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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Radical Devotion

What happens when we put the interests of others before our own, when we are willing to relegate self-interest to the back of the line for the greater good. To forgo instant gratification for the longer path of mutual betterment. Growth that is what happens, growth of mind, body and soul.

When we are evaluating a strategy for anything, we will first consider how it affects us. we will think of all of the possible pitfalls and traps that may entangle us; ways things could go awry. Then at some point we will think of what is gained for us personally, what we stand to get out of this decision we are evaluating. Once we have done that mental exercise, we will see we make decisions for the most part with ourselves in the center of the decision paradigm. We are using a mental map that has a code written into it that airs our way or puts a finger on the scale in our favor. This is a normal thought pattern that we are conditioned into from a very young age. As we grow up, we witness others conducting this type of problem solving and evaluation, helping to form how we deal with opportunity or problems. Then at some point people make a shift to taking others interests into account, they move from the I sphere to the we sphere and subsequently relegate their interests into the group. Normally we make this shift first when we are working out problems, and opportunities that effect people we care about deeply. But we will always bring into the math of the decision our own interests, even though we may look past them.

Allow me to illustrate my point with a farcical story. Walking into the kitchen I see the leftover cake from the birthday party the day before. There’s one big piece of cake left, and I love cake. I want to eat the cake, but the cake was for my wife’s birthday, and I know she would love the last piece. I could cut the piece in half and we could both have cake, allowing me to serve both of our interests. Or I could give her the cake and see if she gives some to me. Or I could just give her the cake and expect nothing, in fact refuse any, because after all it was her birthday cake.

So, of that little exercise how many times do our interest usurps those of the other. Most would say one, but I argue it’s all of them. In all cases we take into consideration how it affects us. Even in the last one where we will deny any cake, we have still come to the conclusion based on our self-interests, as wanting to be seen as something we are growing toward. If we remember how, we did the mental math in the first place we were airing on our own side, and then came around to consider others. So, in essence we were evolving and want to be seen as such, after all an act of sacrifice can be a selfish act.

Well then how do we make these decisions more of an act of devotion then an act of contrition? The short answer is we need to rewrite the code in our operating system. As I mentioned in the beginning of this discussion, we start in most cases from a position of us being in the center of the decision paradigm. When you can move your position to the periphery of the decision matrix you can start to see from the we sphere, you are no longer prisoner to the “what about me” syndrome. When you start to make a habit of looking at the opportunities or risks from this outside position it opens up our options, we are less involved. When we are not burdened by the first position, we are not running the decision math of that position. As our little cake exercise showed us, when we are in the middle the decision it revolves around us and when we are outside, we revolve around it. Like they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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