On Being Self-Forgetful

How to Cultivate a Thoughtful Paradigm Shift

Transform your personal and professional life by shifting your focus outward. Foster personal growth, and build stronger relationships.
Harvey Ramer
Harvey Ramer
4 min read (847 words) Subscribe Now!

Let’s be honest: many of our thoughts revolve around ourselves. We deliberate over our aspirations, strategize about increasing income, fret over the future, and stew on past regrets. This self-centered thought process contracts our worldview into a downward spiral. If left unchecked, it may lead us to become myopic, fear failure, and overlook opportunities to assist others. Sound familiar?

No one appreciates a self-obsessed person. They are the ones who disregard us, talk down to us, or belittle us, enhancing their image at our expense. It’s easy to identify their self-centered and patronizing attitude, but we often underestimate the destructive power of our self-deprecating inward focus. This focus infiltrates our internal narrative and under the guise of humility, we let our weaknesses overshadow our strengths, foregoing genuine attempts to make a positive impact on others.

Growing up, I found myself lost, and often overwhelmed by the world’s threats and opportunities. It’s interesting to note that the business world mirrors this short-sightedness. The recent past shows a significant fixation on data analysis to identify potential customers. Yet, when we concentrate solely on tried-and-tested methods, we risk overlooking novel and powerful strategies.

The prevalent stereotype suggests that 40-year-old moms who drive minivans are the ideal buyers for soccer mom t-shirts. However, it’s questionable to correlate demographic and psychographic attributes with purchasing intent. We are complex beings, our motivations hidden beneath the surface, often eluding segmentation attempts based on such superficial characteristics.

The limitations of this traditional marketing paradigm paved the way for a more innovative approach: the Jobs to Be Done concept[1]. Instead of focusing on demographic data, this model centers on the progress potential customers aim to achieve in their current circumstances. If a product facilitates this progress, the purchase decision becomes effortless.

Similar to how demographic-based marketing dilutes a company’s impact, self-focused work often proves ineffectual. Every action becomes a reflection of our self-worth and an attempt to overcome our confined mindset.

“… a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

—Albert Einstein

The Power of Curiosity: A Shift in Mindset

Consider this: are you a here I am person or a there you are person?[2] Making connections in new social environments can be daunting, especially when we’re concerned about others’ perceptions. However, curiosity can spark a crucial paradigm shift. When faced with self-doubt, the key to progress is to explore others’ stories, and identify ways to assist them.

Adding Value: An Outward Focus

If you’ve struggled while trying to change your life, it’s likely because you’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal. In this context, the prize isn’t merely about improving personal circumstances but enriching the lives of those around you.

An inward focus breeds self-doubt, whereas recognizing an opportunity to enhance others’ lives propels us forward. Yes, an accurate self-assessment—analyzing credentials, experiences, and talents—is crucial. However, excessive self-focus can thwart our potential to create a meaningful impact. By centering our attention on others’ interests and delivering exceptional service, we inherently find joy in our work, especially when it aligns with our abilities and calling.

Overcoming Disillusionment

Feeling disillusioned or discouraged might suggest that you’re focusing more on yourself than on others.

Seven months ago, I returned to writing. Initially, my progress was hesitant: I struggled with commitment, a writing schedule, and content generation. Recent personal disappointments—unfulfillment at work, parenting mishaps—had eroded my confidence. The turning point arrived when I realized I wasn’t alone.

Many face disillusionment in their careers even after achieving their goals. Conversations and literature revealed that I could address this disillusionment, offer reassurances, and suggest strategies to help others lead fulfilling lives. With this mission in mind, writing became a smoother process, and content ideas flowed more readily.

Remember, making an impact on others isn’t primarily about your worth or competence; it’s more about solving a problem, assisting someone, or accomplishing a mission.

Perhaps you’re wrestling with a similar predicament. If so, take heart. You’ve peered inward long enough. After a brief, fact-based assessment of your personality, strengths, and values, redirect your gaze outward with genuine curiosity. You’ll find someone in your life with a problem you are uniquely equipped to solve. When you act to meet another’s need, you begin to make a difference. You can become the helper someone desperately needs, and you can devise products and services that address real-world problems—jobs to be done.


  1. Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done” Is innovation inherently a hit-or-miss endeavor? Not if you understand why customers make the choices they do. by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan ↩︎

  2. Many years ago, I heard Rick Sinclair ask this question. He was my pastor for several years in New York State. ↩︎

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