Michael Mantell by Michael Mantell

If you define selfish as ONLY caring for yourself, then the response to the title of this article is “Never.” However, if you define selfish as sometimes placing your needs first, then read on.

This came to me many years ago when we were flying with our, then, infant son. The flight attendant’s voice came on and directed the passengers that if the oxygen masks came down in an emergency, and we were travelling with children, we were to be sure to place the oxygen masks on ourselves first and then on our children.

Selfish? No, of course not. By taking care of ourselves first we would be in a better place to safely care for our children. Isn’t that what taking care of ourselves by working out is about? Preventing illness, maintaining and building our strength, and reducing stress so that we can carry on in productive ways, often involving other important people in our lives?

This is the so that link. Fill in the blanks and you’ll quickly see what your activity is ultimately in the service of.

1. I create “me time” when I need and want it so that _______________________________________.

2. I’ve learned to say “no” to others so that _______________________________________.

3. I make uninterrupted time for me to work out with my trainer so that _______________________________.

4. I am certain to eat healthy even if others in my life don’t so that     ________________________________.

5. I spend personal time enjoying my hobby so that ________________________________________.

If your so that promotes your health, success, wisdom, happiness, wellbeing and/or serenity, so that you enjoy your relationships with loved ones and friends more, you are more available to others, you have more to give of yourself to others, then what’s wrong with being this type of selfish? Nothing.

The alternative is spending so much time for others that you are exhausted, have little left in your personal reserve, and simply come home to crash emotionally and physically. Eventually, your body will alert you to the fact that you need personal replenishment. Let’s hope that alert is not a heart attack, stroke, hypertension or some other harsh knock on your door. When it comes to your fitness goals, reaching optimal health, there will, of course, be sacrifices and time restrictions that you place around yourself. In fact, if you don’t do it, and others force you to do so, you won’t adhere to it anyway. The best goal attainment is internally driven. Selfish? No.

Think of this type of selfishness as empowering and protecting. Let’s say you just lost a great deal of weight and have been committed to a “non-negotiable” goal of working out five days a week with your trainer. Your friends may make efforts to derail your health lifestyle habits, ridicule you, “diagnose” you by saying you are too obsessive or even call you selfish with your time. Guess what? This means you are taking care of yourself and doing it right!

Allow yourself to feel your empowerment and protect your time and commitment to your health, improved self-esteem, energy and happiness. It’s working! You are working!

Michael Jordan, former professional basketball player, entrepreneur and one of the most well-marketed athletes of all time, had this to say about being selfish:

“To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish. Stay reachable. Stay in touch. Don’t isolate.”

Training for an Ironman, getting in 10,000 steps a day no matter what, carving out time in the evening to get to a group exercise class, or just hitting the gym early in the morning when the kids and spouse are just getting up takes commitment. It also requires you recognize that when you are healthy and fit, you will be more present in the long run. Put your mask on first, so that you can help them put their masks on, too.

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