Results: Selfless vs Selfish

Which produces better results, selfless or selfish behaviors?


This blog post was triggered by a comment after last Sunday’s Super Bowl game. Rams’ wide receiver, Cooper Kupp, upon being named most valuable player, said “I don’t feel like I deserve this.” It’s his selfless comment that got me thinking about how different the results are when we behave selflessly versus selfishly.

No guarantees

Selfless behavior does not guarantee results. Undoubtedly, there are players on the Cincinnati Bengals team who possess the same selfless mindset, behave in the same ways, that Cooper Kupp did, yet they failed to get the Super Bowl victory they sought. Having said that, the odds of getting the desired result go up dramatically with selfless behavior. Let’s explore why this is true.

Selfless behavior

You don’t need to take my word that selfless behavior typically produces better results. All you have to do is recall a time when someone made a major contribution to a favorable result, yet never once sought recognition for their contribution. Instead, they celebrated the success by acknowledging others’ contribution to that success.

Did you feel compelled to acknowledge their contribution as well? Was it important to you that others’ knew what this person had done to effect a favorable result? I’m certain that your answer to both questions was yes.

Colin Powell, in his autobiography, said “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Like Colin Powell, Cooper Kupp, didn’t care who got the credit, he simply wanted the result that the team got. He also acknowledged that his teammates, family and friends all contributed to the success he enjoyed. HIs attitude is a hallmark of selfless behavior…acknowledgement that none of us accomplishes anything alone.

Selfish behavior

Now recall someone whose actions were driven by their desire for recognition, or worse yet, for personal gain at others’ expense. How likely were you to help them in their quest? Indeed, did you act in ways designed to deny them the recognition they desired? If we are being honest with ourselves, we’d have to answer yes to these questions as well. It’s certainly true for me and I take no pride in that admission.

Societal benefits

Our natural tendency is to support selfless behaviors and thwart selfish behaviors. There are societal reasons for this. Selfless behavior spawns feelings of appreciation, the desire to reciprocate and a general sense of community well being.

Conversely, selfish behaviors create win/lose scenarios which trigger scarcity mentalities, us versus them mentalities and divisiveness, often leading to violence. Societies experiencing this mindset do not fare well. Unfortunately, we are seeing too much of this mindset around the globe today.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s what you can do to help society return to more selfless behavior.

For you

One person can make a huge difference…and you can be one of the people who do. You can:

  • Make it your mission to leave everyone you meet better off than when you met. It may be as simple as giving them a reason to smile.
  • Suspend judgment. While you will automatically judge things or people as good or bad, right or wrong, it’s an emotional response. You can set aside that emotion by reminding yourself that nothing is all good or all bad…that there are advantages and disadvantages to every experience we have. The good news is that we get to choose what tradeoffs we want to make.
  • Use questions to allow others to rethink their position and, in doing so, realize that there are aspects of the situation that they’re overlooking. Enabling them to discover this on their own increases the likelihood they’ll act upon the new conclusion.
  • Give without expecting anything in return knowing that your kindness will be repaid in other ways from other sources. 

Enjoy the psychic rewards these simple acts afford and take comfort in the knowledge that those who experienced the joy, comfort and appreciation of your actions are likely to extend your kindness to others as well.

For our kids

When you see kids exhibiting selfish behavior ask them “How do you feel when you other kids try to take credit for things they didn’t do or gain things at other kids’ expense? Is that how you want other kids to feel about you?”

In addition, and probably more importantly, you need to live this message. Kids are far more likely to emulate our behaviors than pay attention to what we say…especially if our words and actions aren’t congruent.

Teaching kids the benefits of selfless behavior early in life increases the likelihood of them experiencing greater joy, increased support from their community in whatever they choose to do and a society that thrives versus one that is destined to tear itself apart.

Selfless people do indeed believe, as Cooper Kupp did, that they don’t deserve the accolades they receive. Instead, they feel appreciation for all who helped them during their journey. Isn’t this a life you’d like your kids to enjoy? 

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your experiences in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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