Ego in Love and Mindfulness to the Rescue

What is your ego in love? When we first “fall in love” with someone, we are often blissfully ignorant of the flaws of the individual. We have initially been attracted to them because they were cute, funny, smart, had a stable job, etc. Our egos were validated by the things they did for us, the attention they gave us, and how they “made us so happy.” But, overtime, what begins to happen? When we feel this person is no longer doing things to validate our ego, be begin to become resentful and hateful of a person we once adored.

Many of us are left at the end of a relationship questioning what went wrong when toxicity or infidelity was not to blame for its end. For these relationships, it can be much more difficult to pinpoint exactly what did go wrong, and we vaguely conclude, “they just weren’t the one for me” as reason for the relationship’s end.

However, can we argue the legitimacy of this statement and rebut that perhaps if we were a little more aware and mindful of our relationship throughout its duration, maybe we could have still been with this person we once adored?

Because we are often operating from a place of ego, where we expect the other partner to do the things we want them to do, say the things we want them to say, and know everything we are thinking at all times, when our ego is hurt and not validated, little things begin to annoy us and then begins the laundry list of reasons why this person is not good for us after all.

For example, a fight begins with the way the dishwasher is organized. We take this disheveled arrangement personally because we believe the person we love and care for so much should know how you like the dishwasher to be organized and any deviation from that expectation feels disrespectful to you. Since this is interpreted as an attack to our ego, we unconsciously react with cruel and regretful words, and as a result, contempt and anger begin to manifest in our relationship. Overtime, as we allow our egos to fully operate our relationship rather than our mindful awareness, we are not able to react in a more loving and understanding manner. Our bonds then begin to break down and eventually, we conclude our relationship that began as a hopeful, blissful romantic love story has no happily ever after.

We may even blame the other partner for the fall of our relationship, but each of us have a responsibility when we are in partnership with another, and if both partners are not committed to having a mindful relationship, it cannot thrive since ego will always be the driving factor of the satisfactory barometer for the relationship.

In a true mindful and loving relationship, the dishwasher situation might have been resolved in a more compassionate manner. Upon seeing the disheveled dish arrangement, the partner may still immediately feel annoyed (ego), but instead of acting on that feeling, he or she takes a moment to understand why this situation bothers them so much. He or she might think this means their partner does not listen to them, they do not care about what they think or are frustrated that they do not know what bothers them after all of these years but, upon recognizing the reasons for feeling so annoyed, a more mindful partner might be able to reason that their partner is not doing this to be malicious or disobey their word, but rather, they simply did not realize what they have done and did not realize how it would have impacted you. Understanding that what your partner has done was not personal or intentional should immediately allow for their annoyance to subside for the time being. In this space he or she is given time to understand and can now choose to react in a more mindful and appropriate manner. He or she can do this through having a compassionate and understanding conversation about the dishwasher arrangement, and have the partner become aware of how it makes you feel when the dishwasher is not arranged in a particular way and how important it is to you. This can then open up the opportunity to learn more about one another and communicate what each partner can do to have one another feel heard and respected.

Throughout the relationship, when you feel your ego has been triggered, take a moment to ask yourself why, and question whether there is something that your partner has intentionally done to make you feel a certain way, or if your reaction is simple a reflection of your own internal insecurities, trust issues, commitment phobia or attachment to expectations that have led to the disappointment. In committing to having a mindful romantic relationship with your partner, you commit to a life of reflection, understanding and compassion, and give your relationship the best chance to thrive in the long-run. 

 

Can Contentment and Ambition Co-Exist?

In the modern world, we are more likely to encounter people who are always busy and on-the-go, than those without much to do and content. However, there is a paradox that exists in our society, because as much as we all want to be ambitious, “successful” and make money, we also WISH we could slow down. Well, can we? It is possible to be content and ambitious at the same time?

Let us first consider the root of our “busy,” problem. The root of this problem is our incessant search for fulfillment. We are running away from insecurities by keeping ourselves busy, motivated to get a promotion or make more money. But, what if we had found fulfillment without having to do all of this running around? Would we then be considered unambitious, unmotivated and lazy? To some, perhaps.

Contentment is the other end of the spectrum, where one might find themselves totally at peace with where they are and feeling like they have everything they could ever want in this moment without promotion, monetary bonus or achievement of a higher status.

Unfortunately, we will continue to battle this paradoxical wanting to have ambition yet be content, but we most definitely can find a common ground if we choose to. I believe the sweet spot between the two is detachment.

