Tag Archives: ego

‘Making a difference’

It’s striking in my coaching how many people have expressed the desire to ‘make a difference’ – and then become immediately stuck about how, where, and to whom.

We all want to contribute, to leave a legacy, something to be remembered for.

But finding out what that is can be taxing.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that asking the question “where can I make a difference?” is already off target – and prompts a lot of fruitless casting about for causes or problems or broken things.

I’ve discovered that focussing on positions to defend or things to mend or situations to fix not only invites overwhelm, it also assumes that there IS a solution – and that I must be the only one to offer it. Or, that I better be the only one to offer it, otherwise I will have failed.

Then, OMG, the pressure! The massive burden of responsibility as I not only bust a gut trying to solve the problem, but also trying to be seen to be solving the problem AND making sure that there is enough perception of the problem for my solution to be appreciated.

It is exhausting, soul-destroying and utterly ineffectual – largely because it’s an approach totally concocted by the ego-mind wanting to prove itself and demonstrate its worth.

In some ways I think this explains a lot of what is awry in the world at the moment. Lots of people are so busy making a stand for this and that, running themselves ragged and getting bogged down trying to convince everyone that there are MASSIVE PROBLEMS over which we all need to stop everything we’re doing and give ourselves a good hiding.

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t massive problems in the world. Nor am I saying that none of us need to bother taking any responsibility.

What I am saying is that zealously pursuing the compulsion to be the one to make a difference isn’t the optimum approach.

The truth is we cannot and must not nurture the delusion that there are ‘things that are to blame’ and that nominating ourselves as the attackers of  ‘things that are to blame’ will solve the problems. Besides. once you start on the blame game it’s a short step to directing it inwards and then you’re stuffed.

So how can you contribute more? How can you make a difference – as surely every single one of us can?

The first step is to determine what’s driving you. Is it your ego or your heart? One way to figure this out is to pay attention to how much rationalisation and justification is going on. If there’s a lot of problem-related outrage, or any kind of reasoning about ‘what’s in it for you’ to help ‘solve the problem’, then it’s definitely not going to be a heart-based motivation.

When we make decisions from the heart they tend to be very quiet, very certain and very clear. They tend to announce themselves to us fluently in a single sentence, or a single word, with no explanation or logic. They feel like Truth.

If however you can identify an overactive ego calling the shots then the wisest thing to do is pause and quieten it down. Go for a walk or a run, get out into the garden or the park, sit next to a tree or a stream or a fire, meditate, write in your journal, reflect on what’s pushing you. Don’t listen to the persuasive justifications and seductive spin-offs.

How easy it is to talk ourselves out of our heart’s desire – and how often we do it. How often we put more words and excuses and reasons ‘why not’ in its way. All this is is resistance of our Truth. It is the efforting of ego as opposed to the appreciation of heart.

If you can drop the resistance and allow your heart to speak instead you will be amazed by how quickly you will become inspired. The next right step will immediately reveal itself to you. And you will understand an intrinsic, hidden logic to your action, rather than a grandiose, super-imposed rationalisation.

So when you are moved to want to make a difference, don’t follow the usual script. Instead do something different – and focus on your heart’s desire.

It could be that the biggest difference to be made is to yourself.

 

 

 

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May 20, 2019 · 3:43 pm

Do you use your inner sat nav?

Have you ever considered that as well as having a satellite navigation system in your car, you also have one of your very own in your being?

And as you rely on your car’s sat nav to show you how to get somewhere, how much do you rely on your inner sat nav to show you the next right step in your life?

Our inner sat nav is otherwise referred to as our intuition or our knowing. The trouble is we have often forgotten that we have such things, and what their significance is, so we often override the directions they give us with the way we think we ought to go.

I’ve made this mistake in the car before too. Instead of following the instructions I’ve assumed I’ve known better, ignored the sat nav, and then ended up going round in circles.

Conversely, in a bizarre example of doubly betraying my inner knowing, I’ve also foolishly decided to follow the sat nav on a route I know well – and ended up in the back-end of nowhere, because I keyed in the wrong address!

The morals of these two stories are different – but with a common denominator. Firstly, in unfamiliar territory, don’t trust your mind over the sat nav; and secondly don’t override your own inner knowing just because your mind tells you you have a gadget!

Essentially our minds can lead us astray!

Yet in our culture the mind is considered to be the master of our cognitive process. As a result we do not remember to listen to the still small voice, which is the voice of our heart.

Journaling gives us heightened awareness of our inner knowing, as long as we surrender to the process of writing and allow the pen to move across the page without thinking too much where it’s taking us. It’s an adventure to hand over the steering wheel occasionally and to see where we end up, and what new insights are revealed along the way.

Often we can mistake the voice of our ego for our inner knowing – and vice versa. Like when there is an important decision to make and our mind leaps in with 15 cons to every single pro. I recently heard a good way of distinguishing our ego voice from our inner sat nav – if you hear many options simultaneously, almost out-shouting each other, then it’s the mind at play. But if the answer comes singly, quietly and assertively then it’s more likely coming from the heart.

As well as reflective writing, meditation and yoga practices really help in quietening the mind and allowing our inner knowing to come to the surface. Some say that the voice of our heart is at one with universal consciousness, the cosmic communication network that is full of creative ideas looking for a home. It’s fun to entertain this notion by stopping the ego mind chatter and opening ourselves to receive whatever single thoughts pop into our awareness.

And when they do, we need to be sure to capture them in our journal. Eventually our personalised route map will materialise.

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April 8, 2019 · 6:53 pm

How to feel great at your college reunion

Whether school, college or university – how do you really feel about reunions?

I’ve just returned from the 30 year reunion of my college year. It was an extraordinary weekend.

