How many of us can comprehend the way our ego dictates our behavioral patterns?
Ego and self-esteem are often confused, but they are not synonymous. They are different – lexically, and semantically. The ego thrives on comparison with ANOTHER, whereas self-esteem is confidence in oneself.
Explaining further, if a businessman says he is fluent in everything about the product that he is about to develop, that is confidence or high self-esteem. But, if the same businessman claims that the product he is to develop will be better than his competitor’s, then that is his ego talking.
But, if you think that ego is bad, then let me interject – no, it is not. Rather, it is a great motivator.
Take, for example, Olympic champions who work out every day. Where do you think they get their motivation?
It is their ego that pushes them to deny themselves when others are living it up, to give the sport their best efforts, to work towards that end goal – an Olympic medal.
A businessperson is no different. He or she must push themselves every day to meet expectations and deadlines, to reach that sometimes-elusive goal – SUCCESS.
As an entrepreneur and businessman, it is my ego that makes me sacrifice my time, effort, and energy for a cause. That cause can either be taking my company to a level of incomparable excellence or ensuring that I work out regularly to stay fit and healthy, to nurture more companies in the future.
Whatever the case, I realized quite early in my career that ego, if channeled wisely can be a great motivating factor.
Here are 3 important pieces of wisdom I picked up in my journey on how to work with ego:
Table of Contents
What is Ego?
Use it to motivate risk-taking.
The world of business requires you to take risks. Ego drives you to venture into the unknown.
Therefore, it is crucial to identify the nature of this driving force – Ego.
There are three types of ego:
- Tamasic – self-destructive
- Rajasic – self-centered
- Sattvic – creative
Let me tell you a story to explain…
There was once a sculptor, who was so creative that his statues looked lifelike. His fame spread quickly, which started affecting the sculptor; he became a tad arrogant.
So engulfed was he in his pride that he started thinking that he could use his status to fool death. He began making a collection of lifelike likenesses of himself.
Finally, the day of his death arrived, and the messenger of Death came to take his soul. The sculptor went and stood among his creations. The messenger of death was confused, unable to identify the real sculptor. It began to think, “If I am unable to take the soul, then the rules of life and death would be broken. But breaking the statues would mean insulting the artist and disrespecting his talent.”
The messenger got an idea. It looked at all the statues and said out loud, “How beautiful these statues are. But I wish they were as flawless as they looked! If the person who created these statues were in front of me, I could have pointed out those flaws to him, and asked him to correct them.”
The sculptor’s ego was hurt. “I dedicated my entire life to master this art, what flaw could this messenger see that I could not identify?”
He spoke out and revealed himself, asking, “What flaw did you see?”
The death messenger smiled and said, “None of the statues had the capacity to feel hurt and reveal their true selves. You did, all thanks to your ego, human.”
Be it in business or life, it is important to identify the type of ego that is driving your thoughts.
More the knowledge lesser the ego, lesser the knowledge more the ego.Albert Einstein
ID, Ego and Super Ego
The ego can act as your conscience – that inside voice telling you to do what is right and representing your true self.
There are three ways to see the ego. Like the famous Austrian neurologist mentioned in his description of the dynamics of the human mind, our personality comprises three components – the id, the ego, and the superego.
- The Id is driven by pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of desires, wants, and needs. It helps you identify yourself with certain traits.
- The Ego helps de-identifying yourself of certain traits i.e., “I am not this.” It operates based on the reality principle, that strives to satisfy the Id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways.
- The Superego tries to perfect and civilize behavior. It works on suppressing all unacceptable urges put forth by the Id and pushes the mind to act upon idealistic standards rather than upon realistic principles.
My mentor and Heartfulness guide Kamlesh D. Patel, who we fondly called Daaji provides a simple and perfect way to identify ego. He defines “good ego” as the kind that helps you become the best version of yourself, while “bad ego” makes you aggressively compete with others.
When you identify these aspects, you become capable of steering it.
Ego and Awareness
Identifying ego helps build your awareness, more like a butterfly.
Born as a caterpillar, the creature yearns to fly high and then winds itself into a cocoon. While this may seem to be the opposite of flying, the caterpillar emerges as a butterfly, and it can fly.
Similarly, as humans, we grow up, cross a certain age, and realize that we were just driven by all the emotional upheavals of childhood, and our teen years, we become more aware.
This awareness usually coincides with the decision to leave the shackles of the past behind, to let go, which is nothing but transcending the ego.
Ego is tricky. It can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on how aware you are about it both in business and life.
When harnessed for good, the ego will push you to give your best—to live up to personal expectations as well as those of others.
But when used poorly, the ego can lead us astray by creating unhealthy competition with colleagues or pushing us to make decisions based on fear rather than logic and reason.
So, what’s the secret?
Learn to steer your ego by staying true to yourself, and then transcend it by learning to let go when needed.