“It’s never just a game when you’re winning.” – George Carlin
Intense? Feeling driven? Doing something with success is way cool. What about when you start to put others down because of it? Where is the line between enjoying something and obsessively driving to win? There is always that quantum moment when you cross over from “Wow, I’m good at this!” or “I am loving this!” to “Damn if I’ll let her steal my thunder!”
It can be so great. It assists us to greater heights. Competition makes you better at your job. It helps keep you sharp.
It can be so awful. Competition can lay on you like a 3 ton stone. It can hurt your soul. It can drive you mercilessly.
Or can it?
What if the thing that lays on you like a 3 ton stone or drives you mercilessly is your own ego?
We live in a world that is, by its very nature, competitive. Animals compete for food. We compete for jobs or attention. So, rather than running away from it, perhaps we are here to learn to live peaceably within this source of power and irritation.
I think the first thing to do is recognize and accept in myself the times when competition becomes detrimental within my own psyche. That is, of course, easy to write – hard to achieve.
I have been attempting to live in this rarefied atmosphere by reducing distractions, writing in my journal at night before I go to bed to help me process my day, using silence and stillness to assess. I’ve now gotten to the point that I look forward to my quiet morning when my husband is still asleep and I’m up puttering about. I look forward to ‘walks and thinks’. I’ve been identifying where I make the turn from happily achieving something to feeling like I MUST do (for whatever reason my ego dishes up to keep me in line).
I think the next thing to do is create some coping skills; you know, exercise my emotion-muscles. Being emotionally fragile is not something you want to go through life saddled with if you can do something about it. I think we often assume that we are at the mercy of our egos or emotions. I think we forget that they belong to us, we don’t belong to them. So I try working out ways with each situation that I could move to a state of peace while still achieving my goal. I often find myself thinking at these times of ways to release my ego and just be happy and enjoy the thing I’m doing.
When I retired from my job, a friend who is an attorney asked me how I could give up the prestige of the position much less the money. I told her that I didn’t really have an ego problem when it came to making money. Later, her words came back to me. Why didn’t I have an ego problem when it came to money or the power that went with it?
So I’ve been thinking about where my ego pops up and acts like a Tasmanian Devil, snarling and slobbering and threatening; and where I’m more like a swan gliding across a lake – free of the chains of my ego. So far, it seems my ego is more active when I’m doing things that made me special in my earlier years. When I’m doing things that set me apart at an older time in my life, my ego doesn’t seem to have noticed that and is off somewhere planning its next assault on my activities from teenhood.
It’s interesting and I don’t have a clear answer yet, but perhaps my observations will help you on your way as well. Where does your ego start to snarl? Why?
Do the things you love, do the things you’re good at. Take joy in your skills. And when you start to feel driven, experiment with stillness and silence.
And listen to what comes to you. It might the answer you’ve been waiting for your whole life.