Taming the ego

As humans we’re prone to absorbing fallacies.

We mistake delusion for reality. We expect acknowledgement for actions, and feel elated when an accomplishment is validated by peers.

In short, we’re vain creatures seeking egoic indulgences.

It’s not our fault, we’re genetically programmed to seek pleasure (dopamine). Living in an “always on” society, where everything you do can be thumbed up, liked, or starred, we no longer need to seek, it comes to us.

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve personally been facing is taming ego. Removing the euphoria derived from superficial acknowledgements. Looking at things rationally and knowing when my ego is getting the best of a situation.

My method for gauging this is by stopping to ask myself these questions before I start down a shallow path with a low benefit end result:

  1. Why are you doing this (action)? Is it for acknowledgement or something deeper?
  2. Is this action derived from ego?
  3. Is the level of effort significant enough to relish once accomplished?

Once Task accomplished, next questions:

  1. Why are you feeling pleased right now?
  2. Is this superficial or should you truly be pleased?
  3. Once again, is it ego?

Though these questions are broad and open ended, it aids in identifying what’s happening intrinsically and provides the opportunity to rationally examine my emotions and arrive at an appropriate/warranted response.

For better context, here’s a personal example where I identified my actions as a response to ego.

Last year I started a reading challenge on GoodReads to complete 40 books in a year. Though it started as a personal goal for self betterment, ego slowly took over and it became a personal race to complete the 40 books. Once 40 was completed, I felt pleased with myself, relished in the dopamine rush, then proceeded to feed my ego by reading more books.

I determined the source was ego because my focus slowly moved from retention + comprehension to the number I could brag about at years end.

Though it will always be hard to tame ego, I find it useful to always identify with the root cause of every action + response, this way you have full context and control over your behavioral states + reaction.