Over the past couple of months ego has been a recurring theme in my life. “Is my ego to big?” I ask myself daily. After listening to “Ego is the Enemy”, I felt like I had to abolish the Ego in its entirety. After having a discussion with Mark Twight about ego, he was able to shed some light on this subject for me. He helped me to understand how the ego and belief in self is needed to accomplish things we dream of, without inflating our ego and thinking we are floating above humanity. He described how humility will go a long way in this regards.. A challenge oriented mindset can allow us to stay humble in times of accomplishment and allow us to grow instead of being stuck in stagnation, blocked by our ego.
Ego exists for a reason. It is not inherently negative, and shouldn’t be abolished. Instead it needs to be balanced. In order to accomplish the things you dream of, you need to have something greater than confidence. For example, let’s use a CrossFit competition. You may be confident in all of the movements and all of the workouts that are presented to you, but to truly believe that you can win entire competition, or reach the goal that you set for yourself, you need to have something that is beyond confidence. Something that tells you in spite of the unknown you are still capable. This is where the ego comes in. It is the ability to imagine yourself accomplishing things and believing that you can accomplish something, despite the orderless regime of life. Confidence can bring you to the edge, but your ego will allow you to jump. Think Harrison Ford stepping off into the Leap of Faith in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
After dreaming and accomplishing a task, we begin to think a little higher of ourselves, like we can accomplish anything, and that in some way shape or form, we are special. In the book Assault on Lake Casitas by: Brad Alan Lewis, Brad talks about receiving 3 rules for racing from a prominent rowing coach Mike Livingston. Rule two states,
"You must purge yourself of all thoughts of self-importance and all inclination to judge either yourself or others. You must go to power with humility and deep respect.”
As soon as our ego begins to grow, and we lose respect for others, competition, or life itself, we have already lost the race. There needs to be an ever burning flame of doubt inside your mind about whether you can accomplish this task in front of you. Otherwise, you will let up on the gas. You will be shocked by opponents and the preceding crash back down to earth won’t be gentle. To continue to stay at the top of your game, whatever your endeavors in life, humility needs to take precedence over all of your accomplishments. Celebrate the small victories but keep the flame of insecurity alive so you can accomplish more, and not get wrapped up in your actions and accomplishments. Allowing yourself to be defined by them.
I have found over the years that I LOVE competition. The emotional high you get from winning exceeds even the hyper focus that you get from competition. These two things combined create a powerful reaction. I have yet to find anything that quite resembles it. Just like a drug this high can become addictive. The ego preys on this high, and when dosed enough, may cause us to lose our sense of self. Through the constant need of reinforcement of our actions from others, we lose ourselves in the rush of self-recognition and winning. Instead of being defined by ourselves, we become defined by our accomplishments and how other perceive those accomplishments. We become arrogant and an asshole looking after only ourselves and our path towards what we think is success.
The best coping mechanism I have found for this, and to keep that little bit of insecurity burning, is to create a challenge-oriented mindset. When viewed as a challenge, the dialogue within your mind begins to shift. You become more self-aware as to the reasons that you are competing. Challenging your own thought process, you begin to grow as a person, while your ego receives a healthy dose of accomplishment. Not so much that we begin to lose ourselves, but just enough to create a belief that you can tackle your next challenge.
When left unchecked the ego can be a miserable thing. Constantly self reflect and admit your mistakes. Ask yourself hard questions and you will stay humble. The flame that was first lit around the unknown of the task ahead will continue to burn. The hunger for the next challenge will provide the intensity needed to accomplish the task. When you view competition as a challenge, the highs become more manageable and the fall back down to normal life becomes as gentle as a feather floating in the wind.