Why is it so important to lead an unselfish life? What are the benefits?
Eventually we find that living a selfish life is empty: there's either no pot of gold, or if there is, the gold is fleeting. If you achieve what you've been striving for, there's a temporary sense of accomplishment, followed by, "Now what?" I think of a self-centered life as a Snickers BarTM with the slogan, "Snickers really satisfies." Well, that's a lie. If a Snickers Bar were satisfying, we wouldn't want or crave another one. In any personal or selfish pursuit, there's perhaps a fleeting sense of accomplishment, but there's never an inner peace that brings true contentment, joy, or happiness.
Just look at Solomon from the Bible -- how he became King of Israel, and what followed. Solomon was at the pinnacle of worldly success. He had or made everything -- power, fame, tremendous riches, more silver and gold than anyone, slaves, giant palaces, gardens, musicians, etc. And then, at the pinnacle of material success, he makes this remarkable statement: "Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun" (Eccl 2:11). All of us, in varying degrees, have to see what Solomon saw -- namely, that all selfish pursuits are vain.
Solomon's human record, his own life story, is virtually a self-prophecy. All his worldly human successes have vanished: his palaces are under sand in some dessert somewhere. All his stuff went from dust to dust. I don't know if there's a single museum that has any thing from Solomon. What remains, however, is his wisdom, which is from God and is preserved forever in the Bible. Solomon exclaims, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever" (Eccl 3:14).
Looking out for others' happiness brings you real happiness, happiness which doesn't disappear. So everyday, right off the bat, I pray the Lord's Prayer. I try to see myself as a child of God and to live each day as an expression of God wherever I am. Some days are successful, and some days are not as successful. I've noticed that if I am being obedient to God, beautiful things happen, such as running into people who may have something to say to me, or I may have something to say to them -- incidents that aren't just chance coincidence but rather are clearly from God because they couldn't have been orchestrated by any human. When one person is expressing God, everyone's being blessed. Being true to our real self is the biggest blessing for ourselves and others.