example they may use the excuse of focusing on themselves to dump some of their work or stress on you. A lot of other people focus on themselves, so if you don’t, who will focus on you?
Let’s suppose we never focus on ourselves, what happens then?
Perhaps we get annoyed with other people
Maybe try to help everyone and end up helping no-one.
Or we can get burnt out and not be at our best.
So, we need to get better at articulating our needs to ourselves and to others.
Each of us will need different things.
For me I need a decent amount of time on my own- which I have found hard sometimes to explain to the people I care about because I love spending time with them too- but being true to myself I know that I need a balance.
I’ve also had some mental health issues- not a secret to most people who know me but not something I’ve discussed publicly before- and so I know some of the things I need to be careful of if I want to function effectively and enjoy the world. As well as knowing what to do to make myself feel more comfortable when I’m not at my best- I am a little more skilled at recognizing when I need some alone time, quiet time or recuperation time. Of course I don’t always get it right and sometimes life intervenes. At least I see it as an ambition though.
I want to serve the world and I am sure you do too. The point of influence is to have impact. To do that I need to be selfish sometimes.
If you think of most of the people you admire, they are probably selfish in a number of ways. In particular, if they are at the top of their game they probably need to be selfish sometimes in order to have the time and space to be able to achieve the things that they do.
Of course, to be selfish in the right way you first need to work out what is important to you. Both what is important to you for you to be able to function at your maximum potential and give the greatest service to the world- and also what is important to you in terms of what is the direction in which you generally want to be heading- where should you be focusing your attention right now?
Having enough time to focus on the things which help us feel grounded is a natural human emotion. It is part of the authentic human experience and authenticity is an important part of The Influence Star.
What do you need to be selfish about in order to get where you want?
How do you need to be more selfish in your life right now? How might you be able to help other people if you were more selfish?
I’d love to hear some of your ideas.