Our choice, daily, in everything we do: take action that benefits the greater good OR take action that satisfies only the self? The more we act from a space of altruism, instead of selfishness, the more we all benefit.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what the “right” thing to do is. Don’t wait for governments or organizations to mandate sustainable or compassionate or social justice measures. We shouldn’t need to be forced to “be good” or “do good”, we should use every action we take to define who we each are. Who do you know yourself to be based on the actions you take?

May you be, and express, your highest self in all that you choose.

For more positive change inspiration to help you be the change you wish to see, here is another beautiful piece by Matthieu Ricard: In 2018 Let’s be altruistic — It’s Perhaps What Will Save Us Along with Our Planet

Community Question

I’ve grappled with the concept of altruism. No matter how I look at it, I just don’t see it being possible. Even if I do something with no expectation of getting something in return, I actually do get something in return. I feel good. So it would seem that every positive action towards others has an underlying agenda. It would seem we are doing ‘good’ things to actually help us stop feeling bad about them. I don’t think we should let that stop us from doing good things but we’d do well for ourselves by being honest with ourselves that we’re doing those acts in order to feel good about ourselves. And that’s ok.

For sure Martin! Altruism does not mean that we are supposed to suffer or not feel good ourselves, in order to make others feel good. It does not mean we have to sacrifice our needs. True altruism means that everybody wins. That is the beauty of it! We just have to expand our personal views to become more aware of what we want and how these wants impact others in the daily choices we make and actions we take.

The key to altruism is not about doing things specifically “for others” or “because of others”, because this can very quickly either turn into a game for our Ego or into a deprived, resentful or martyr-like state. But to do things for the self AND others, things that benefit the self and benefit others. This is an expression of love where both the self and other is honored.

For example, let’s imagine we are at a park eating something with a wrapper. We see other garbage pieces lying around, and now we have a few choices:

Choice 1: We can drop the trash anywhere because we don’t want to find a garbage can and claim that it’s not a big deal since others did it too. = Selfish action. But if we look clearly at this action, it hurts us and others. It lowers the quality of the experience we will have at the park.

Choice 2: We can want to put the wrapper in the right receptacle because we recognize that this improves our experience at the park and that of others. = Altruistic action. This results in a better life experience for us and others.

Choice 3: We can want to put the wrapper in the right receptacle AND want to pick up other trash lying around because this will improve our and others’ experience at the park, even more. = Higher altruistic action. This creates the most ideal conditions for us and all others.

The only catch, and what the initial question gets at as well, with the term “agenda”, is to factor in the INTENTION for doing something. The more aware we are of our intention, the more effective we are in the actions we take. Altruism itself, therefore, is not the problem, but the intention behind our actions is what matters, which goes for everything. We can take either action 2 or 3 from above with the “wrong” intention; i.e. do it to look good, rather than do it to feel good. But even then, the benefit is that we all get a cleaner space. And if we do find ourselves in this category, where we do the right things for external acceptance, well, the hope is that one day we will learn how to take action that is authentic and internally-driven, rather than externally driven.

Either way, feeling good about ourselves is not a problem, as long as “good” things get done AND we honor our needs while honoring the needs of others. After all, we are supposed to feel good. This is the most powerful state from which to effectively create our lives, and co-create this reality. Nobody wins in a reality with miserable people.

And the bonus of altruism is that what is best for others, on a human level, not Ego level, is also best for each person. This includes things such as clean water, clean air, clean environments, healthy food, joyful atmospheres, etc. Unfortunately, too much of the time people get so caught up in being selfish and not doing things altruistically due to a conscious or unconscious stubbornness, not realizing how much in turn they are hurting themselves.

Books by Matthieu Ricard