Onboarding Your Ego in the Second Half of Life
The ego has been given a bad rep among many spiritual and philosophical doctrines and practitioners. Leaders hear “do away with the ego” or “that’s ego, get it out” as if it’s time to divorce oneself. Despite all the criticism, the ego is here to stay, so let’s look at how we can use it in a way that’s healthy and effective to fulfill our deepest aspirations in life; to use what we have in us to deliver it.
As you move through the evolution of your life, the ego can be immature or mature. The first half of life is the immature journey while the second half is often the mature journey of appointing the ego toward your real work and true self. The first half is coming to terms with one’s own power and importance; the second half is about the right use of power, giving it away, and what difference can be made in the world.
The change in maturity levels is found in the orientation one has to life events. The immature ego is 1st person oriented. In this orientation, communications, reactions, actions, and decisions are made from one being the center of his universe. The immature ego is pre-occupied with safety, protection, preservation, and power. To gain this, the immature ego sets forth an effort to cloak something private with a public façade. Shame and fear fuel the immature ego to convey an outward impression to offset an inner concept of oneself.
Comparisons are made, identity is married to what one does, what one has, and what others think, as a useful form for the immature ego to ward off the threat of being found out as insignificant or inadequate. Hence a deep secret self is hidden from the world. And all the symbolic packages to thwart off seeing it are manifest in outer materialism.
In the second half of life, the mature ego isn’t 1st person oriented, instead it’s 3rd person oriented. The mature ego has come to terms with the truth, and has invalidated phony, illusory concepts one holds of himself, his world, and others. Instead the mature ego is fueled by attention placed on “the other.” Pronouns associated with this orientation would be “he, she, it, them,” instead “I or we.” The mature ego has shifted its source of attention off “me” to “them.” Perhaps a strong amplifier to forming this shift is coming to terms with one’s perceived immortality. Meaning in life becomes more important than entertainment.
The shift toward 3rd person requires a detachment from one’s concepts of self, and an interest in something other than oneself. Artists learn this naturally by shifting their attention to the painting. Entrepreneurs come into maturity by affecting a market or customer they want to create value for. Doctors focus on the understanding and well-being of what’s inside her patients. Mothers give life to babies despite the sacrifices of nourishing them during the gestation period. You get the idea.
Something fascinating comes into play when this 3rd person orientation organizes one’s attention. The baby changes the mother – the customers experience changes the entrepreneur – the doctor is changed by the well-being he affects in his patient. The “other” actually changes the observer. By focusing on the “other,” the observer or creator is able to experience compassion, understanding, and kindness, as he extricates himself from 1st person oriented tendencies. Energy and information flow into new combinations, so that the generative love to create from within comes forth like an activation button. Joy ensues in the form of goose-bumps out of the thrill of affecting something else dramatically through the creative act.
“The first half of life is the immature journey while the second half is often the mature journey of appointing the ego toward your real work and true self.”
Let’s use the comparison of a consumer to a creator. A consumer is all about his needs and how the world is organized around them, but a creator organizes himself on behalf of what he seeks to bring into being. The focus moves from internal to external. Creating we’re made for, it’s what life is. We bring something into life, and life brings itself into something else; nothing stays the same. In the 1st person, the consumer meets his wants, impulses, and needs, but in the 3rd person his awareness of the impact of his actions on the whole enters his awareness. He is mindful of both himself and what the world asks of him. He submits himself to the greater good running through him like an override. He has risen into the creator and not the consumer anymore.
What about these changes in the quality of awareness? The mature ego is able to call upon one’s awareness of one’s own concepts and separate from them, like another eye behind the eye looking at what’s there. This could be called, “seeing one’s own seeing,” or “observing the observer’s habitual judgment through a prism or bias.” When one is in the 3rd person orientation, he uses this capacity for detachment to see what the immature ego isn’t inclined to see, because it’s threatened by the truth. This shift from self-deception to truth seeking is the fundamental difference between the immature and mature ego. It is the shift from non-listening to peripheral listening deeper and wider to perceiving that which wants to emerge.
As this perception widens, the mature ego seeks variety and allows differences while the immature one does not. Einstein talked about seeing the dis-confirming reality, which he could access through his imagination, not his embodied knowledge. For example, someone with strong Christian beliefs with a 3rd person orientation would not defend her view; she could explore a different view someone has, because her identity isn’t caught up in her own view. Her “observer; awareness” is separate from her view instead of marrying it to her identity.
This suggests that people cannot solve the problems with the thinking that created them. The observer and observed are one in the same without awareness to regulate our theories. This explains why most perceptions are misrepresentations of reality, impressions without accuracy at best. The brain is inclined to pay attention to what it’s inclined to look for like downloading from its conditioning, while the mind is the awareness which regulates the brain’s processing system. Without the quality of awareness rising, a 3rd person orientation just wouldn’t be possible.
