Optimizing for ourselves

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Whenever we do something for someone, we expect that person to feel good about the favour they received. But the truth is, we do these things to make ourselves feel better that someone could have felt better because of us. Whether you’d like to reflect and acknowledge or not, we are all wired to optimize for ourselves. When we try to kid ourselves or remain in denial, we cause ourselves more harm than doing any good for anyone.

For the last 6-7 years, I have been trying to push, handhold, support (every combination of these things) my husband to get all his assets related paperwork sorted since he once told me that having so many things to take care of stresses him out because my husband’s peace of mind should be paramount for me, right? Over the years, the list has grown longer than it has reduced and me trying to help him complete it has not only given him more stress, it has started to affect my peace of mind too.

It’s easy for me to feel bad that he is wasting his parents’ hard earned money by not trying to claim it (since we all only amass wealth for our offspring), but it’s only a matter of perspective because essentially all of us have the right to do what we want with our lives as long as we aren’t purposely causing harm to another form of life. So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to pull back and let him deal with his life and guess what, I already feel happier. He probably does too because he has one less reason to be stressed out about.

If we all just thought about ourselves, we would be so much happier. If giving a beggar 10 bucks is going to make you feel better about yourself, do it. If it’s going to make you feel terrible for encouraging beggary, don’t give them anything. But if it’s going to make you feel bad about making such a big deal of 10 bucks that you’re better of parting with, give them money. As a side-effect of your actions, you will always be influencing someone else’s life. So, just go ahead and make yourself happy because the universe will take care of the side effects.

Most of us belong to a society where we worry more about others than ourselves and that’s why we are so conscious how our actions influence others (which btw, is only our perspective) and lose track of how it makes us feel. As a result, no one is really actually happy. I don’t mean to sound like the back of an auto rickshaw, but you’ve got one life and so focus on that one life you have and let others worry about their own.

P.S – As a mother, I tend to my child, not because she needs care but seeing her being taken care of, makes me feel better. We are all constantly looking for motivation to live on and our means to achieve this varies over different stages of life, but we are always only optimising for ourselves.

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