What you want to do versus what you think you should be doing
When you first starting something new, like your own personal development, there is a strong tendency to want to progress and be at a certain level almost immediately. Nobody likes to be a beginner, or the new guy/gal, but being the rookie is a vital stage that helps us learn essential lessons and skills.
If you could take time and be OK with going slow and appreciate every step of the process, then you go much deeper into your understanding of yourself and strengthen the benefits of what you are trying to do.
But believe me, it is not always easy. I tend to rush things and want to improve quickly. Being conscious of slowing yourself down is a skill and like all skills needs practice. In this case of growing patience and valuing the process, your biggest obstacles (OK, let”s just say it, your enemies) are ego and impatience. Here are some insights on that will help you cultivate a relationship with your ego, understand impatience and realize that the happiness and change you are seeking is right here today in the process and not at a hopeful endpoint.
To be honest, in personal development there is no end point. This is a quote that I not only like, but really illuminates the moment in your thoughts when your ego gets the best of you. The quote is by Darren L. Johnson and reads “Anytime there is a struggle between doing what is actually right and doing what seems right, then your ego is interfering with your decision”.
This is the moment when we know what we should do, but in order to preserve our appearance either to ourselves or others, we choose to protect our image rather than do what is best for us. This same voice is the one that convinces to stop doing something when we are tired, finding it more and more difficult and perhaps increasingly more monotonous. Ego is the voice in your head and the uneasy sensation in your chest and stomach when you think you’re not doing enough, being enough and/or moving fast enough. Some examples of when your ego starts to talk (if not scream at you):
- The mileage in your daily runs is not progressing enough in the preparation for the marathon
- Your hamstrings are not loose enough in yoga
- Your blog has fewer visitors than you think you should have
- Your relationship is not where you think it should be
- You are not cutting down any longer in smoking. In fact, you want more.
- Those desserts are not getting cut out like they were last month. You are now even cheating.
All of these are based upon where you “think” you should be rather than where you actually are. So where do these thoughts come from? The ideas that your ego has are put there by you. You’ve determined the point that you should be at by comparing yourself to others OR to some mythical idea in your head. This comparison of where you are versus where you think you should be has brought out your ego loud and clear saying: “WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”
This then leads us into impatience.
After the ego has been chattering and telling us to hurry up and improve, it is natural to become very impatient. This quote by Charles Caleb Colton sums it up by saying “Patience is the support of the weakness; impatience is the ruin of strength.”
If you could support the areas that you view as weaknesses or shortcomings, then the strength that allowed you to try in the first place would not be ruined. You allow yourself to keep going.
However, your ego can be very persuasive and when it speaks, your natural defence is to become impatient. This immediate feeling of impatience is your ego’s way of trying to lessen the gap between where you are and where your ego thinks you should be. This strong desire created by your ego to quickly have you become the image it has starts you pushing, the beating yourself up, and the operating with very unrealistic expectations. This powerful combination of ego and impatience can either make your work miserable by placing you in a constant state of catch-up or frustrate you into quitting. Either way, your work falls by the wayside just to silence your ego and get rid of the suffocating panic.
How to move past ego and impatience
Once ego has spoken and impatience is running rampant, there is a very simple choice: learn to work with them and move your work forward. I suggest the latter.
If you can let your ego do it’s talking without reacting impatiently, the question changes from “Why am I not good enough?” to “How do I want to choose to show up to the situation?” This keeps you in the game. This prevents you from starting many things and ultimately quitting them and This is a big shift.
A questions to work with
Work gently with yourself and ask “Am I driven by where I think I should be in the process rather than appreciating where you actually are in the process?” It is important to work from reality and not an invented future. When you make this shift, notice what happens. It might be hard to accept at first in some cases, but I guarantee the leanings from an accurate view of reality are much more powerful than a reality tinged with ego. This topic is the basis of my ebook. I”d love to hear your feedback and comments.