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Ego management: The challenge of living in day-tight compartments November 19, 2012

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Ego Management.
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One of the most difficult challenges in the ego management sector of our personal development or growth programs is managing our ego to allow us to live one day at a time.

The ego’s tendency, to focus on the past and the future, instead of the present, or the NOW, can have two aspects: it can be a pleasant diversion either centering on fond memories, or it can focus on daydreams about a rosy future. Or it can be fretful, concentrating on past mistakes and thoughts of regret for actions taken or not taken. Or it can fill our heads with foreboding about anticipated major problems looming in the future, or extending current problems well beyond today and into the future.

Generally, looking either backwards or forwards too much is usually not pleasant; but the ego seems to want to do it anyway, even though it is painful. And, Even rosy future envisaging has its downside, as it is often an escape from dealing with the important matters that we can control today.

The ego however seems to relish being stuck in those two timeframes over which we have little or no actual control – the past and the future.  We cannot undo what we did or did not do in the past nor can we actually accomplish anything in the future, primarily because it is not here yet.

Despite what the ego may tell us, we can only take action and accomplish things in the present. We can plan effectively for the future, but we cannot “do” in the future; we can only do in the now. And outside of perhaps trying to compensate for some of the actions we took or did not take in the past, we cannot recreate the past.

The ego however ,as stated earlier, seems to want to focus on things that we cannot do anything about, such as endlessly reviewing past mistakes and creating worries in our heads about the future. The ego often compounds this by filling our heads with thoughts that what we did or did not do in the past will have an unalterable bad effect on our future; or that difficulties we are going through today will still be with us in the future, and probably be even worse problems for us than they are now. In short, the ego loves to complicate things for us; and the result is anxiety and fear.

I am not trying to say, however, that the ego is entirely bad. As with our overall personality, the go has its good points. But, allow the less desirable tendencies of the ego take control of your thinking and the result can be misery and lack of productive accomplishment today, and today is the only time we really have, and therefore the only time that really matters.

The answer to this seeming vicious circle of worrisome non-productivity the ego creates  is to make efforts towards managing our ego to focus on what we can actually do today; what we cannot do today; and to do the internal work on our ego to focus on living in day-tight compartments.

It is only in today that we can actually take actions that can help compensate for past mistakes, and it is only in today that we can take actions that can help create a better future for ourselves. Although we cannot recreate the past, we can modify its impact by acting effectively today. We obviously cannot totally control our future, but by acting productively today we can influence the future.

In some recent reading, I came across a comment by Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, which can be applied to this situation: “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Let’s take the words “what I am about to do today” from Steve Jobs’ comment and assume that what we are “about to do today’ is to worry throughout the day and night about the mistakes of the past, and the possible problems of the future. Then we realize, that in Jobs’ words,  that we “need to change something.”

And what we “need to change” is not allowing our ego to take us out of the present, where we can act, accomplish, and be productive, and to drag out thinking into the past and the future where we are essentially impotent to affect change in any aspect of our lives. We need to think in the now and act in the now –in day-tight compartments.

If we work effectively on living in day-tight compartments, we can begin mastering our ego, and gradually achieve the following benefits:(1) We can stop regretting the past and stop worrying about the future (2) We can focus on what is good about our lives today (3) We can accomplish something real to improve our lives today (4) We can a better perspective on our life as a whole

It’s important to re-emphasize that living in day-tight compartments does not mean living only for today and ignoring the potential challenges and opportunities the future may present. We still need to do things today that can affect our future, such as good financial management to help ensure our future financial security; or continuing building our personal relationships to help realize rewarding personal connections that will add to out future happiness. Rather, living in day-tight compartments is more to do with focusing on what we can do today, what we can control today as compared with unproductively projecting current fears and forebodings into the future, a practice which makes today’s anxieties and fears impossible to deal with.

Managing our thinking and thereby forcing or managing the ego to live in day-tight compartments is tough, but it’s a worthwhile objective for our peace of mind, our sense of fulfillment, and our efforts towards completeness. Channelled correctly, the ego can be a force for good in our lives.

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