Happiness – altruism, selfishness and wise compassion

Happiness – altruism, selfishness and wise compassion

In response to one of my recent postings, “ewilson” asked whether it was in our nature to be more giving or selfish.

Well I think it’s both!

We are inherently social animals but we’re also built for survival. The reality is, we need to both look after ourselves and be cognisant of the group.

If we don’t take care of ourselves we can’t ever really be healthy and happy. But if we’re selfishly individual we’ll be excluded by others and not cared for or protected by the community in which we live.

At The Happiness Institute we believe these intentions are not in any way mutually exclusive. In fact, they work well together. If you go to the “Free Products” section of our website you’ll see that at the heart of everything we do is our philosophy that happiness is something you CHOOSE. By this, we use choose as both a philosophy of self-responsibility as well as a mnemonic illustrating the 6 key strategies we believe lead to happiness.

At the same time, we’re well aware of the fact that good things happen to good people and that to experience real and meaningful happiness one needs to build and maintaing positive relationships.

This is also consistent with a metaphor I’ve heard Buddhists use that compares happiness to a bird with two wings – one wing is wisdom (knowing and caring for oneself) while the other wing is compassion (caring for and loving others). One can not experience real and meaningful happiness without both components.

So should we be selfish or generous to experience happiness? I’d suggest you do a bit of both…take care of yourself so you can then experience the joy of taking care of and doing good deeds to and for others!