When it comes to important decisions in your work and life, it may be time to swap out making "selfless" choices for ones that are a bit more "selfish."
New findings show how making a choice that is most beneficial for you can also be most beneficial for others affected by the decision. Translation? No more guilt or apologizing for thinking of yourself first -- it turns out good decision-making for the group requires you to have a "me first" kind of attitude.
Paul Stillman, study author and researcher in psychology at The Ohio State University, notes that maximizing advantages for all involves realizing that the best choice may actually also benefit you the most. "Sometimes it makes the most sense to seem a bit selfish if that is going to maximize overall benefits," Stillman says.
After all, the "most efficient decision is the one that is going to maximize the total pie -- and that is true whether more goes to you or more goes to someone else."
For example -- say you're a talented programmer. You could spend your time fixing your colleague's one computer issue, or you could opt instead to spend time on a larger, more meaningful project that advances your career -- and perhaps even the lives of others.
But when, exactly, are you most likely to make the most efficient decision, the decision that produces the most overall value for you and the entire group?
In the study, Stillman and his researchers found that looking at the "big picture" perspective -- or, what psychologists call "high-level construal" perspective -- is key.
In order to do this, you must create psychological distance from your decision, in order to see how things can be more beneficial for your long-term goals. Distance can be in the form of time (e.g. you are planning a project to be implemented months from now), can involve participants who are physically far, or who can relate to a hypothetical situation.
Ultimately, when you step back and look at the big picture, you can, says Stillman, "see the consequences of your decision and...see more clearly the best way to allocate resources."
When you are able to distance yourself from the issue or decision, you can better see the forest for the trees. You can also minimize inefficiencies and waste, and, luckily, bring good outcomes for everyone -- including yourself, your coworkers, your company, and ultimately your customers.