This is a question that drives almost every decision we make. Those words are subconscious messages from the naughty little voices that we sometimes hear chattering in the back of our minds. Sadly, they sometimes prevent us from doing the right thing because our egos stand in the way.
Most of us probably want to take the moral high ground, but life can get complicated and the world seems to be going at an incredibly fast pace. It sometimes feels as if we can barely hang on and handle our own challenges without taking on someone else’s issues. And there are those situations which involve someone hurting our feelings or competing with us for something we want or need. Are we really supposed to step out of our own ego bubbles and defy our “I have to look out for number one” inclinations? And what if it seems that other people benefit from our work even more than we do and we don’t get credit for it?
Here are some possible thought processes that we might experience: If someone hurts me, why should I forgive him? Sure…he may be off the hook for what he did, but what’s in it for me? Someone needs help; I really don’t have the time and it will be an inconvenience. Lending a hand would make life much easier for that person, but what’s in it for me? After all, we all need to look out for ourselves, don’t we? Someone is being mistreated or bullied. I could intervene and stand up for him, but then I would have to get involved and if I do that…what’s in it for me? Why should I work hard to make life easier for someone else…what’s in it for me?
Yikes! What a dilemma! Or is it? Speaking for myself and my own experiences, here is what I have found to be the answer to the “what’s in it for me?” question:
- The phrase, “what goes around, comes around” is true most of the time. What we send out usually returns to us. Negativity and mean spiritedness usually come back to bite you in the booty; kindness returns to you tenfold. We reap what we sow.
- There is more peace in stepping out of yourself than there is in building walls around yourself. When you practice kindness for kindness’ sake, you find that the question of what you’re going to get out of it appears less frequently in your thoughts. There is a kind of contentment that comes with giving and forgiving without expecting acknowledgement or credit.
- There is a lot to be said for paying it forward. Attitude is like ripples in a pond when a stone has been thrown in. When you are kind to someone, you are increasing the likelihood of that person passing it on to others. It is the gift that keeps on giving. And it works in reverse; as well…snarkiness breeds snarkiness. Don’t be the one who starts the snarky cycle.
- This is an important one: We are all part of a continuum. Everything that we accomplish; inventions, medical advances, even our philosophies are possible because of those who came before us. We build upon their knowledge, discoveries, and work. Nobody creates anything totally alone….it is a cumulative process involving generations of people. Our ancestors worked and possibly sacrificed to pass onto us, a better life. We are all stewards of the accomplishments and knowledge that have been passed down and it is our responsibility to use them to make the world a better place with everything we do…without asking “what’s in it for me?”
The universe has a way of balancing things out. What’s in it for us is that we get to be part of a magnificent continuous thread that is this life. But if you are still having trouble doing the right thing because you’re not sure what’s in it for you, offer yourself an incentive…something nice, like chocolate. It works for me! But…I’m easily bribed.