At Goalcast, we love sharing inspiring advice and stories to push each other along on our personal paths to greatness, knowing all the while that success and achievement can (and should) mean different things to different people.
But saying that everyone must chart their own path is not the same as saying that all goals are created equal. We all struggle with tracing the line between self-love and selfishness, between heeding our egos and heeding our hearts. But at the end of the day, the legacy we leave is not measured by what we “achieve” for ourselves, but by what we give back.
So I want you to pose yourself a question that we’re often too timid to ask: Are your goals powered by your ego or by a higher purpose? If you’re bravely and ruthlessly honest with yourself, what part of your vision of success is driven by a desire to “prove” something to someone (often yourself), and what part is motivated by a genuine desire to improve the lives of others?
Are you striving to be the “the best,” or are you striving to be of service?
Are You Letting Your Ego Guide Your Goals?
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
– Mahatma Gandhi (read more quotes)
Are you heeding your ego or heeding your heart?
It’s understandable that so many of us feel the pressure to make a “name” for ourselves in this world. We live in a society of competition and individualism, where “success” is often measured by personal gain and fame.
These pressures hold up a big stick of insecurity that is poking the eye of our egos — and there’s nothing our egos like less than being threatened.
The ego is a mental construction that is founded on our fears. It is insecure, defensive and competitive by nature, and its outward expression is a rugged individualism that rejects a sense of deeper connection with or responsibility towards others.
There are many soft expressions of our egos that we might not notice most of the time. But whether our goals are tied to performance, status, wealth, or other forms of personal achievement, if there’s a competitive quality to it, then that’s a surefire sign that your ego is in the driver’s seat.
By contrast, when you are more in touch with your inner self, and are more in tune with your emotions, you tend to develop a greater sense of self-love and confidence that assuages your ego’s insecurities and empowers you to seek collaborative successes that serve a greater good. What I’ve just described is the basic process of developing your emotional intelligence, which states that empathy and social connection are the direct outflows of deepening your capacity for self-awareness and self-knowledge.
Being “the best” vs. being of service
It takes an uncommon degree of courage to question one’s goals and values. It’s for its rarity, after all, that humility is such a prized virtue. It becomes less frightening, however, once we remember that questioning oneself and judging or denigrating oneself are not the same thing. The most vital part is precisely to question ourselves without judging, and to then learn from our mistakes and evolve — so that we can celebrate our ability to grow and improve.
So when you think of your life goals, you must try to be extremely honest with yourself. Ask yourself: Why is it important for me to be the “best” at this or that? How will the lives of others be improved if I am the strongest, fastest, richest or [insert your superlative here]? Being “the best” at anything is by definition a relative term that incites us to keep others down so as to elevate ourselves above the rest. It’s a zero-sum competition that in the end only ends up hurting all those who participate. It’s hard to argue that the world hasn’t already seen enough fights of the fittest to last an eternity. What we’re suffering from is a lack of collaboration and common purpose, wouldn’t you say?
The point here isn’t to shame anyone — we all succumb to the tantrums of our egos from time to time. The point is instead to help us realize that the competitive pressures that set them off stem from unnecessary insecurities, and to encourage us to question what true success and achievement mean to us.
What is your purpose on this planet?
We often hammer home the importance of knowing who you are, discovering your unique purpose in the world, and charting your own path. But what I’ve tried to show here is that authenticity and egoistic individualism are not only separate things, but are in many ways antagonistically opposed. One is fuelled by our insecurities, and leads us to define and measure our success against others in a competitive race to “prove” ourselves, while the other comes from a place of self-love and security, and inspires us to spread our strength and joy outward by embellishing our little corner of the world.
Humanity can’t afford to take a pass on the incredible power and potential that lies within each of us. The Great Ship Earth needs all hands on deck.
So: How will you use your short time on this planet? What will you do to leave the world a better place than when you found it?