How much do you like being right? How much do you like having the last word in an argument? How much do you like being showered with praise and admiration? If your answer to these questions is ‘lots’, you’re likely being hijacked by your ego.
What is ego?
Let me describe it by way of an example. Just before the nation went into another lockdown, I was driving around a car park eagerly looking for a space. About 75 metres away I noticed one suddenly open up. I knew I wouldn’t make it, however, two cars were clearly racing for the same spot. Only one made it. The driver that missed out made his way over to the car that had just successfully parked. I’m glad I couldn’t hear what was being shouted, but looking at his facial expressions, I doubt he was enquiring about the other driver’s health. This man had been overpowered by his ego.
He NEEDED to win. He NEEDED that spot as if his life depended on it. When he saw it open up, that was it – he HAD to have it, or so he thought. When his ego felt it had lost something it wanted, he was forced to have the last word with the other driver. The ego hates losing. It hates being wrong. It hates being humiliated. It will attempt to control every ounce of you to satisfy its own agenda come. Many of us are walking blindly at the mercy of our egos and we don’t even know it.
How the ego is detrimental to our development
Strong leaders know that if you want to elevate yourself it is imperative to help elevate others first. This will seem counterintuitive to your ego, where the focus must be “ME ME ME”. You’ll likely hear that pesky voice in your head saying: “Hang on, if I want to succeed, surely I’ll achieve that by focussing on myself at the expense of others?” This is one of the great paradoxes of success. Often the most successful people spend a large amount of their time helping others.
The need to always be right and have the last word negatively impacts your ability to work effectively within a team. Your ego can become mistaken into thinking everyone else is working for its own agenda. Workplace conflict is one of the biggest causes of employee stress. Imagine how few conflicts there would be if most people weren’t under the spell of their egos. Instead, our workplaces would be innovative spaces with high levels of collaboration and collective advancement.
Challenge your ego
If we want to do something about it, the first step is to develop awareness as to our ego’s existence. We need to catch ourselves when we’re about to be hijacked by our ego into making an irrational response. On paper this sounds easy, however, in practice this takes time to develop. Don’t be too hard on yourself if at first you find this a challenge – your ego is powerful and it won’t like trying to be managed.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do I really need to win all the time? Really?
- What’s the worst that will happen if I don’t? Is it that big of a deal?
- Will anybody care if I make mistakes from time to time?
These questions will help break through the barriers your ego has built around you.
The next time someone points out you’ve made a mistake, say ‘thank you’ to them for drawing your attention to it. The next time you’re arguing with someone, ask them ‘how can we resolve this?’ or simply say ‘I’m sorry’. The next time someone is showering you with praise, thank them and say ‘here’s what I admire about you’. Notice what happens.
Here’s a challenge for you:
Over the next week, think of one person you know. Reach out to them and simply ask: “How can I help you at the moment?? No agendas, no ulterior motive, just an authentic desire to support another person, which in current circumstances arguably more important than ever before.
When I’ve received feedback from clients who have tried this, they were amazed at how liberating it is to shift focus from self to other. If you make a habit of doing this at least once a week, you’ll soon start to notice a switch in your approach to everyday situations. The net effect over time is holistic growth and development that will help you reach your potential.