In being content with where you are and what you have in the moment, it already sets you up to solve for the challenge of ambition. With being content, ambition acts as a hobby or sport in our already fulfilling lives. When we think of it as a sport we can relate to the want for friendly competition, accomplishment and play but we do not take it so seriously. You know that winning in that game of pickup basketball with a friend will not add lasting fulfillment your life (hopefully for most of us), but it is a fun addition to the day.

Similarly, living life with contentment allows for us to find pleasures in the small things, remain humble in great accomplishments and most important, and always remain grateful for where we are whether our ambitions grows or diminishes.

To answer the initial question whether contentment and ambition can co-exist, I would argue, yes, but in order for this to be achieved, it is important for our mindset to remain in contentment and pursue our ambitions with a detached approach to its role in the fulfillment in our lives.

Today, take a moment from the “busy” day to appreciate all you have. And, isn’t it enough? It’s beautiful! 🙂

The Danger of Letting the Past Dictate Present Decision-Making

Piggybacking on my previous post in only finding clarity in the present, focusing more on the idea that we must make decisions in the now rather than focusing on future outcomes, it is also important not to let the past dictate our current decisions either.

Here, we are talking about specific experiences that might be influencing your current decision-making, whether it is career or relationships. I have recently noticed my own thinking being influenced by events of the past when it came to career. Some people might feel they are owed certain things because of their tenure at a company, or conversely, feel they should give up on a certain career because much time has passed and have still seen no reward.

When you realize that time does not have anything to do with expertise or give merit to stop something just because you have been working on it for a long time with no real progress, it is a light bulb-moment. The only moment that matters is right now. What is your expertise right now, regardless of how much time you have spent in your profession? Does that expertise warrant a promotion? What is your ambition to succeed in your currently unsuccessful venture? Do you still have a drive to work on it NOW?

We must ask ourselves these sort of questions without reasoning back to the past, how much time we have invested in something or how much time has passed with no success. The same is true with relationships. There are many couples that have stayed together primarily because of how much time had been invested in the relationship and the thought of starting over would be proof that they have just wasted all of this time. This very consideration of past events and investment is what they have based their decision to stay in the relationship on. Now, what if they had instead asked themselves how they felt in this present moment without consideration of the past? Perhaps there would have been more reason to go and move on because in that present moment you are unhappy and here is where a decision must be made, without influence from the past.

There is no such thing as the past. All of the good times we have had in the past are no longer, all we have is now. All of the bad times we have had in the past are no longer, all we have is now. We cannot accumulative evidence based on the past if it no longer exists in the present. I encourage us all to think about how you are feeling now, what you are contemplating doing right now, and decide in this very moment without looking back on who you were, how things went in the past and giving it more influence than it ever deserves.

If you have a drive to be successful in business but have not sold anything in the three years you’ve been invested? Please do not consider those three years when deciding whether or not to give up or continue. What do you believe in right now? Those three years do not exist. What do you want for yourself in this very moment?

Others will also expect you to give up and reason with you that if nothing has happened in three years, it will never happen. People might influence you to believe that the past has credibility, but you know that it does not.

We Can Only Find Clarity In The Present

Take a moment to reflect on the things that give you major and minor anxieties in the everyday. Such examples might be as simple as waiting on a text message from a friend, waiting in line at the Starbucks or thinking about what you are going to eat for dinner tonight. Some might be a bit deeper, thinking about if you are in the right marriage, if you and your friends will still be friends 20 years from now, if you are going to be broke your whole life or well-off.

If I asked you what all of these worries had in common, what would you say?

These anxieties are all attributed to the uncertainty about the FUTURE.

Many of us spend more time worrying about the future throughout the day than the very moment in the day itself. Ever drive to work and not even know how you got there because of all of the things you were thinking about on the drive? Ever leave the house and not remembering if you brushed your teeth because of all of the things running through your head during your brush?

Our minds are so flooded with these future worries that we do not focus on what we are doing in the moment we have. We are not even guaranteed to have those moments we focus too much energy on in the future. What if you have been imagining cooking a steak for dinner the whole day, what you are going to serve it with, who will be there, what drink you will wash the meal down with, and then when you get to your house, you find out the steak had expired 2 weeks ago. The reality of the situation is that you have been ignoring many of the days moments that you had with this daydream about a rotten piece of meat that you can no longer eat and satisfy your fantasy with. Sadly, we waste away moment in the day for trivial thoughts like this all of the time without even noticing.

The most disappointing part of all of this is the fact that we worry about things that are never guaranteed to us. We live life with a need to know, trying to solve life’s equations that are unsolvable because we will never know the future or have complete certainty. All we know is the truth in the moment we are experiencing right now.

