Saturday, December 02, 2006

Is Your Ego Getting in the Way of Your Success?

"Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me." Ambrose Bierce ("The Devil's Dictionary")

We all have egos. In fact, most of the most successful people I know (including artists, engineers, and businesspeople) have very strong egos. The ego, after all, is the part of our psyche that drives us to chase our dreams.

There is, however, a difference between having an ego that fuels your ambitions and having one that drives you to make yourself the center of attention.

This explains how to find out whether your ego is helping or hurting you. And then tell you how to use the natural strength of your ego to propel you faster toward your dreams.

How big is your ego? Is it big enough to propel you forward? To help you achieve your goals? Or is it so big that it's getting in your way?

In an article in Chief Executive Magazine, Larry Bossidy, former chairman and CEO of Honeywell, says that businesspeople on ego trips screw up in three ways:

1. They miss out on great ideas because they don't think others' ideas are as good as their own.

2. They don't develop the best team possible because they are insecure about having better people work for them.

3. They eventually lose the power of their team because all those who work for them see them as selfish and self-centered.

Is your feeling of "me" out of control? If so, watch out. Having a strong ego is not the same thing as being egotistical. Egotistical people often allow their egos to take over and thwart their dreams.

Test yourself. Answer the following questions (very honestly):

1. Whom do you spend more time thinking about, yourself or other people?

2. Do you consider yourself one of the smartest people you know?

3. When a friend or family member is successful, does it make you feel happy or sad?

4. When conversing, do you find yourself bored with the conversations of others?

5. Do you tend to speak more than you listen?

If your answers to this test suggest that you may have a tendency toward egotism, take the following precautions:

Make a conscious effort to stop talking about yourself in casual conversations.

Make a special effort not to brag.

Find a phrase that modestly describes what you do and use it -- instead of the self-important phrase you use now -- to describe yourself in the future.

Never say you are bored. Never look bored. And never, ever call anyone boring.

By the way -- and this you might have guessed -- I am enormously insecure about my abilities, talents, looks, etc. I tend to overcompensate for this by almost insisting that people validate me. I fight like crazy to make sure my good ideas are acknowledged. When I am looking muscular, I figure out ways to show off the bod.

This is pathetic, adolescent behavior. (And I'm working on overcoming it by doing all of the abovementioned things and more.)

If you find that you are a little egotistical, fight against it. And, whenever you can, admit the truth -- that deep down inside you are simply insecure.

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