The Internal vs External Game: Why Your Ego is Your Roadblock

‘Look at me, look at me!‘ yells my son. He repeats, now getting louder, ‘look at me dad’. I finally turn around and see my son jump of the edge of the pool, into the water. ‘Did you see that, dad?‘ he asks, repeatedly. I have no choice but to answer him. Internally I’m getting frustrated though, I’ve already asked my son to get out of the pool ten times.

Even though he’s a young four years old, his tiny little arms and legs never seem to run out of energy. His developing mind only know that the pool is fun and he only sees it from his angle. So he doesn’t listen to me. He’s happy to continue ignoring me as long as he keeps getting it his way. He’s having an amazing time, so he just wants to continue playing.

Even though I’ve promised to take him to the playground after this, he doesn’t seem to have the foresight to see how much more fun that will actually be. So once again, he’s happy to continue playing in the pool. Not wanting to get out of his fun zone, his perfect comfort zone!

This, is no different to us. There’s almost always a tiny voice inside of us that does the same thing. This voice is called the ego. The ego yells out ‘me, me, me!‘. Our egos want to control us, and enforce its will onto others. It too is happy to stay in its comfort zone and keep us there as well, no matter what the opportunity cost is. But unlike a child that doesn’t listen to his father, the ego can be detrimental to our self being.

Ego puts up a facade, making you believe that you are the victim, or that you deserve more, or that you should have it your way. There are many ways the ego can deceive you. More than that though, it puts you on a pedestal- even though you don’t really belong there.

Underneath this facade though, the ego helps create self destructive behaviours that limit you from reaching your potential. So you stay in this circle, the comfort zone, from which you’re constantly too afraid to step out of. Every time you do, your ego will have some sort of excuse to put you back into your place. After all, if you are safe, then the ego is safe.

Stop negative thoughts

Ego stops us from being truly present. After all it’s all about ‘me, me, me!’. So we fail to stay present, we’re unable to practice deep listening, and we fail to engage with others on a deeper level.

Ego never helps us feel fulfilled. It always wants more. More of everything. Once you have it, you continue to want more. Never being content with what you have, even worse, making you even unhappier! Those lucky ones that learn to control their ego, know that you can never have enough of anything. So they are happy with whatever they have. Everything on top is optional, it’s a bonus. So they are constantly fulfilled and don’t need to chase the next shiny object to feel happy.

Ego is also the enemy of empathy. It blinds you from having any empathy, your ability to see things from others perspective. Because it makes every interaction about you. Even though we eventually learn to become independent individuals we don’t learn to see things from different perspective. We are especially afraid to remove ourselves from the pedestal we put ourselves on – even though we don’t realise that we have done so.

But in truth we operate in interdependent societies where we rely on others to get our work done. We rely on interacting with other people appropriately to achieve positive outcomes. When we make it just about us, the process actually breaks down. No longer are we able to achieve the best possible outcomes. As Stephen Covey demonstrates in his book, The Seven Habits of High Effective People. He shows that as we grow up, we go from learning to be dependent, to being independent. We strive for in-dependency, even though true effectiveness is only achieved if we master interdependent interactions.

Sometime you have to stand on the shoulders of giants to really achieve your goals. This means nurturing relationships and striving for win/win outcomes, just as Covey tries to explain.

Biggest cause of unhappiness

But where does all this fit into improving one self?

The external view point is that you think that you are at the centre of the universe and that the universe is affecting you (in negative or positive ways). But the internal view point is the opposite. It says that you, in fact, impact the universe, and it’s in your power to do so. However your power is limited because the only thing that you can control is the next thing you are about to do. Your reaction.

You do not control the universe. As such you should not expect it to be controlled. But you still do. Why is that? Isn’t it easier and more effective to change your self?

It’s not. Because, ego. Generally our ego gets in the way.

Does it mean bending over backwards for people?

No, definitely not! I completely agree that you should seek win/win situations every single time. There is absolutely no reason anyone that you interact with must lose, that includes you. It is also true that if you can’t get to a win/win, then it’s better to not have it at all. But never settle for a win/lose, even worse a lose/lose!

If you’re constantly bending over backwards for others, then you’re probably in danger of suffering from the nice guy syndrome. Trust me. You don’t want to be the ‘nice guy‘. Thee is a fine balance, which boils down to how you manage your relationships. Your social skills are evidently important in this case.

So if you wonder why your social being is just as important as the physical, mental, or spiritual then this, what I just mentioned, is the reason. Be too nice, then risk people treating you badly. Be too much of an arse, then risk losing great relationships!

What it does mean though is that you need to develop the art of empathy, the art of leadership, and the art of building all relationships. I say ‘all’ relationships, because some people are great at making friends, while some are great at managing family. But they lack one or the other. So true mastery is when you can nurture all your relationships and not certain ones only.

So this is the first step in creating long, lasting, transformation. Not just personal physical or mentalimprovement, but if you really want to improve your social environment (foster great relationships, friendships, or teams) then removing your ego from the picture will go a long way. To remove the ego, realise that it’s an internal game. Not the external. The biggest battles will be with yourself, not others. The biggest critique will be yourself, not others.

Where do you sit?

Is it time to take an ego check? Where do you stand? If you really want to improve your life, get better in all different aspects, and improve your environment dramatically, then start with taking a look at your self. Taking ownership of your actions will go a long way, rather than once again trying to pin it on someone else.

We are all subatomic participants in the universe. Our presence in the grand scheme of things is almost insignificant. Our jobs is to not connect with ourselves, but to connect with the universe. We cannot live without it even for a moment. The universe can however continue without us.

So forget what you know about meditation. It’s not longer about trying to find your self, but it’s about connecting with the universe.


In Conclusion

It all starts with the internal and ends with the internal. Controlling your ego means that you no longer try to control others. Instead you connect with others. You learn listen to others, using deep listening, understanding perspective. You have to connect with the universe and others. Not the other way around. You need to understand their perspective so that you can create win/win scenarios. Then you have to relinquish control so that you can resonate with others instead of repelling others.

You must realise that your ego is actually sabotaging your potential to achieve greatness. It puts you into a confort zone through enabling self destructive behaviours such as creating a victim mentality, making everything about you, making you think tha tyou control others. Moreover it puts you on a pedestal on which you don’t yet belong.

Remember that the ego:

  • Amplifies your self destructive behaviours
  • Give you a lack in ability to empathise
  • Stops you from building effective relationships
  • Doesn’t allow you to strive for a win/win outcome
  • Makes you falsely believe that you can control others
  • Doesn’t let you achieve your potential as it’s putting up a facade

So to overcome these you need to:

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