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wikiHow to Be Selfless

Three Parts:Having a Selfless MindsetMaking Selfless ChoicesTaking Selfless Actions

Selflessness means putting your community's needs above your own instead of always acting in your own interest. Acting selflessly isn't easy, but the more you practice the better you'll get at being kind and generous more often. When you make a habit of taking action to help others feel good and make the world a better place, you'll see that being selfless can actually make you happier.

Part 1
Having a Selfless Mindset

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    Broaden your perspective. Being selfless starts with having the ability to see beyond your personal concerns and empathize with others, even those you've never met. If you're constantly consumed by your own problems and status, you won't have time or energy to act selflessly. Having greater awareness of the world outside your head is the first step to becoming more selfless. Here are some ways you can get some perspective:
    • Listen when other people are talking. Really listen, instead of letting your mind wander when someone is confiding to you about his or her troubles, or telling you an exciting story. Allow yourself to get completely absorbed in someone else's world for a change.
    • Read, watch, or listen to the news. Make it a point to be aware of major world events as well as happenings in your own city.
    • Read novels. Studies show that reading literary fiction improves your ability to be empathetic.[1]
    • Pick some issues to learn more about. Look around you. What central issues are affecting your community? For example, maybe the river in your town is so polluted that it's causing people to get sick. Pick something you want to learn more about, then read as much about it as possible so you'll gain a deeper understanding.
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    Think about how other people feel. Empathy and selflessness go hand in hand. If you understand how someone else feels, you'll be more likely to be moved to act selflessly toward that person. You can have empathy toward people you've never met, too.
    • Practice imagining yourself in other people's situations. If you were the one experiencing the problem, how would you feel? How would you want to be treated?
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    Be selfless even when no one notices. Selfless people don't act with kindness and generosity with the expectation of getting credited for it. They do it because it's the right thing to do, and because it feels good to help other people when you have the capacity to do so. Donating something anonymously is a good way to practice being generous without needing to get something in return.
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    Take pleasure in other people's happiness. Have you ever experienced a rush of joy when you made someone else happy? Some people wonder whether it's possible to be truly selfless, since the act of selflessness can actually bring great pleasure. Rather than focusing on whether selflessness is, in fact, selfish, relish the good feelings that come with helping other people. If you take pleasure in other people's happiness, you'll be more likely to find extra ways to be selfless.
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    Model yourself after someone who is selfless. Being selfless isn't always pleasurable. Putting other people's needs before your own is usually worth it in the end, but it's often extremely difficult to act in someone else's interest when you have your own needs to attend to. That's why having selfless role models can be a great help.
    • Think of a person whom you would describe as "selfless" - someone you know, a celebrity, a religious figure - anyone who tends to act for the benefit of others. What selfless actions has he or she taken? What impact did the actions have?
    • Next time you are struggling to make a selfless choice, ask yourself what that person would do, and try to find strength in the answer.

Part 2
Making Selfless Choices

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    Don't hurt someone else for your own benefit. Whether it's something as seemingly insignificant as taking the biggest helping of cake and leaving none left for your sister, or a more impactful decision like devising a way to get the attention of your best friend's boyfriend, never hurt someone else to get ahead. Doing this often enough will backfire on you. Seek out the selfless choice, even when it's also the hardest.
    • Resist the temptation to cheat, steal, or pull the wool over someone's eyes, even when you're sure you won't get caught.
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    Don't value your time more than other people's. Are you the type who gets impatient when you have to wait in line at the post office or grocery store? When you start feeling your blood pressure rise, remember that every other person in the room has a life just as valuable as yours. Their time is as precious to them as yours is to you. Keeping this in mind will help you act selflessly when impatience threatens to get the better of you.
    • Don't take out your problems on other people. Having a lousy day doesn't give you the right to make someone else suffer for it.
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    Choose the option that helps the most people. Constantly putting your own friends or family's desires above the needs of the greater community isn't truly selfless. How can you best meet the needs of as many people as possible, rather than just helping out those closest to you? Be a good example to those around you and go for the option that's best for everyone.
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    Forgive and forget. If someone crossed you and seeks forgiveness, do your best not to hold a grudge. The selfless approach is to try to see the situation from the other person's point of view, and realize that it's almost always better to foster peace, love and forgiveness than spitefulness and hate. Forgiving someone who has wronged you can be incredibly difficult, but it's also exquisitely selfless.

Part 3
Taking Selfless Actions

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    Volunteer your time and skills. This is one of the most rewarding ways to practice selflessness. When you volunteer your time and skills, all you get in return is the rewarding sense that you've played a part in helping your community. Studies show that volunteering may actually boost happiness and longevity.[2] There are endless ways to volunteer, so identify a need and determine how you can contribute.
    • Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and other nonprofit organizations to help those in need are always seeking volunteers.
    • If you have a specific skill you'd like to use, look for an opportunity to work with an organization that could use your help. For example, if you're a skilled teacher, you could teach literacy classes at your local library.
    • Sites like provide information on opportunities in many communities.
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    Donate what you can. Donating money and goods is another great selfless act that you should practice as frequently as you're able. This is not to say you should donate more than you can afford. Take a look at your budget and decide how much you can give, then commit to donating that amount, even if it means sacrificing a few extras.
    • Consider picking out a few charities to which you regularly donate a specific sum.
    • Making a practice of donating to those who ask for change is a kind, selfless act you can do on a daily basis.
    • Donating food, clothing, and other material goods to homeless shelters, disaster relief organizations, animal shelters, and so on is another great way to give back.
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    Be there for your friends and family. We all have days when we'd like to turn off our phones and retreat from the world. However, doing this too often means you can't be a stable presence for your friends and family when they need your help. Find ways to be responsive and helpful to those close to you who rely on you in times of need.
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    Be selfless in everyday ways. Give up your seat on the train to the elderly and pregnant. Hold doors open for people coming in behind you. Pick up the tab when you notice the person at the next table is short on cash. It's impossible to be completely selfless all the time - you can't pay for everyone's meals or give everyone in need the shirt off your back - but try to find several meaningful ways to be selfless on a daily basis.
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    Remember to take care of yourself. Being selfless can take an emotional toll if you don't take time to restore your energy. If you find yourself constantly catering to other people's needs and saying "yes" when you could really use a break, you might need to take a step back and focus on yourself for awhile. If you aren't physically and emotionally healthy, you won't be strong enough to "be there" for other people, so be sure to take good care of yourself.
    • You are just as important as everyone else is. Respect yourself and your own needs just as you respect other people's.

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Categories: Social Interactions