Dialog is possible when the mature ego’s 3rd person orientation is inclined to explore willingly and openly the perceptions, interpretations, dogma, mental constructs, and expectations of oneself and those of others. Debate is likely in the 1st person orientation, along with righteous indignation and battles over right or wrong. Empty or polite phrases are also likely in 1st person as a form of manipulation and truth blocking.
In the 3rd person orientation, one isn’t stuck on who they are, and comes to terms with not knowing anything; they don’t know how they know what they know. They listen from a beginner’s mind as if they’re starting with nothing. Humble inquiry is more likely. And life’s unexplainable mysteries are left just as that, unexplainable. Instead their attention is on bringing into being what matters most to them.
The capacity for unity and relationship is greatly strengthened in the 3rd person orientation. But in the immature ego’s 1st person orientation, one’s views are one’s identity and must be defended and/ or easily offended. In the 3rd person orientation, a sort of “suspending” one’s certainties is possible to give rise to a deeper listening and availability. One moves his awareness from open mind to open heart.
So far, we’ve looked at the difference between immature and mature ego. Now let’s bring the soul into the picture. The soul is the place within you from which you deeply desire something to come into being. The word “desire” means “of the sire; the king.” It is a deeper knowing of one’s destiny standing in need of him, like a swooping bear hug around the ego. Your ego is the part of you that organizes what the soul desires and brings it into the world. The mature ego knows how to bring these into coherence, as “the being” and the one who does the work from that place. I suspect that “homo-sapiens” means “one who knows” because it’s referring to the primary knowing of the soul that organizes the ego into carrying out its life’s work.
The ego needs the soul to provide the context out of which the ego can do its job, and the soul needs the ego to organize its context into creation. Look at it like a leader and manager in a dance of change. But the soul can’t hire your immature ego, because the ego is too busy with its 1st person orientation to do any work on behalf of the soul; it’s just too scary to live in the present moment and live from what wants to emerge and what matters most. Onboarding the immature ego is ambushed. But the mature ego says “yes, I’ll follow.” At first it resists, but after stepping into the future, the ego must follow the program, and then bravely says, “I get it now.” “I’ll bring what I have in me to this cause you’re calling me into carrying out.”
Onboarding the mature ego is up for grabs at any time. You can reconsider your life building process at any time. In fact, you will anyway, because life is in the business or organizing itself. Nothing stays the same. Everything the future needs is given to you in this moment, whether you recognize it or not. And if you’ve wanted to organize your life around what you love and bring forth your most sacred projects you carry within, yet you’re not trusting your deepest inner voice that’s tempting you to follow the path, it may be time to take stock of the mechanics. Are you ready for the second half of life? Is half-time over yet?
Perhaps leading your life from the heart, not the head, is the way into the second half. The question is “who are you letting run the show, the ego or the soul first?” Whose boss? If you’re going to operate from the source of your soul, what matters to you, then are you ready to shift your ego’s gear from 1st to 3rd person? You have a fundamental choice to make to begin this shift: “Will I choose to become the predominant creative force in my life?” Will you choose to lead the gifts your intellect has (ego) toward creating and manifesting what you deeply desire and what life calls you most to do?
When you step into this territory with your entire being, you bring your ego into your faith. Faith is the openness you need to take meaningful leaps into uncertainty from your soul as the primary source of animation and aliveness. The path is laid down as you take intentional steps forward. Your soul says, “Here we go; let’s set forth” to its friend the mature ego, and asks it what it wants—the ego presents resistance, “No way no way. Wait, let’s see what around the corner first,” but it’s mature enough to understand why it resists, and let go of its grasp on you.
Your awareness regulates the ego’s choke hold and domesticates it’s flaring up, while you’re stepping into uncertainty anyway. Think of it like stepping across a threshold by severing from something needing to die in you. You let whatever your destiny is working on for you here and now come forth, as if the future was beginning right this moment.
The source of creation, the dynamic urge behind it and its organizer, the ego, work in tandem. As you lead yourself boldly into the future as it is emerging, ready for anything, expecting nothing, you’re walking the mystery plan with practical feet, with the ego (organizer) and soul (context), leading the way as destiny needs it.
About the Author: John Davidson is the founder of HLP Group headquartered in Southern California, whose helped over 450 entrepreneurs 1 on 1 throughout North America operate at their very best, become serial creators, gifted bosses, and sustainable business builders. He’s written 6 books: “The Day I Built my Barbecue”, “The Unstoppable U”, “Stand in the Presence of All You Are”, “Choice Points”, “Stepping Out of the Time”, “Equitable, Trustworthy, Fair Partnerships”, and Three performance assessments: “The GAP”, “the RACE”, and the “Friction Finder.” John’s also published audio sets such as the “3X Magnifier System”, “TOPSCAN for Hire Results”, “Sharpshooter System”, and the “Enterprise Craftsman System”. www.highlevelperformance.com. 800-317-8571