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Why Doing Good Is Acting In Your Own Self Interest

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
2 min read

I’m sure you’ve heard the quote by Zig Ziglar and it goes like this: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough people get what they want”.

For some of you, this quote might make perfect sense. You’ve practised it. You’ve seen how it worked. And you’ve achieved your own goals simply by helping others get what they want.

For me, this quote just doesn’t make sense at all. How can I achieve my goals by helping others achieve theirs? As I reflected on my upbringing and experiences, I’ve never been able to comprehend the idea of helping others.

As I was growing up, I’ve always thought of it this way:


It means: like a clay Buddha crossing the river, he can’t guarantee his own safety, let alone others

If I do not have, how can I give?

As I reflect on what’s going on, a common pattern emerges. As long as I focus on what I don’t have, it became extremely difficult for me to give. I mean, how can I give what I don’t have. And the more I focus on what I don’t have, the more I feel that I can’t give.

You see the pattern?

To address this situation, we have to go to the root of the problem. And the root of the problem here is the mind.

As long as the mind is focused on what I do not have, then this will manifest into less than generous actions.

  • If I do not have money, how can I give some?
  • If I do not have the talent, how can I help another?
  • If I am not happy, how can I bring happiness to others?

Starts with the mind

In this case, by adopting a slight shift in my perspective helped tremendously. Instead of focusing on what I do not have, focus on what I do have.

To do so, start by developing the habit of gratitude. By being grateful, you force yourself to focus on what you already have, rather than what you don’t have.

I began each day by writing down ten things I am grateful for.

Here’s how I do it:

1. Things I’ve taken for granted

There are many things that I’ve taken for granted. For instance, I’ve always taken my health for granted. I have taken for granted my ability to exercise every day.

I’ve also taken for granted things that I see as an entitlement. For instance, having a warm bed and clean sheets every night may not be available to some. And by extension of that, having a roof over our heads.

2. Relationships

Some people treat relationships as an ATM, where they are constantly making withdrawals. Where in truth, relationships are really like bank accounts. You need to make regular deposits so that in the event you need to make a withdrawal, there would still be funds in it.

Therefore, by being grateful in a relationship, whether it is personal or business is critical.


By embracing a mind-set of being grateful, you start focusing on what you have, instead of what you don’t have.

And with that mind-set, you are now ready to help others get what they want so that you can get what you want.

Melvyn Tan

Despite living the good life at midlife, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My aim here is to reinvent midlife, learn new skills, and understand how the world works post-COVID.