This brings me to the next point about decision making. Sometimes when we feel this angst about the uncertainty in our lives, whether is it questioning if we are in the right career, relationship, friend-group or even workout class. In our heads, we can run through an extensive pros and cons list until it drives us crazy, and oddly enough, it will still not even bring us CLARITY we are looking for in making the right decision.

Why is this? Because we cannot make clear decisions when trying to predicting the future. It is okay to consider the future but we cannot try to predict it because these anxieties then fog our heads with fear, worry, and doubt in the present moment. Thinking is oftentimes not the answer to decision-making at all. In fact, NOT thinking and just being in the moment is where we will find more clarity. In these moments, you will feel engaged and free from emotion, anxieties, and stress about the future.

Rather, you are putting one foot in front of the other and navigating the bumps and cracks to step over along the path. Here we are clear on where to walk, whereas THINKING about where our next step should be might cause us to fall in a ditch we would have never seen coming.

All of this is to say that when you are considering a life change, minor or major, remain engaged in the present moment where you are free from anxiety and see your next step clearly. Thinking about the next step will only cause a cloud in your judgment filled with fear and worry which may misdirect your journey altogether. Let us not confused fear with intuition, for intuition can only exist in the present.

Allow the present to be our guiding light as we put one foot in front of the other and navigate down our path.

 

Luck or Attraction?

Many of us have a tendency to credit “luck” for things both good and bad. When something positive happens to us, we may say we just “got lucky”, and when something negative happens we say we just had “bad luck”. I have never been a proponent of the idea that things happen for no reason at all and we also had nothing to do with it.

For a simple example, I think about why a particularly negative co-worker of mine constantly has problems with his computer, outlook, traffic, and the list goes on, while I find myself to never have any of these issues or at least not to the extent he experiences.

Our energies have much more to do with the way our life is going more than just sheer luck. I will paraphrase the Alchemist saying, when you want something, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. The same is true with negative thoughts. If we are constantly complaining and being negative, that is the energy that is sent out into the universe and the universe will return this energy in a negative form because you have asked for it.

Now, with all of that being said, being more of a believer in attraction than in dumb luck, I am beginning to understand that luck does exist in some form. It is luck to be born into a family with wealth, connections and experience, for example. Perhaps you aspire to be a doctor and your father happens to be a successful doctor, alumni to a prestigious university and well connected at the school. Even if your grades upon application to medical school are average, do you think you might have a better chance at gaining admission than someone who is slightly above average with no connections at all? Of course you do, and you were simply born with that advantage. There is no way you would have been able to manifest this fate in the womb of your mother.

However, we are all dealt a different deck of cards when we are born. Some of us are luck in other ways, more simply, even just being born in a safe neighborhood in the United States of America has been your luck.

Still, luck can be the starting point for some people but attraction remains to be the more determining factor when it comes to the trajectory of the rest of your life. Dealt a good or bad hand, as we grow up, it is up to us to determine what we will attract in our lives. We have full responsibility.

Perhaps the student who grew up with a well-connected doctor father who is an alumni of a prestigious university DOES have a better chance at getting in than you do, BUT you have the ability to ATTRACT a similar advantage.

Even without luck, we can manifest this same chance luck with attraction. Perhaps you are able to network and connect with another well-connected doctor and university alumni through your research and effort to reach out to befriend this person. You may not have been born into this connection but you were able to create this connection and the same advantage as the student born into connection.

It is easy to make an excuse for other’s success and say things like “oh, well they have a shore house because the grandmother left them money, we can’t do that” or “oh yeah, she got that job because her father knew the principal of the school, lucky her.” Yes, maybe these people did have a built-in advantage but it does not mean that just because you did not have one that you cannot achieve the same.

I encourage us all to define what we want to do in our lives, and begin to live each day manifesting positive thoughts for the accomplishment of what we want to do and recognizing opportunities for action that will help you get there even if you were not luck enough to have it given to you. Attract it.

“What is This Here To Teach Me?”

In life we expect to encounter our share of failures, whether it is as trivial as not being selected for the softball team or having a business deal fall through. No matter the magnitude of failure, they all exist to teach us something as long as we are open enough to listen to the message. The most successful people in the world have all risen from failures of the past, and have adopted them as contributors to their story, not a tarnish.

It is easy to give up after failures, not wanting to face family at holiday parties and admit to the lack of tangible accomplishments. It is easier for us to give the whole thing up and just stop feeling the pressure of others expecting something from us, right? Well, that feeling of embarrassment exists to do just that, to have you give up in order to protect us. Our minds, which were once wired for protection from predator threat in the wild, are still wired for protection but protection from negative emotions. Now that we no longer have to fear the attack of a wild animal, our minds have evolved to protect us from mostly social fears. It is the protective mind that will tell you that you should stop if you don’t want to feel that embarrassment or rejection again. It will stop you if you let it.

