What is the ego? The ego is a construct of the mind which creates a story around past experiences, emotions, opinions, failures, successes, etc. Once these stories are personalized in a way that we identify ourselves as our thoughts and our story. The ego begins to takes shape.
So thoughts around “I” “me” and “mine” all work to enhance an illusion of self-worth. I call it an illusion because anything that is driven by the ego is measured against some external source; a car or house, a position of power, opinions of others. All of these things are fleeting in nature, however, the self not based on the ego remains.
“There is a deep interrelatedness between your state of consciousness and external reality.” (Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth)
How many times have we been at work and presented an idea during a meeting that was ultimately challenged by a co-worker? It is the ego that says, “I can’t believe she challenged me!” So what is the problem? Your co-worker challenged the idea you presented, not you the individual. The subtle difference is your idea is not you. It is a thought presented in what is intended to be a collaborative environment. It would take us a long way in our career to stop identifying ourselves as being the equivalent of our thoughts.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the speck that is in your own eye?” Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:3
In our western society, it is rare to resist the compulsion to identify ourselves as the stream of thoughts that run through our heads throughout the day. What we have, how much we make, who we marry, how we feel and what we believe are all compiled into a simulated image we believe is us. Problem is it is not us. It cannot be us because these things are what we create. We cannot be the creator and the created at the same time. We experience these things; we are not the things we experience. We hear the thoughts but we are not the thoughts.
“A person who only looks at the finger and mistakes it for the moon will never see the real moon.” Buddha
Let’s go back to our example in the meeting. The challenge to our idea pointed to a single area where a small change could improve the outcome of the entire idea. If we realize we are not the idea, we can be open to the growth opportunity made available as a result of the circumstances we just created. If you can understand why the challenge makes sense, you have learned something new to take with you next time. This is how life works.
“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.” Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
I used to believe I would not know what I would do without my car. I love my car! Until I got another, even nicer car. Then I really would not know how I would make it without my car. I look so good in it … and this, my friends, was the indication to me that it was not about that or any car. It was really about how I thought my car made me look to other people. I related the way I value myself with the way other people valued me based on what they thought I was doing to be able to afford that car. WOW! What a revelation.
“Deny thyself.” Jesus Christ, Luke 9:23
So how do we begin to detach ourselves from ideas and things that we have morphed into the foundations of our identity at work or anywhere else?
- Recognize that is what we are doing. It is not possible for the ego and awareness of the ego to exist at the same time.
- Continued practice. Naturally, habits are hard to break. Continuing to identify when you are absorbed in ego will help when dealing with other people.
- Recognize that is also what everyone else is doing too. It is so much easier to forgive others when you remember they are speaking about themselves for the benefit of their ego, not for the degradation of yours.
- Let go of the need to be right. It is simply your opinion, another part of the story. Facts are one thing, truth is relative to the story within which it happens to exist at the moment.