You’ve been manipulated.
Told to sacrifice.
Taught to avoid self-satisfaction.
Parents, teachers, bosses, spouses, and politicians have told you that what you want is wrong.
They’ve sold you on self-sacrifice to make you a more obedient servant of others.
In other words, they’ve conditioned you to be a damn good slave.
And when you’re obedient the system loves you. When you rebel, there are consequences.
It’s become trendy to demonize determination. The media panders to the masses, labeling the achievers evil with hearts of greed.
Many shame the ambitious into supporting those who refuse to sacrifice.
Those who peddle self-sacrifice make the remarkable presumption that it’s immoral to be selfish—that society is worse off when one seeks to maximize personal fulfillment.
You should question their motives, because what if they’re wrong?
Success usually comes when you observe the crowd and do the opposite.
In 1776, Adam Smith referenced The Invisible Hand — often interpreted to mean – individuals in a market who seek personal gain benefit society as a whole.
Where sellers choose what to sell and buyers decide what to buy, the market will set a price that will maximize seller profit while minimizing buyer cost. The free market is powerful example where one’s self-interest produces a socially beneficial result.
Most breakthroughs occur when you challenge the status quo, so it’s worthwhile to question if self-interested behavior is immoral.
When analyzing this theory, it helps to understand the term Util – which describes a hypothetical unit of self-satisfaction.
Here’s an example.
Suppose you order a $100 steak. If you prefer steak, the meal may provide ten utils, but if you prefer fish, you may only receive three utils. Each plate cost the same, but the steak lover receives more utils, thus greater value.
Labeling something cheap or expensive is your subjective interpretation of how many utils you will receive for a product or service.
Like the steak dinner, not everyone receives the same number of utils by being charitable. Some donors receive more utils while others receive few.
Those who are charitable do so because it yields them more utils. But if acquiring provides you more utils, you will seek to acquire instead of give.
Neither the giver, nor the non-giver is more generous than the other. Both seek to maximize personal satisfaction so we chose behaviors that provide a greater number of utils.
When viewed through this lens, the giver is as selfish as the non-giver.
Society has demonized selfishness by attaching it to guilt, which is a powerful tool to control another’s behavior. Guilt is a tool used to exploit others for selfish motives.
How many times has guilt or obligation persuaded you to buy an overpriced box of Girl Scout cookies? Given the choice of a $4.00 box of cookies or a $0.70 cent donation to the Girl Scout troop, which is more rational?
Given artificially created social pressures, you might lean towards the expensive cookies. Both options provide the Girl Scout troop with $0.70. The remainder of the $4.00 supports the $393,380.00 annual salary of the Girl Scout CEO and other overhead.
This article is not about charity. Donations are only one example where many of today’s social norms are intentionally designed to guilt you into compliance.
The Girl scout CEO earns six times the average American’s salary, yet guilt does not shame her from employing an army of unpaid mothers and daughters to generate her salary.
I assume the Girl Scouts are a fine organization. I only use them as an example, but it’s critical that you question the motives of the people in positions of authority that create our social norms.
Virtually every time you feel stress, anxiety or unhappiness, it is usually because there is a disconnect between what you are doing and what you want to do.
Suppose you do exactly what YOU want, does that mean you will rob banks and steal cars?
Laws forbid you from depriving others of their freedom and property, but so does your conscience. Only four percent of the population is a sociopath, but the majority of us do not gain utils by hurting others.
Given those limits, it is not immoral to pursue your own path.
The next time you feel governed by guilt, obligation or manipulation, it is time to step back and reevaluate.
Question whether your choices align with your priorities.
You will find happiness when you do what you love.
And when you follow your heart it will have the unintended consequence of benefiting the “Greater good.”
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