Knowing that each failure exists to teach us something is the most powerful thing to get us through the debilitating fears the mind as produced, and have us continue our journey to be great (whatever that may look like for you). Next time you are faced with a failure, ask yourself,

“What is this here to teach me?”

In my own life, I have found that the lesson to cultivate the persistence to continue pursuit after failure, alone has been enough to continue my journey. There are times when I do get discouraged and think things would be easier if I just gave up and throw up the white flag to all of the people who have never understood what I have been moving towards.

Who you are meant to be evolves from where you are right now. So, learning to appreciate your lessons, mistakes and setbacks as stepping stones to the future are clear signs you are moving in the right direction.

~ Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure (2012)

Oftentimes these failures can feel like taking steps backwards, but the fact is that simply taking that action was progress enough because those who never took action could have never failed and learned, or won anyway.

Perhaps the answers are just you need to better equip you for the step in your journey. Keep going!

Better than None; Worst than None

Over the past few days I have been thinking about the concept of jealousy and, conversely, superiority. The feeling of jealousy and superiority may be juxtaposes but they do ultimately come from the same place, for both of these beliefs are rooted in the fear of not being worthy.

In jealousy, we feel unworthy when we hear of someone traveling to a place you’ve always wanted to go to, someone getting engaged as you await a confirmation from your partner or someone earning an income greater than your own. Although many of us are ashamed to admit our jealousies, all of us experience them at one time or another.

On the other hand, the feeling of superiority is also reflective of our feeling of unworthiness because feeling like we are better than another, constantly comparing our status and accomplishments to someone of a lower status and few accomplishments to make ourselves feel better is just the same.

For myself, I have been guilty of possessing a perfectionism mentality which has perpetually made me strive to do better than others in order to prove a sense of “worthiness” to myself.

“BUT the gag is” (Keke Palmer 1) this is not true worthiness.

True worthiness is the acceptance of yourself in whatever position or status you are in REGARDLESS of accomplishment, failure or comparison to others.

Many of us may feel guilty about this feeling of jealousy and/or superiority, knowing that we are no better or worse off than anyone else because we are equality worth of love, compassion, understanding and belonging, but in the events of the day to day, especially in a social-media-drive society, we all fall victim to these reactions. Luckily, recognizing our reaction is the first step in truly understanding our feelings of jealousy and/or superiority in order to take a better look at ourselves and letting go of these feelings.

For myself, my true intention IN LIFE is to remain grateful for all I have and never yearn for more than what I have in the present moment. I wish the same for my friends and family, so each day I meditate and pray for each of them individually, sending them peace, love and happiness in their days.

Even in having this intention, the feeling of jealousy may arise, for example. So, how do I transform jealousy into genuinely joy for another’s accomplishments then?

The answer I have found is recognizing that because of the intention you have for another, YOU are partially responsible for their achievement. YOU are partially responsible for the joy they are experiencing in that moment. If our intention is for another to genuinely experience joy in their day, and the effect of that intention was an accomplishment that brought them joy. And how can we feel jealousy when we ultimately nourished that very accomplishment?

To free ourselves of jealousy and superiority we must truly understand we are no worse nor any better than another. It is understanding that we are all silent contributors to the story of another. It is the acceptance of ourselves for who we are and where we are in our lives in the present moment.

 

Finding Purpose in Life

Ask yourself, “What do I believe my purpose is in this life?” When reading this question it is easy for our minds to go straight to work, and list all of the achievements and accomplishments we strive to attain in life. But, after taking a step back from those answers, we may encounter some falsehood in answering this seemingly simple question.

Is PURPOSE in life really to move up the ladder, build wealth, or buy a beach house? These are some examples of what some of us might set goals to have one day, but can we say with confidence they are our purpose? Consider the fact that our goals may not have anything to do with our purpose in life, perhaps.

If our purpose is NOT to attain nice things, go to cool places or have a house on the beach, what is purpose?

Personally, I identified my purpose(s) in life by following my will for meaning (as expressed by Victor Frankl in his novel, Man’s Search for Meaning), or a feeling that I contribution to a certain area in my life. I found much of this purpose had to do with my relationships with people and nothing to do with work or accomplishments at all at the end of the day.

