I was asked earlier this week by my talk therapist; “What is your perfect life?” I didn’t hesitate in describing to her my idea of bliss. After listening, she paused a few moments and asked; “Why do you not have this life?” I reflected on her question and responded; “Because it would screw up other people’s life.” I know my perfect life doesn’t equal the image, illusion, of what those who are connected to me have of their “perfect life.” My idea of a perfect life isn’t grandiose or over the top. It’s simple but would complicate my relationships with those who love and care for me the most. These complications would make my life imperfect. So, the choice to let go of what I think I want, need and accept what I have is key to stillness of mind and spirit.
Life isn’t complicated. We choose to make it that way. One of the ways we make it this way is comparing our “perfect lives,” or the idea of what we think perfection would be, with what our lives are currently. These types of comparisons only cause us to suffer, to strive for an illusion that is improbable. Letting go of comparisons about our lives, each other, and accept this moment, exactly as it is, is a big step forward on the road to a wise and content existence.
Ego breeds ego.
I have a friend who is dealing with the impact of another person’s giant ego. This person throws his weight around, reminds subordinates of their place in the company’s food chain, bullies, threatens and seems completely unaware of his self obsession. He feeds his ego by feasting on others. Meetings are uncomfortable because other employees aren’t sure who the target of wrath will be for the day. “It seems selfish,’ says my friend; ‘but when he chooses someone else I’m relieved that it isn’t me even though I feel the other person’s pain.'” My friend has tried fighting back, confronted his rudeness, challenged his preconceptions, pointed out mistakes, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. “I’ve found that when I begin to focus on taking him down a notch or two, proving he’s not as great as he thinks, my ego begins to grow and manifests itself in ugly ways.”
As we worked though this issue I reminded my friend that; “Ego breeds ego. When your goal is to win or someone else to lose, you both suffer.” One of the most difficult people to deal with are those with an inflated opinion of themselves, especially when they are in positions of power. Wisdom teaches us that humility, even in the face of the egotistical, is the path we should walk. Power, pride, personal gratification always slips through the fingers of the grandiose. Starve ego, don’t feed it or breed it.
This morning someone asked me if; “a leader with a strong personality is a good or bad thing?” I reflected for a few moments on the leaders I have served under. Surprisingly there haven’t been too many who’ve had strong personalities. As I whittled my way through the last I thought of two who fit the description. Interestingly enough one had the opposite personality of the other.
The first was gregarious, affable and larger than life in his expressions of love and support for friend and stranger. He was the type who would come unexpectedly into my office, plop down in a chair, talk for a while and then decide we needed to go to breakfast, no matter the time of day. He wasn’t in competition with his staff, allowed others to shine and didn’t keep a scorecard.
The other wasn’t at all like the former. His personality was certainly large but in a way that kept others in fear of their job or at least being aware their job’s future was in his hands. I do not doubt his love for other people but his leadership style could be overbearing and constraining. There was one way, his, one voice, also his. He believed his vision for where the organization was to go was the right one and took umbrage to anyone who challenged this belief. For those who were comfortable with his style, and their place in the food chain, things were pretty smooth. For those who struggled under the weight of his personality it could be difficult and debilitating.
As the conversation with my friend continued I spoke about both leaders, their style of leading and managing and their grandiose personas. “For those with over-sized personalities, whose job it is to guide staffs, peoples and organizations, not taking oneself too seriously is a good trait to possess. Humility, a servant’s heart and a willingness for others to succeed, to surpass and outgrow your ability to lead are also rare and valuable gifts. Leadership isn’t about sitting, guarding the big chair, but helping others find big chairs of their own to sit in.”