How to Keep Your Ego in Check?

Look at yourself through the looking glass

We have seen the value of getting reality feedback from others in order to get a clear picture of ourselves. That is essential. Another feedback mechanism that we need is feedback about ourselves from ourselves. This is our ability to monitor our own thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, feelings, abilities, choices, values, desires, talents, and the like. It is one thing to drive safely when you look in the rearview mirror and there is a policeman. That is external feedback. It is another thing to drive safely when you are out on the road by yourself. That is maturity.

There are a lot of terms for this aspect of human makeup, but psychologists refer to it as the observing ego. Ego means “I,” and observing means to “watch over” or “be attuned to” or “notice.” So, it is the part of me that is watching me. And successful characters who leave the best wakes have a lot of this. They tend to see themselves as they are, and to observe their behavior as it is happening.

I left a strategic-planning retreat recently with a group that I am doing a publishing project with. At the end of the meeting things got a little sour. The problem was that the president of the company who was leading the meeting ran off in his own direction and agenda and left others behind, somewhat pushing his plan through and then talking as if it were everyone’s. I could feel the atmosphere change and had some strong feelings myself about what had happened. Upon leaving, I wanted some time to think about how I was going to respond to what had occurred before talking to him. This was somewhat of a pattern with him, and I wanted to address the bigger picture. He was a good guy and someone I like working with, so resolving it in a good way mattered to me.

But before I got back to him, I received an e-mail that apologized for what had occurred, and that he was aware that he had “thrown cold water” on the meeting, as he put it. We later talked, and he shared his awareness of his tendency to do what he had done that day, and he said he wanted to talk further about it. He saw what he had done before it was mentioned to him. My hope for it not happening again went up. Character that sees itself is usually able to self-correct.

Not only did this incident give me more confidence about our future, it also said something about why this man has risen to the ranks of CEO of a public company and been successful for so many years.

We all have issues, and our weird moments. But we do best when we are able to see them ourselves and correct them.The ability to ask oneself “What am I doing here?” is a compass that will keep things on the right track.

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