The Good Selfishness

Kilian Jornet says the perfect ratio for him is “20/80”: 20 percent of his time is spent with people, 80 percent alone. This is the formula for happiness: so he is able to be balanced, to be well with others, to be well with himself.
We are talking about an exceptional athlete, and even in this his measurements are singular: the vast majority of runners (me, you, all of us) will never do even close to what he is capable of doing, other than not being able to devote 80 percent of their time to running or climbing mountains.

What is interesting to note, however, is something else: Kilian says that inner balance for him is given by a proportion, and this is made up of “time with others” and “time alone.” Or altruism and selfishness, if you want to look at it in other terms. If you spend your time always with others you do not listen to yourself and your needs, if you are alone with yourself you risk the opposite, which is living in your mental cave. You listen only to yourself, reasoning and rambling by bouncing thoughts inside your brain box.

Just as you measure yourself in running, you do so in life, and your feedback is others. By comparing yourself with others, talking to them, even arguing with them you understand yourself.

The magic formula

In the end, it doesn’t matter what proportion you adopt but only that it gives a balanced result that makes you feel good. For you it might be the opposite: 80% of the time with others and 20 alone. Interestingly, it is also the proportion that many of us adopt: we spend a lot of time with our families, at work, volunteering or having fun, and then we spend a small part of our day alone with ourselves: reading, listening to music, painting, fixing our bikes, cooking.


It doesn’t matter much how you use this time: it matters to you, it matters that you like how you spend it.
It is important that this solitary time exists; it is essential to be selfish now and then, methodically and consistently.
Because then “selfishness” is only a negative definition that does not describe this particular case well: this is good selfishness, which helps you to be more sociable, more eager to be with others, more empathetic to their needs.

There is no magic formula but only a rule: you find balance this way by balancing two factors, ying and yang. If you are never alone you neglect yourself, if you are always alone you neglect others, and man is a social animal, he needs to be with others (even Kilian needs his 20%).

Running is also metaphorically an escape from others, a representation of your need to return to childhood, to play, to nature. To return to visit your original self. To return then among others, being well.

(Photo credits from Flickr by beyekind12another)


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