I believe our society may have purpose and goals mixed up to be synonymous. As a result, our professions can truly distract us from our spirituality and understanding our real path in life. In pre-historic times, our lives were surrounded around maintaining existence, our purpose in life being the need to provide food for our family and keep them alive. Now, we take our existence for granted, and since we have less concern about survival, we embark on a search for some greater purpose to our lives through work and checking off goals. But, are we searching too far? Are we trying too hard? Is our true purpose found in our everyday existence after all?

Perhaps our life purpose is simply relieving another of their suffering by being a friend, giving love to another in a time of need, giving purpose to another, or serving as a positive figure in the life of a growing adolescent. Such examples are not necessarily sought, for these are all opportunities to pursue a purposeful life exist in our everyday lives in our experiences with friends, family, and loved ones. We are given opportunity for purpose no matter what our status, occupation or wealth. Dig deep into understanding yourself, and know purpose can be find in the simplest existence. Then ask yourself, “What is my purpose?”

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Think about a time in your life when you had interpreted someone’s “Yes.” (emphasis on the period) via text as he or she harboring frustration with you. You then begin to analyze this event and bring reason to why they are mad at you and assume they are irritated with something you said. But how much of that is the truth? Rather, this is the story we tell ourselves to bring a story line into a trigger event to help make sense of it. Yet, that IS all we are really doing, making up a story, and not even considering the truth in the situation.

Perhaps after confronting this friend regarding the text message, she does not even remember it because there was not emotion attached to the response at all. Meanwhile, you had suffered for days thinking constantly about this response which turned out to be a misinterpretation at the end of the day. Dr. Brene Brown speaks of how the brain actually rewards us for creating a storyline such as this to help to make sense of a situation whether it is a truthful storyline or not. As a result, however, we may be so committed to our story that we never end up finding the truth.

Brene Brown speaks about how these trigger moments, such as the “Yes.” text message response are opportunities for self-reflection. Our recognition of the tendency to craft a story in this moment is the sign to begin our self-reflection. To take the same example, once we are triggered by this text message and recognize our minds readiness to craft this entire story about our friend, we stop and reflect. Here, we are given the opportunity to figure out what about this response had triggered us?

The interesting thing is that we will always find that it everything to do with us, and nothing to do with the other person. The person on the sending end had no foul intention or malicious vengeance with a “Yes.” text response but because of our own inner insecurities and fear of rejection, we are sensitive to the short diction.

Since we are the creators of our reality, if we believe the story we tell ourselves all of the time, we may never give ourselves the opportunity to find truth or use this opportunity for self-reflection. By constantly believing the story we tell ourselves to be true, we can ruin various relationships in our lives. We may blame the actions of others for the way we are feeling or the failure of a relationship on the faults of another. How much truth is in these storylines? Are they merely just stories we tell ourselves?

Next time you feel the urge to develop a storyline in a trigger situation, recognize it as fiction and question what about YOU allowed for this to be a trigger event. You may find out more about yourself than you’d like to admit.

Creating Peace in a Chaotic World

In the book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl speaks of his experience in the Holocaust as a Jewish prisoner. Instead of focusing on the hardships and details of the event, which many of us are aware of, he speaks of the inner experiences of the prisoners who he shared a story with. Frankl speaks of the prisoner’s ability to find peace and joy inside themselves despite the horror and inhumane conditions surrounding them. He describes each prisoners appreciation for the small joys such as a sunset, being delegated one laborious task over another, finding humor in the direst of situations, and, for Frankl especially, the simple thought of a loved one’s presence, which gave him enough reason to survive.

Today, I think it is safe to say that the majority of us have never, and hopefully will never, experience a comparable experience to Frankl’s but we can relate to this idea of being dealt a difficult hand, so to speak, and finding ways to manage our emotions in those times of hardship. Frankl presents a useful lesson on how to cultivate joy in a situation where joy may not be found externally. He speaks of finding this within our inner selves, as he did with the thought of his wife and her love during his time in the camps.

Frankl’s point throughout the book is to prove the power of finding meaning for our lives and how it can give us the physical strength to rise above seemingly helpless situations. By giving our lives meaning and focusing our minds on that purpose, we cultivate our own reality and will to continue on our journey, no matter the circumstance. Frankl does not fully credit his salvation to his own luck, but rather, to his mentality and his ability to create peace within himself throughout his time in the camps.

This story proves the power of the mind, and its ability to give us the strength in times we may feel hopeless or physically powerless, as Frankl was living off of watery soup and a rationed piece of bread every day in freezing, inhumane living conditions. So, in our own lives, we can carry Frankl’s lesson with us in times we feel without hope, envision the things that bring you joy and that give meaning to your life, and know that you are capable of rising above it all.