Another topic that’s has been floating around in my head is the concept of ego. One of the reasons I started this blog was because it was a good alternative to completing a master’s degree. It would be something that would keep me engaged and keep up my writing skills. It was a nice discovery and quickly became my passion. My deciding factor against completing a master’s program was, I think I wanted the completing the program was just to feed my ego. For some reason I felt completing this program would make me feel better about myself and would give me validation. In reality no amount of advanced degrees can do this. Actually, it’s possible that the more degrees you have the bigger jack ass you become. The only thing that can make you feel better about yourself comes from within. So, I decided to put together a list of ways to control your ego. I think ego plays a major factor in our lives and understanding how to control this can lead to improving our lives.
1. Understand your ego – Everyone has an ego, even if it isn’t a dominate trait, it plays a factor in your life. If you have ever though that you are indispensable at a job or a person can’t get by without you. That it your ego talking. We all need to understand that everyone is replaceable. No matter who you are you can be replaced by another person. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take pride in yourself and what you do. Although in order to keep our egos in check we need to understand that there is a person in the world with similar skills to you. There are no two people alike in this world, but some people have a similar skill set to yours and can do your job. When Steve Jobs was replaced as CEO at Apple, I assume at this point in his life he thought he was untouchable and that no one could replace him. The board of directors thought differently and felt someone else would be better to run Apple. This would have been a major hit to his ego but potentially a necessary one. When Jobs came back the second time, he would have a better understanding of his ego and how to control it. This would enable him to build Apple to one of the biggest companies in the world.
2. Keep a calm mind – One of the best ways to control your ego is to have a calm mind. Our ego can run our life, making decisions purely of self-interest. One thing about ego is you are constantly thinking about your reputation and how you are perceived in the world. One way I control my ego is through mediation. Meditation allows you to control you mind and teaches you to be present. If our minds are constantly thinking, then you are not present. We strive to achieve the flow state, when we are not thinking and just present. The flow state is what all athletes thrive for and many of them call “being in the zone.” If we can achieve this in our lives, ego would no longer be at play. We would constantly be in the moment, and our minds would remain calm. It takes people many years to get to this place and it may not last forever. Although, understanding the place we are trying to move our minds towards is important. If we can control our minds and be present, then we can control our egos.
3. Sleep on the floor – This doesn’t actually mean sleeping on the floor, but this is a stoic philosophy concept of putting your self-through uncomfortable situations to put things into perspective. This also help you to control your ego. I’ve read about Seneca the Younger who was an advisor to Nero the emperor of Rome. Seneca use to live in poverty for a short period during the year to keep things into perspective. Seneca’s argument was if you lived in poverty you would no longer fear poverty. I think it’s also a matter of keeping control of your ego. If you understand what the worst outcome is, you can identify with this. I’m not saying everyone should follow in Seneca’s footsteps and live in poverty. I’ve heard of many different ways to accomplish this some people take a cold shower every morning. Some people fast for a couple of days a year and yes, some people even sleep on the floor once a week. The argument here is if you can put yourself in the hardship of others then you can control your ego. I should note that I don’t practice any of these things. For myself I find other things to be useful for controlling my ego, but this is one tactic I see being useful for some people.
4. Perspective – I always say that life is a matter of perspective. Some people are striving to become a millionaire and others are trying to put food on the table. I think this is the best way to control your ego. Always think about your life through another mindset. Understand that your version of hell is another person’s version of paradise. I talk about this in terms of economics, but this could be in reference to anything. If a person struggles with crippling anxiety that doesn’t allow them to leave the house. They may look at another person’s life and just want to be able to leave the house and work every day. There are many struggles in this world and just being thankful for what you have is a way to control your ego. Having goals are great but not letting your goals consume you helps you to control your ego.
5. Knowledge and reading – If we gain more knowledge about the world, we then gain a deeper understanding into things happening in our lives. You may be asking yourself how reading can help with ego? The main reason is, it takes you outside you self-centered ways. This isn’t mean to be an insult, but everyone can be self centered at some point in their lives. This self-centeredness is based from our ego. The more knowledge we have, the better we understand why people do the things they do. The best and easiest way to gain knowledge is through reading. To control your ego, I would recommend reading books from different genres, so you gain a wide knowledge and a deeper understanding. If you are a reader and all you read about are dictators and war, this may play into your ego. Learn from these books and learn when a person’s ego is staring them in the wrong direction. The saying learn from other people’s mistakes is probable the best takeaway. There are many things to be learned from politicians and war heroes. But many of their best decisions came from a self-less place and was not controlled by their ego.
I am currently reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, and it is very evident that ego did not control his decisions. Almost all his decisions come from a place of desperation, trying save his company. In the early years it seems like Knight created Blue Ribbon to be a refuge for people who were different. For people who didn’t fit in the corporate world. His management style was unorthodox, but he let people do their jobs without micromanaging. He also identified when he didn’t handle situations very well. He didn’t let his ego control his mind and could tell when he handled situations the wrong way. Everyone has situations in their lives that they handle incorrectly and sometimes ego can take control. The main idea is to understand when this is happening and be able to identify it.
6. Ego is fear – One thing about ego is it comes from a place of fear. The idea of losing your job kicks in your ego and you micromanage your employees, thinking you are the best to do the job. You have a fear of a younger employee replacing you, so you don’t pass on your knowledge. Your spouse gets a higher paying job than you, so you encourage her not to take it. All these situations come from a place of fear and in turn feeds your ego. Both fear and ego stem from the same place, insecurities, you don’t feel good about yourself, so you constantly feed your ego to make you feel better. Feeling better about yourself starts internally, and nothing external can make you feel better. External things make you feel good for a short period of time but then your ego wants more. Your ego wants a bigger house and a nicer car. It’s ok to strive for things but you need to understand when you are trying to achieve things to feed your ego. I think everyone knows the egomaniac running a particular country right now and this isn’t meant to be political. But I think we all see his decisions are based from a place of fear and self-centeredness. Where his actions are mainly based to feed his ego and make him feel better about himself.
In the beginning of this post I talk about my ego and understanding when I was making decisions based from this place. I think it is impossible to eliminate ego from our emotions. It is something we all naturally have and sometimes is a mechanism that allows us not to get hurt. If we think we are better than others, then we are less inclined to get hurt when some breaks up with us or we lose a job. The best thing we can do is try and control our ego. If we can control our ego, then we can have better relationships, which can lead to a better life.
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