Most of us have a morbid fascination with how our contemporaries might have aged in comparison with us. Many of us are intrigued to know how life has treated our peers. Some of us would run a mile in the opposite direction rather than find out. A handful are terrified of the prospect that few have achieved very much at all.

Inevitably over the years since graduating I’ve discovered that while I’ve been raising a family and working on my writing craft many others from my college cohort have been working on high-powered careers. Ten years ago I found the comparisons cringe-worthy, almost shameful, as my ego tried to taunt me about how little I had to show for my education.

But as we enter our fifth decade there is a different feeling. An awareness of our mortality perhaps. A realisation that for all the striving we can neither take our success with us, nor hand it on to anyone else.

Now my contemporaries and I are more open, more honest, more prepared to admit our mistakes, and more eager to know what else life has to offer other than climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and professional tree. It seems like we are becoming far more wise than clever.

At this reunion I’m happy to say I felt much more comfortable in my own skin. I learned that while others have become lawyers and bankers and headteachers and chief executives I have become myself. And that felt good.

Regardless of whether or not a school or college reunion is a possibility in your life, it’s a useful exercise to reflect in your journal on how you might bring people you used to know up-to-date on what, or who, you’ve become.

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November 12, 2018 · 2:42 pm

Another inconvenient truth

Philosophers typically don’t talk much about Love.

And yet I feel it’s a topic we need a much more dedicated philosophical discourse about, because without it we are missing much of its power and potential.

Whether you think of Love as an emergent emotion, triggered by a particular set of physical/chemical/hormonal circumstances; or whether you consider Love to be the ground of all being, the commonest transcendent human value – it all bears some scrutiny and discussion.

It is clear that the overarching interpretation of Love in our culture is emotional. When we think of Love we are most likely thinking of EROS – romantic and sexual Love.

As a consequence, people talk about Love as only one part of our human experience. Some people pursue the notion that Love is an optional ingredient in a fulfilled life. Others cannot help but put Love right at the heart of every aspect of their experience, wanting to possess it and be validated by it and in it.  They might even become dependent upon it and addicted to it. Like a drug, it is viewed as an external temptation, an inconvenience, running counter to rational logic. It’s something that’s at best avoided, at worst sampled in moderation.

I have come to believe that having this limited, take-rather-than-give view of Love is driving us mad. And yet philosophy stays quiet on the subject. It doesn’t really help us out. And we need it to.

When we get emotional about Love, when we consider it as a personal condition or affliction, we also evoke other personal emotions that are akin to the fear of losing it or spoiling it. Jealousy, grief and anger rear their heads; closely followed by shame and guilt.

I intuitively feel that these are emotions generated by our egos, our personal thinking, that serves to keep us separate from danger and discomfort, but in actual fact over-actively menaces us with separation from our true selves.

Typically, the more we love, the more insecure we feel, as our egos plague us with all the scenarios where what we feel is wrong or might go wrong.

No wonder the philosophers don’t want to touch this state of mind with a barge pole. It is a muddled minefield of irrational passions.

So why can’t we admit that Love, as our ingenious language suggests, is something altogether more broad and less specific? Why do we resist the notion of Love as a value? Or at least as the most humane and human mode of treating ourselves and others?

The answer to these questions lie, I feel, in the fact that we’re too ready to let our egos run the show, and not well enough equipped to calm down our minds and allow ourselves to perceive our deeper truths. So to a logical mind it might seem sensible to allow a distressed baby to ‘cry it out’, whereas to the deep love of a mother this would be cruel and impossible: she could not stop herself from attempting to comfort the infant.

Our ego thinks it knows better. It tells us it knows better. It bombards us with Logic. But it doesn’t know Love. It holds itself separate from Love. It goads us with the dark side of Love, and tries to hold us separate from it too.

Meditative embodied practices help us to calm this part of our Mind. Journaling helps us bear witness to it, and provides us with the capacities to appreciate our underlying sense of Self.

The real inconvenient truth I suppose is that Love cannot be categorised. It is both an emotion and a deeper, broader truth and value.  And maybe this is the thing the philosophers struggle to wrap their ego around.

How do these manifestations of Love play out in your experience?

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Photo by Hope Blamire Artist

 

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October 25, 2018 · 12:50 pm

Beyond ranting – the necessary authenticity on the other side

Our journal writing workshop last evening was yet again a wonderful opportunity to share insights and learn new perspectives. My gratitude goes to workshop participant Elinor who shared a wonderful phrase that somehow landed quite forcefully with me. She said: “Necessity has no emotion.”

The reason why this hit me with such a clunk is because it seems to account for what I have found in my journal beyond the ranting. Once I’ve stripped away the whining voice of my inner critic or the exclamation marks of my ego; when I’ve named and shamed the stuck-on-repeat stories with which I’ve been comforting myself, and once I’ve come to terms with my main vulnerabilities, what’s left is a calm, balanced narrative in which I’m finally able to speak my truth. There are no exclamation marks here. No over-blown claims about my own brilliance. No excuses and convoluted reasons why I won’t/shan’t/can’t. Just calm, logical, plain, straight-forward truth. Well hello.

Pearl

Inner wisdom and authenticity are the pearls I’m constantly encouraging my workshop participants to pursue. These are the buried treasures that our journals can reveal to us, but from whose scent the decoys and false trails of our inner critic, our stories, excuses and egoist self-justifications often throw us. How easily we become distracted and displaced! But every pearl needs its grit. It would be foolish though to mistake the grit for the final product!

In Elinor’s insight I’m seeing that authenticity is akin to necessity. Our authentic self is who we necessarily are – who we cannot avoid being, no matter how many layers of negativity, self-judgement and self justification we heap on top. And when we hear its voice we find pearlescent peace, quiet and truth.

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