Live Positively by Managing Your Ego

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Living positively is a cornerstone to a good life. Whether you’re at work, the gym, or at home; having a positive mentality opens your world to happiness, opportunity, and success.

Now as much as we want living positively to be as easy as remembering to look on the bright side of things, it’s not always that easy. Living positively requires an incredible amount of discipline, commitment, and often external support.

Now assuming that all of that commitment doesn’t scare you off, let’s take a look at what’s in store when you decide it’s time to live positively.

1. You have to learn how to live positively.

High-five for stating the obvious! But, seriously, living positively is a constant effort that requires a commitment to consistently learn and apply new techniques that work for you. Just as each of us changes as time goes on, so too must we adapt our strategies for living positively.

2. You must go to great lengths to understand yourself and your ego.

The ego and how the ego has the potential to negatively impact your life is a huge topic for discussion into itself. This is critical, and if you take one thing away from this post, it’s to better understand your ego and the impact it can have on your life. That’s why we’re digging into it more below.

3. You have to develop the habit of using generosity as a way to evoke positivity and foster an environment of community building.

It’s a matter of being thankful not just on Turkey Day, but every day, all the time. It’s seeking out what in our lives, in any situation, warrants gratitude.

4. You have to adopt a growth mindset.

This is very aligned with gratitude but is action-focused. When you’re growing, failure is never a bad thing. For more on the growth Mindset, read “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

5. You have to surround yourself with positive people and set a tone for living positively.

This can be the most difficult of the five action items, because frankly, negativity can be fun for a lot of folks. Complaining, getting angry, or blaming is a way a lot of people bond with other people and protect their sense of self-worth. And when surrounding yourselves with people that are in this mode, living positively can be incredibly difficult. As you begin and then continue to master the techniques of positive living, you’ll find that they will either adjust to get it together, or you’ll realize that they no longer deserve your time.

Meet your ego

The ego is an interesting beast. I first came to realize what it was when I read “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle*. Before reading that, I hadn’t put much thought into ego. I always just used it in the context of saying he or she had a “bruised ego.” To that point, a lot of folks out there define ego as our sense of self, but in actuality, it’s our internal dialogue–the voice that works through issues after they happened, the part of you that tells you that you should be angry or jealous. It’s what often drives resentment. But at the same time, it’s what is often susceptible to flattery and can be a source of pleasure. Though, it’s easy to shame your ego as being “the bad in us.”

Ego can be a huge motivator to achieve a lot of great things. In effect, ego is something that must be managed. Like managing anything else, you can do it, but you first must understand what it is, what you want it to do, and how you would ideally like to see it done. As you think about this, and ask, “Hey, that voice inside my head isn’t my ego, it’s me!” Understand that you’re wrong. You, the true you, is what is listening to the voice. Dan Harris did a great job of exploring all of this in his very real-talk book, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.

Now that you met your ego, it’s time to manage it.

So, now that you hopefully have an idea of what the ego is and how to identify it next time it makes some noise, what can we do to manage it? After all, the goal of this article is to live positively, and everything I’ve said so far presumes that the ego is an obstacle to that. Well, it is. And this is largely because of two main characteristics of the ego.

First, it’s a net negative. For your ego to be satisfied, it’s usually because someone else isn’t. With that said the welfare of that person or thing might not matter much to you, but still, it’s not ideal. Why gain satisfaction at someone else’s expense when you can feel it organically on your own. Second, even when your ego is pleased, and you are riding a high from it. The valleys are often just as low as the mountain are high. One second you may be stoked from your ego, the next second your lower than you were before. In a nutshell, relying on your ego for happiness is unsustainable.

Second, even when your ego is pleased, and you are riding a high from it. The valleys are often just as low as the mountain are high. One second you may be stoked by your ego, the next second you’re lower than you were before. In a nutshell, relying on your ego for happiness is unsustainable.

Sustainability is our goal in living positively and for that reason, I am going to drop a little alliteration on you. The three G’s: Generosity, Growth, and Gratitude.

  • Generosity is the act of selfless giving. It’s the cornerstone of community development, and it thrives off of selfless acts. Whether it is through time, money, or food; acting selflessly and gaining the satisfaction from that, allows you to remove the case that ego makes for driving your happiness. Sharing, giving, teaching are all ways to achieve true happiness in life. It leads to a much purer sense of satisfaction and by doing these activities, you are able to disarm your ego from its more greedy tendencies.
  • Growth is the value gained from meaningful experiences. These can be good experiences or bad experiences. Some of our most vital growth experiences come from our failures and emotional tragedies. With each meaningful experience, you will add to your personal fortitude and self-understanding. Growth is a great way of achieving a positive outlook because it puts everything you do in perspective. Even in the worst situations, you are hopefully able to learn something that you will be able to apply positively in the future. By appreciating growth opportunities, rarely do you feel wronged. Accordingly, your ego isn’t triggered.
  • Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. Someone exemplifying gratitude is acknowledging that there are good things in their world and in that sense gratitude is often credited with being the underlying theme of all positive living. By being grateful, it’s no longer just about you. You are projecting satisfaction out onto others. It creates great vibes and feeds a cycle of ego-free positively.

*I highly recommend reading the Power of Now, but have some trepidations about recommending Eckhart Tolle as an author largely due to his sequel to “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” being wayyy too far out there for my taste.

For more on How to Live Positively, you can check out the guide post I wrote on the topic on Fitizen.org.

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