Isn’t It Selfish to Follow My Heart?

When I encourage people to listen to what feels good to them, the common response is, “If I just do what feels good to me, via Flickr Commons, qthomasbowerwon’t I end up ____________??” Pick your favorite critical adjective to fill in the blank: selfish, stingy, indulgent, etc.

My response is usually some version of, “If you were predominantly selfish, you wouldn’t be asking that question.” In fact, the conversation would never even come up. 

But, ok, let’s take a look at that possibility. We’ve all made this type of mistake at some point in our lives. Whether it’s forgetting to consider how our words or actions will effect another or taking some action that brings us short-term satisfaction at the cost of long-term well being. 

When I talk about listening to what feels good, I mean listening into our hearts. That’s different than making a biting comment at someone in revenge for some harm they caused. At best that action provides brief relief or momentary satisfaction. When we listen more deeply, we usually find something quite different and more solid. That’s because the voice speaking to us from that deeper place is always connected to our values.

If a sense of connection and respect is among your core values, then it might be difficult to tell someone they hurt you, but at a heart level it won’t feel good to hurt them in response.

If you value service and making a difference in the world, then you’ll feel joyful at the opportunity to express your talents in a way that benefits others. You’ll happily look for ways to make specific improvements to the causes you’re passionate about.

It’s also likely that you’ll find the full complement of your core values provides a level of balance when you choose to allow a full expression of them all. Your value for creating peace and harmony in your community may be balanced by a value for integrity, speaking and acting in alignment with your true self. Your value for personal growth and development that makes you a life-long learner might be balanced by the value you place on living fully in the present moment. 

Contentment is found in every moment when our values are the compass that steers our lives.

The voice that speaks from the core of our being always leads us to these truths. But how do we learn to hear and recognize it? There are two tricks I’ve found that help us to connect with this voice.

First is to get really clear about what we value. If you’ve never explored your core values in depth and even better, written them down, it’s well worth the time and effort. There are numerous resources and tools available to help with this process. One I have found particularly useful is from The Confidence Gap by Russ Harris.  Here’s a link to the worksheets from his section on values.

The second is to learn how to differentiate our heart’s calling from the sometimes louder voice of our minds. Here too there are many resources to develop a practice that works for you. My favorite is to breathe deeply and settle into the physical awareness of my senses. This calms the mind and helps me hear the distinct difference between mind chatter and the sound of my heart.

It’s a pretty simple practice and accessible to us in each moment. Listen to what feels good, hear the voice that speaks from your heart. It’s your very best guide.

What practice do you use to stay in touch with your heart’s calling?


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