The English word for ego is the Latin word for I. In psychology, ego is viewed as the part of a person’s mind that tries to match the hidden desires or wishes of the unconscious mind with the demands of the real world. Indian guru and founder of the Isha Foundation, Sadhguru, describes the ego as a shadow. From the moment you are born, you have a shadow. The shadow is neither good nor bad- if the sun is at its peak, the shadow is short; if the sun is low, the shadow is a mile-long. The outside situation determines the kind of shadow one has, the same can be said about the ego. To handle different kinds of situations in our lives we need different kinds of identities. If you are fluid about your identity, your ego becomes a tool, not an obstacle. In today’s world, people have an ego sense but lack life sense – they are ego sensitive and not life sensitive. Prioritizing ego leaves people seeing themselves as life, and not others as part of that life. The goal is not to destroy the ego but transform it. Our ego can be our greatest strength, but also, our greatest weakness.
An unchecked ego twists our values and can warp our perspective. Jennifer Woo, CEO and chair of The Lane Crawford Joyce Group, Asia’s largest luxury retailer acknowledges the importance of checking one’s ego- “Managing our ego’s craving for fortune, fame, and influence is the prime responsibility of any leader”. Control is lost when giving into the ego’s craving for more power. Our ego can make us susceptible to manipulation; it corrupts our behavior; causes us to act against our values; and narrows our field of vision. When one believes they are the sole architects of their success, they tend to be ruder, and more selfish. An unchecked ego prevents growth, building a defensive wall and hampering lessons to be learned as a result of failure. In the book Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith, ego is referred to as “the invisible line item on every company’s profit and loss statement”. Overall, an unchecked ego is bad for business.
Ego can have a positive effect on individuals. When channeled positively, it becomes a device for inner and outer growth. The ego can be used to command strength; when the weight of the world feels as though it’s on your shoulders, your ego can pull you back up. Unless you truly believe in yourself, you can’t be uplifted. The ego prevents self-doubt and empowers us with courage to carry on. A healthy ego feeds into your willpower allowing for motivation and resilience.
Keeping one’s ego in check prevents it from becoming an obstacle. Here are some tools to keep your ego in check:
- Accept praise but never believe it fully. Praise naturally follows when one experiences success. Remembering to humble oneself is important, as there is always more to learn, do, and explore. Asking for help allows us to continue to grow.
- Compete with yourself. When competing with peers you limit yourself to their abilities. When competing with oneself, the potential for growth is unlimited. The division caused by competition between peers becomes replaced with collaboration enhancing teamwork as rivalry is eliminated and old foes become allies.
- Pay attention to those close to you. Consider what those you surround yourself with have to say as they are the ones not scared to tell the harsh truth. Close friends help build up the ego, but they can also help keep it in check. They remind us to practice humility.
- Be humble and grateful as they are the cornerstone to selflessness.
Business Plan for Peace offers the Mighty Heart course which takes it a step further by not only promoting keeping the ego in check and promoting its fluidity, it also channels the energy into positive action. The course promotes communication and openness, efficiency in decision making, and empowers individuals to overcome inner conflicts to be more effective in the world. In connecting with others through communication, understanding and empathy is fostered, transforming the egocentric I into a life-sensitive I.
As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. Our ego protects us and when exercised properly, it can be used as a force for good. Learning to be humble and patient with yourself and others encourages understanding and community building. It allows one to see the world beyond oneself and instead, see the world as a mix-up of peoples, cultures, practices, and values. Learning to engage the ego from being immaluable to one of fluidity allows us to be ever growing and open to change. Just like our shadow we must move with the sun, and adapt to the changing seasons. In staying locked in our individual mindset, we prevent ourselves from growing and becoming the best version of I we can be. Without a healthy I, how can we become a force for positive action in the us?
By Killa Zadva