is self-improvement selfish

You’ve decided to make a change:

  • Training for a triathlon instead of watching TV with your spouse.
  • Reading a book a month. Or a book a week.
  • Waking up at 5:00 AM to write your novel while your kids sleep.

Good on ya! You’re making a conscious effort to get better at life.

But how noble are you, really?

I mean, this personal development stuff is kinda all about us, right?

Is self-improvement selfish?

Like most interesting questions, the answer is complicated.

What’s the Motivation?

Why might we embrace personal development?

  1. To see what our minds and bodies can really do
  2. To experience victory instead of pleasure
  3. To become a better mother/father/daughter/son
  4. To learn new skills we can use in the marketplace
  5. To feel the joy of learning something totally new


  1. To feed our egos
  2. To feel smart
  3. To fend off FOMO
  4. To impress other people
  5. To decorate our social media profiles

We all like the first list better. Personal development should be about contributing to society and helping others.

But we’re wired for self-interest, and it creeps into everything we do.

How much selfishness is okay?

An Cup of Selflessness and a Pinch of Selfishness

A father of two takes charge of his diet, starts exercising, and drops 150 pounds. Why?

So he can walk his little girl down the aisle in twenty years.

Definitely not selfish.

But he benefits too. He’ll enjoy living longer, of course. Plus, he likes seeing himself in the mirror again. He feels more attractive. He has more energy.

So there’s a teensy bit of selfishness involved. How could there not be? Like so many things in life, it’s a question of balance.

Personal development is primarily about serving others. Honestly, I struggle with this. I often spend too much time in my own head, worrying about whether I’m reading enough, exercising enough, practicing trumpet enough, managing this blog well, etc.

I have to periodically gut-check myself and turn my focus outward. It’s not about me; it’s about the people in my life. I’m here to serve their needs.

Or, as my man Jim Rohn used to say (because no post is complete without a Jim Rohn quote):

“I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.”