It’s so easy to slip into a selfish mentality.
Life is tough and we have bills to pay. Time gets eaten up by responsibilities, family, work, and the general maintenance of conducting one’s life.
As time goes on, our focus narrows on our own needs and responsibilities unless we make an effort to prevent it, particularly if we are at a point in our life where we aren’t doing as well as we hoped we would be.
Selfishness is a state which we find ourselves in if we do not make generosity a priority.
And why should we?
Generosity is a powerful thing. To look past our own selfishness to the trials and tribulations of others is to acknowledge their suffering and maybe provide some relief – if only for a short time.
Generous people tend to be happier, finding good feelings in acts of altruism and making a difference in the lives of the people that benefit from their generosity.
The smallest acts of selflessness and generosity can provide ripple effects that benefit humanity as a whole.
A small act of kindness to one person might be paid forward by that person to others.
Taking the time to be kind or elevate another person acknowledges that person’s needs and humanity, which gives them more space to acknowledge the people in their life.
How can we be less selfish and more generous? Here are 11 ways.
1. Ask other people how their day is going.
Asking another person how their day is going and genuinely listening without expectation is an easy, yet excellent way to cultivate empathy, which will reduce selfishness.
Listening to another person gives you an opportunity to see the world through different eyes for a few minutes, help take some of the emotional load off of another person’s shoulders, and find human connection.
2. Reach out to check on friends and family.
Life gets busy. Make it a habit to regularly reach out to your circle of friends and family on one day a week to find out how they are and what they have going on.
They may not be able to talk regularly, but they will appreciate that you took the time to see how they are doing.
Giving your time to the well-being of your friends and family is a generous act that will help strengthen your relationships.
3. Practice gratitude regularly.
A person can grow their own sense of generosity by practicing gratitude.
Make it a point to consider the things you are grateful for regularly and always be looking for new things to add to your list.
Even in a dark place, it is helpful to be thankful for what we have because it helps us to look outside of our struggles and realize that there are better things ahead of us.
Gratitude helps us assign value to that which we have in our lives, which fosters positive emotions when we share with others.
4. Donate to an organization or cause that matters to you.
A donation to an organization or cause that matters to you helps those people do valuable work that you may not be able to with your own hands.
Charities and organizations that are working for the betterment of other people are often strapped for resources and will value any contribution they receive.
Donating your time is a good way to get hands on involved and serve those who need some additional help.
5. Put the needs of others before your own wants.
A simple but not easy act of generosity and unselfishness is to put the needs of another before your own wants.
This dynamic plays out most often in relationships, though it can work in general life and with friends.
A need is something integral that the person requires at the moment. A want is unessential, something that isn’t necessary at the moment, but would just be favorable under a given circumstance.
It makes sense to put another person’s needs before your wants, but it’s not something we necessarily do.
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6. Practice forgiveness to yourself and others often.
Life is rough and people make a lot of mistakes regularly. A wonderful gift you can give yourself and other people is the gift of forgiveness and understanding.
The world is full of critics and people anxious to tear each other down, so don’t be one of those people.
Give people the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, but do balance that with keeping yourself well and healthy in the process.
Don’t accept repeated bad behavior or malicious actions as something to forgive and forget. You can forgive and let things go, just don’t forget.
7. Shine a positive spotlight on others.
Take the spotlight off of yourself and shine it onto others that deserve it.
Did a coworker do a great job?
Friend make an awesome advancement in their life?
Random person practice an act of kindness?
Thank them, appreciate them, and if it’s appropriate, ensure that other people know what this person did that is deserving of praise.
Naturally, not everyone is comfortable with the spotlight and there are some situations where they may not want attention.
People who engage in charitable giving or work don’t necessarily like to be praised for it.
In the context of someone doing a service for you or a coworker performing exceptionally well, it is appropriate to ensure their manager knows they are doing a great job.
8. Look for ways to compromise.
People all have their own wants and needs. Finding a middle ground with other people is really a skill unto itself, and it requires you to understand what the other person is looking for.
Compromise requires a person to not be selfish, because it’s about finding a mutually beneficial arrangement that both parties can be okay with.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone walks away totally happy, just that everyone has their most important needs met.
9. Forgive rude people for their actions.
It’s easy to get angry at someone who is being rude for no reason.
The key to dealing with rude people is to understand that rudeness tends to stem from their own problems and difficulties in life; problems that they may be stressed out about and not handling well.
Yes, you can engage in conflict to stand up for yourself with every rude person you cross paths with, but that’s just going to ruin your mood in the process.
That doesn’t mean being a doormat and accepting the abuse of others; it’s just that many battles aren’t worth the energy to fight just to be “right.”
10. Choose actions that make sense to you.
The thing about generosity and learning to be less selfish is that they are often individual paths.
What makes sense for someone else may not make sense for you.
Perhaps you don’t want to donate money, but would rather donate your time and expertise.
Perhaps you don’t have much free time to donate, but would rather donate money.
Different people have different feelings about charities and organizations.
If you figure out what you’re passionate about and focus on those avenues, you are more likely to stick with the effort over the long-term.
11. Start small.
The large kindnesses, acts of charity, and generosity are all well and good. They can touch a lot of people in different ways, serving as inspiration or as a means to generate further action.
But not every act needs to be large or even loud.
It is the smallest acts of kindness that can really touch and inspire people in a way that we may not consider.
You may not have much, but choosing to share it with another person who has less can mean so much to them.
Your small acts of generosity and kindness in your life tangibly demonstrate to others that there are people who care and that the world isn’t always an unkind place.