Here's When Selfishness Pays Off the Most

It's likely you were raised with competing messages about when to share and when to look out for yourself. One is moral, while the other is necessary but often gauche. In the end, decisions about when to prioritize your needs aren't something to worry overmuch about. Taking the long view, in fact, can give you the emotional distance to make the best decisions for everyone.

New research from Ohio State University suggests that the more space you give yourself to make a choice, the better you're able to evaluate the options. This doesn't mean putting off a decision — rather, you're more efficient about making decisions that are big-picture in scope. That can mean you've got psychological distance because an event you're planning for takes place in a year, or because the people involved are far away, or simply because you're dealing with a hypothetical situation rather than a concrete one.

"When you create some psychological distance from your decision, you tend to see things more in line with long-term goals, and you can see beyond the immediate considerations of the here and now," said co-author Paul Stillman in a press release. This is good news for people who invest and save: The study also found that people who make big-picture decisions ultimately skip short-term profit, including for others, for long-term gains that often benefit both the decision-maker and more people overall.

There are lots of ways to give yourself the space to make those kinds of decisions, including thinking about them in another language. (If you'd like to take more risks, there are ways to get to that place too.) But especially when it comes to financial or career moves, it pays more than ever to take your emotions out of most of the process, and to help yourself come to your best conclusion.