Let me tell you all about my narcissism!

Or, How to Lose Friends and Repulse People

outward livingIt’s a TV show I’ve never seen and never intend to. However, I accidently caught a brief portion of the promo for Bridezilla’s Marriage Boot Camp, which only confirmed that intention. In it, the wife, speaking about the relationship with her husband, declared, “We are both selfish… But I want what I want—and I will get it!”

Anyone can see that that’s not going to be a pretty picture.

Regardless of its entertainment value, however, selfishness is the most destructive of all behaviors, no matter what the setting.

And, regretfully, it is not only condoned, but promoted in our popular culture. Most advertising concentrates on appealing to MY needs and wants (first-person, singular!). How many products are peddled with the assurance that I, the consumer, “deserve it”? Remember the mantra, if it feels good, do it? That just feeds our self-focus frenzy and may explain, in part, why over the years we’ve seen magazine titles evolve from People, to Us, to WE, to Self, to Me. See where we’re going here? We also now have even more self-serving magazines such as Unique Me, Empower Me, ME.magazine, and Just Me. The subject is inexhaustible!

Trouble is, we’re born that way. And if we don’t consciously resist the ego-stroking lure of self-importance, self-worship, and self-all-that, both our attitudes and actions grow counterproductive to achieving anything of vitality in a world that, with just one minor exception, consists entirely of other people!

Aspiring leaders find ways to overcome those self-centered tendencies when they realize that their energies are more productively spent on the development of others. Such an outward-living focus brings about personal fulfillment while stimulating collaborative achievement. And effective leaders excel when they practice these three simple keys to outward living:

1. Focus on we not me. Leadership guru John Maxwell asserts that “nothing of significance is ever achieved by an individual acting alone.” Abandon the personal agenda: the way to get ahead is to put others ahead. Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie declared, “It marks a big step in your own development when you come to realize that other people can help you do a better job than you could do alone.”

2. Promote diversity of perspective. Gather and consider a diversity of qualified viewpoints. Such intellectual collaborations provide multiple perspectives on how to meet or reach a goal, and are able to devise several alternatives for each situation. Your own insights, no matter how brilliant, are seldom as deep and broad as a group’s. “Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist,” exhorted Teddy Roosevelt, “if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.”

3. Engage in reciprocal communication. Be clear, courteous, and inviting in all your verbal and nonverbal communications. By setting the tone and example, you’ll simultaneously establish trust for respectful exchange of information, and fuel productive actions from your interactions.

Best-selling author Charles Swindoll sums up the case for outward living nicely in his book The Finishing Touch:

“We need each other. You need someone and someone needs you. Isolated islands we’re not. To make this thing called life work, we’ve gotta lean and support. And relate and respond. And give and take. And confess and forgive. And reach out and embrace and rely… Since none of us is a whole, independent, self-sufficient, super-capable, all-powerful hotshot, let’s quit acting like we are. Life’s lonely enough without our playing that silly role. The game is over. Let’s link up.”

MasterPoint: Outward living produces upward results.