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Managing the ego can produce significant personal development benefits March 14, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Ego Management.
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If we can accept the broad definition of Eckhart Tolle that the ego is essentially the constantly chattering voice in our head, or our incessant thinking about the past and present, it is clear that controlling the ego needs to be part of a successful program of personal growth, a program, which by definition, must focus on the actions we take in the present.

The ego, which is sometimes wrongly identified only with excessive pride or egotism, can in fact be a voice that discourages us, a voice that makes us fearful and concerned with all the worrisome “what if” scenarios that could unfold in our future. Similarly the ego can hang us up in the past with the many “could have” or “should have” situations we revisit from our past life.

The ego, or the constantly thinking voice in our head, often prevents us from enjoying the present moment. The only way we can seem to avoid this non-stop voice of the ego is to become totally absorbed in something. This is one of the reasons why we all enjoy hobbies or favourite pursuits; we are looking for relief from the voice in our heads that will not leave us in peace. This is when we are “in the zone” and are too preoccupied to allow the ego to interfere. In effect, this is when the  ego is shut out.

In his seminal book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle presents his idea of what life would be like if we could exercise control over the ego, or effectively manage the ego: “As the ego is no longer running your life, the psychological need for external security, which is illusory anyway, lessens. When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. ..If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it [uncertainty] is acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness and creativity.”

In many ways the concept of personal development or personal growth does indeed focus on the future, but it does so in a positive way rather than repeatedly walking a never-ending path of a future filled with the obstacles of negativity and fear. There is no harm in our thinking about the future in a positive way and making plans for personal improvement, because by doing so we are removing the element of apprehension from our egos.

Taking concrete steps to plan for the future is vastly different than worrying or fretting about the future, but not taking tangible steps to realize our goals. However, as most of us have discovered, calming the ego, controlling the ego, or managing the ego, is not an easy task. That is why the word development is used in the term “personal development.” Development is a constant and continuing process, and even though the goals are in the future, the action towards a positive future is being taken in steady steps now,  in the present moment.

There have been many books, videos, and other information sources developed with the goal of helping us to live in the present moment and enjoy the “now.” Many of these suggestions focus on meditation and other spiritual practices. These approaches can be important as components of our overall personal growth programs and our strategies for self-improvement.

But taking action on realizing our gaols is also vital. Focussing on a goal in the present, or planning in the present for achieving our future goals keeps us focussed on the positive aspects of the  present moment.  And that is one of the best ways to control the ego, or at least to minimize the ego’s tendency to fill the present moment with regrets about the past or foreboding about the future.

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