Have you ever been told to look out for yourself first?
Or that you have to love yourself before you love others?
Well, this is likely all terrible advice.
In fact, the Dalai Lama says there are two key factors to happiness that have nothing to do with self-compassion.
But before we reveal what those two factors are, here’s why people who focus on themselves are unhappy:
Unhappy people are generally selfish
In his book, The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama says that people who simply seek personal happiness actually end up more unhappy:
“But isn’t a life based on seeking personal happiness by nature self-centered, even self-indulgent? Not necessarily. In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic. Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.”
The two key factors of happiness
In fact, the Dalai Lama says that happiness involves two key factors: having a purpose and helping others:
“Sometimes when I meet old friends, it reminds me how quickly time passes. And it makes me wonder if we’ve utilized our time properly or not. Proper utilization of time is so important. While we have this body, and especially this amazing human brain, I think every minute is something precious. Our day-to-day existence is very much alive with hope, although there is no guarantee of our future. There is no guarantee that tomorrow at this time we will be here. But we are working for that purely on the basis of hope. So, we need to make the best use of our time. I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy.
So, let us reflect what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities—warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful—happier.”
Helping others creates a positive and open atmosphere
According to The Dalai Lama, approaching people with the intention of helping them creates a positive, friendly atmosphere that will not only help you but also help them:
“If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere. With that attitude, you can approach a relationship in which you, yourself, initially create the possibility of receiving affection or a positive response from the other person. And with that attitude, even if the other person is unfriendly or doesn’t respond to you in a positive way, then at least you’ve approached the person with a feeling of openness that gives you a certain flexibility and the freedom to change your approach as needed.”
“I think that in many cases people tend to expect the other person to respond to them in a positive way first, rather than taking the initiative themselves to create that possibility. I feel that’s wrong, it leads to problems and can act as a barrier that just serves to promote a feeling of isolation from others.”
So, instead of focusing on yourself and why you’re unhappy, perhaps it might be more fruitful to focus on helping others first. Not only will it help them, but it might just help you too.