“If you set egoic goals for the purpose of freeing yourself, enhancing yourself or your sense of importance, even if you achieve them, they will not satisfy you.” —Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
The ego wants what it does not have, wants more than it already has and is incessantly fueled by comparison, needing conflict of not being supposedly enough in any array of arenas – success, looks, status – to exist in our beings or to be part of us, to exist within us, but we don’t need to keep feeding it. When we recognize that these defaults of the ego are not healthy or constructive to finding peace in our everyday, we are already showing awesome signs of growth to deepening our contentment and savoring the everyday.
To understand the ego is to gain a more insightful awareness of yourself, why you do what you do and whether doing so is actually constructive to living a life of deep peace and fulfillment.
My own journey of understanding what the ego was began, I would imagine similarly to many others, in high school in psychology 101. However, I did not have the depth of knowledge or skills of critical thinking and self-awareness to explore it at the level it needed for me to apply this knowledge to my life. Thankfully though, I kept returning to it because randomly thrown into conversations or loose texts (in books) the term ‘ego’ would be mentioned, but what was it exactly? My curiosity propelled me to better understand.
Don’t worry, today’s New Year’s post is not about the ego, but it is inspired by my now more comprehensive grasp of what the ego is as to approach this new year differently and to set intentions rather than goals or resolutions or any other term the zeitgeist has coined even though trying to not ‘set a resolution’ technically still is doing so.
To differentiate between intentions versus anything else is the key to heading in the right direction, but holding ourselves in the present moment rather than constantly flirting with what will come, what will be when [insert your goal/resolution/anything that involves seeking something else] is the primary difference that makes all the difference in whether or not by this time next year we are more deeply at peace than we ever have been before. Why? “The egoic self is always engaged in seeking. It is seeking more of this or that to add to itself, to make itself feel more complete. This explains the ego’s compulsive preoccupation with the future.”
How to break free from the Egoic Conditioning:
So let’s take a new approach to this new year. Whatever your hopes are for the new year, consider setting the intention of Being [insert term/action/behavior you seek to be]. It could be ‘being present’, ‘being love’, ‘being responsive rather than reactive’, ‘being fully engaged’, ‘being kind’, ‘being financially savvy’, ‘being curious’. I am using the continuous tense of the be verb – being – because it holds us in the present; we have to be fully engaged and aware of all that is going on around us to do whatever our intention is – it is not a solitary action.
“When you give more attention to the doing than to the future result that you want to achieve through it, you break the old egoic conditioning. You’re doing then becoming not only a great deal more effective, but infinitely more fulfilling and joyful.” —Eckhart Tolle
How? You may be wondering, does, for example, Being Present or Being Love or Being Responsive lead to more joy and fulfillment? When you start to step away consciously from the ego, you begin to know yourself sincerely. You begin to recognize when you are living for the approval of others and thus, out of alignment with your true self. You begin to find the answers you have always wanted to understand, and it is not that the answers give you a road map forward concretely, but they give you the direction to travel that aligns with your true self. These answers set you on the path that speaks to your curiosities, your talents and passions, and then it is that fuel that is infinite that leads you forward to engage with your whole heart, and as you do so, your sincerity is felt by others – some will be drawn to you and others away from you, but it is not their approval you seek, as you have found an inner peace that is grounding and fulfilling.
With all of that said, as that speaks in the very succinct terms what we talk about here on the blog and in my books regularly – true contentment and how to cultivate it – if there are lessons for each of us to learn so that we will appreciate the life we say we want, we will have to experience these lessons along the way, and we cannot know when or how they will look, BUT if we are Being and thus fully engaged in our daily lives, then we will meet the lesson with an open-heart and conscious mind and be able to most fully grasp the necessary lesson we need to learn, and I think, most important to all that we may be given this coming year, if we learn the lessons that are ours to learn, we give ourselves awesome gifts because that is what propels us forward into a more fulfilling life, even if we cannot know exactly what that fulfilling life will look like.
How to let go of the ego’s unhelpful habits:
- stop comparing, and start being inspired
- stop competing, and start having fun
- let go of envy and its cousin jealousy, and celebrate and cheer others’ success
- let go of guilt, and start learning from the mistakes and apply the knowledge
- let go of conflict, and start understanding your mind and how you are trapping yourself in unnecessary pain
- stop judging, and start strengthening your skills as a critical thinker
Let’s get back to the idea of ‘Being’.
As Eckhart Tolle writes, “set goals, but know that the arriving is not all that important”. First, if you are “always reducing the present moment to a means to an end, you are living for the future, and when you achieve your goals, they don’t satisfy you, at least not for long” . . . but when you are Being [insert your term] you are fully engaged with all that is outside of you – people, events, the weather, etc. – each you have no control over. And if you have brought your sincere self, if you are fully engaged, and you have put out your intentions at some point along your journey and continue to apply the lessons you have been taught, “this moment is not a means to an end: the doing is fulfilling itself in every moment.” In other words, your every day moments become fulfilling and that is when magic happens. That is when while it may not be exactly as you had imagined it, you find the fulfillment, the joy and peace you hoped would arrive.
I understand that having a concrete step-by-step guide is often what we think we want when it comes to setting goals and especially when it comes to beginning the year well, in order that all that will follow will be the best year we’ve ever had, but this is where we let go because we now have the awareness of the trap the ego has set for us to ever actually attain what we thought we would by pursuing the resolution/goal/etc. With this awareness that is shared above, “comes transformation and freedom”. And that is where contentment, true contentment, reside.
Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle
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