Have you ever been punched in the face?
I sat down the other night and started reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. One of his passing comments jumped out and I swear the words punched me in the face.
It read “The ego wants to want, more than it wants to have.”
Like getting T-boned in a car accident, this comment hit me from what seemed like nowhere. It’s the small truths like these that have always sent me on hour long thinking tangents.
After these words registered in my mind, I gently put the book down and pondered this quote. I thought back to when I was in high school, never happy with any of my achievements—always wanting more. No matter how well I did, it was never good enough. This truth reminded me exactly why the grass always does look greener on the other side.
The goal of our ego is to remind us that what we have is never as tasty as what we could have.
A couple of days later I was listening to a podcast that had a world renowned weightlifting coach speaking about how his athletes’ mindset contributed to their success. He went on talking about how he made them set goals so high that they knew they wouldn’t reach them. And when they got close and lifted amounts of weight that would have almost broken a world record, they would be upset.
He went on to tell a story of a weightlifter who won the world championship the year before. He asked him how he felt after winning. The gold medalist replied “I’m pissed off.” To which the coach asked “Why?” and he said “I didn’t come here to win, I came here to break the world record.”
This story was meant to inspire the listeners to want to reach higher. To me, all it did was make me sad.
This story made me sad because I noticed that in the moment, while hearing this, my ego wanted to be that type of person. My ego said “Yeah, why not set crazy goals? Life is short anyway.” Later on I realized that this was my ego—wanting to want—more than it wanted to have.
This moment brought me to my next “deer in the headlights” thought.
There seems to be this struggle inside of me between desiring worldly success or happiness.
If I want to be successful, I need to let my ego take over. I need to live in a dissatisfied state in order to achieve extraordinary results. I’ve contemplated consciously choosing this option. On the other hand, I can make a nominal wage, not break any world records and be happy with myself.
It’s a hard choice. And, I bet if I chose one route over the other, the grass would still look greener on the other side.
Even in this moment, as I write this article, my ego is telling me “Go back. Make it better. You could use more beautiful and flashy language.” And my heart is sitting here reminding me that “No, your efforts are good enough.”
The only weapons I know to fight off the ego are gratitude and meditation. Simply sitting down and resisting the urge to “get up and be productive” makes the ego hide in fear. And going through life appreciating the beauty and hardships leaves the ego powerless.
Although these tools help fight it, it seems like a never ending battle. When the ego gets knocked down, it feels insecure and does all it can to get back up again and prove itself.
I will leave you with an encouraging quote from my favorite blogger, Maria Popova, who says “Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.”
Good luck with your battle.
Author: Sid Crowe
Apprentice Editor: Melissa Scavetta/Editor:
Photo: ataferner via Flickr