Are you happy with what you have achieved in your life? Or is your life a never-ending list of goals to be completed and dreams that are just out of reach?
One of my favourite movies is Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper as a struggling author who is failing to live the life he truly desires. His girlfriend leaves him when he can't get his life together and finish his book.
He then discovers a new drug (NZT-48); which opens his mind up to use 100% of his brain's capacity. He writes his book overnight and gains the ability to do some really cool stuff, like making millions on the stock market and learning new languages in just a few days.
It’s the ultimate fantasy of achieving super-human brainpower and being able to achieve almost anything in life.
But is it really a fantasy?
The human mind is a pretty powerful tool out-of-the-box. I believe that we all harness an incredible power within us to be, do and achieve almost anything we want in life.
The only thing stopping you is YOU. Isn't that liberating? Other people are not going to stop you from doing what you want. The buck stops with you.
So why aren't most of us living up to our full potential?
We all carry around a set of beliefs and stories that we tell ourselves on a daily basis as to why we can't have or do something.
“I’m not smart enough.”
“Things like that never happen to people like me.”
“I’m not good looking enough.”
“I’m too scared.”
“People don’t respect me enough.”
“I don’t have enough confidence.”
The truth is, you are an incredible human being that is capable of things you probably can’t even imagine. You have just programmed yourself to believe that you’re not good enough to do these things.
You have created a set of beliefs for yourself and adopted beliefs from other people that define the boundaries of what you can and can't achieve in your life.
These beliefs will define every aspect of your life, from the type of relationships you have to how much money you make, your job and even your physical health and fitness. Your beliefs determine most of your daily thought patterns and even dictate your emotions.
For many people, these beliefs do not serve them in achieving the things they want and may even be self-destructive.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Your ego is that little voice in your head that never shuts up, usually spouting negative and self-defeating statements about you.
It’s the voice that keeps you awake at 2am worrying about what people are going to think when you give your presentation tomorrow.
It’s the voice that tells you that you're an idiot when you do or say something that makes you feel embarrassed.
It’s the voice that inspires you to post something on Facebook so you can feel good about the validation you receive from others, and it’s the little voice that tells you that you’re worthless when you only get three likes.
Living with this voice inside your head is like owning a radio. Only there is no off button on the radio, and no matter which frequency you tune it to, it plays the same thing. There's no volume control either; sometimes it's quiet, other times it's so loud you can't focus on anything else.
Despite the common belief that ego is usually associated with a grandiose sense of self and outer confidence, the ego is actually very insecure and continuously views itself as being under threat.
The ego hates nothing more than rejection, failure, embarrassment or humiliation and it will do anything to avoid these situations. To prevent you from engaging in activities which may harm the ego, it perpetuates fear to try and prevent you.
Imagine you’re at a conference, and the speaker asks a question. You know the answer, but you’re afraid to put your hand up.
“Don’t do it, if you get it wrong everyone will laugh at you” – your ego pleads.
What’s happening here is that your ego is trying to protect itself from any potential harm in the form of embarrassment.
These thoughts are a perfectly natural part of being human. The problem is that most people are so identified with their ego and its thoughts that they believe they are their ego.
The behaviour of the ego is often comparable to having a lunatic living inside your head which is completely out of control. If you believe that you are your ego, then you will have no control over your thoughts or emotions. Your mind will be thrust in all kinds of directions on a daily basis, and all you can do is buckle up and enjoy the rollercoaster.
How much of your day do you spend worrying about something you said yesterday?
How many hours do you spend fantasising about conversations you’re going to have with someone who wronged you? (The ego loves ‘me versus someone else’ scenarios)
How often do you dream of attaining pleasure or relief at some point in the future?
How often do you seek validation, praise and approval from others?
These are all pursuits of your ego, and if you’re identified with your ego, then you become engulfed in every single one of these thoughts and you behave without any real awareness of what you're doing.
You’re a Prisoner Inside Your Own Head
When you’re identified with your ego, it’s running the show. Your mind becomes your own mental prison where the walls are built with your limiting beliefs.
Most of your beliefs about yourself are total bullshit.
Your ego is protesting at this statement right now – “How dare he! He doesn’t know me!”
When your beliefs come under attack, the whole foundation of your ego starts to become unstable and it will do anything to protect it's beliefs. Just look at all the wars that have been fought over religious beliefs to see how far your ego will go.
Understanding that your beliefs about yourself are bullshit is the most liberating experience you will ever have. Never again will you think:
“I can’t do this because...”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m not attractive enough.”
"I'm too lazy."
Try this: grab a notebook and throughout the week write down all the negative things you say to yourself. Also, write down all the reasons you tell yourself why you haven’t achieved what you want in life.
When you see these excuses written down on paper, you will probably be surprised at how ludicrous most them are. If you’re still not convinced, then ask a friend and see if they hold the same opinions about you.
Taking stock of your beliefs and questioning their validity is one of the most powerful and liberating self-development exercises you can perform.
If you don't question your beliefs, then you may go through your entire life missing out, never getting what you truly want because you're living in a false reality that you've created, usually founded on redundant beliefs that you have carried from your childhood.
Make it your goal today to audit your beliefs, throw away any beliefs which are not serving you and replace them with self-serving beliefs that make you feel positive, confident and optimistic.
Watch how your ego resists and fights back!
The Ego Dies in Self-Awareness
You don’t have to be a victim of your ego. You can free yourself from your thoughts and begin to create any kind of life you want and achieve your full potential.
The secret is to become self-aware. Self-awareness isn’t about realising that you’re a human being and not a robot, it’s becoming aware of your own ego and it's emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
When you become self-aware, you become aware that you are not your ego. There is much more to you than the little voice inside your head. You are not your thoughts, your thoughts are just something that occurs within you.
Watch this short video for a better explanation.
When you shine the light of self-awareness onto your ego, it will crumble, along with all your limiting beliefs, ideas and the bullshit stories that you tell yourself.
Your mind is the sky, and your thoughts are the clouds. Many people are so caught up in their thinking that they believe they are the clouds. When you become self-aware, you realise that you are the sky, and you can watch your thoughts passing through your mind like clouds.
Learn to watch your thoughts, and you will no longer be controlled by them because you see them for what they are – products of your fragile, insecure ego.
“I’m going to run the London marathon this year!”
The ego will feel threatened at a statement like this and quickly leverage your insecurities and beliefs and respond with self-deprecating excuses:
“You’re too unfit, you’ll never do it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, you are crazy!”
The person who lacks awareness will be so identified with these thoughts and beliefs that they will quickly talk themselves out of even trying.
How many things have you wanted to do in your life, but you came up with an excuse not to do it?
When you’re self-aware, you can see this for exactly what it is – your manic ego conjuring up ridiculous ideas to hold you back.
As a self-aware person, you can sit back and watch these thoughts passing through your mind without any judgement or identification with them. Just like the sky peacefully watches the clouds passing through it.
How Do You Become Self-Aware?
If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about in this article and you're asking "What voice in my head? Thoughts? What are those?" then you are probably not very self-aware.
If you have made it this far then you are already self-aware to some level.
Some people are shocked into becoming self-aware through experiencing tremendous amounts of emotional pain. When Eckhart Tolle was on the verge of suicide, he thought: “I can’t live with myself anymore.”
He suddenly became self-aware when he questioned who the “I” was that couldn’t live with the “myself” anymore. The I is self-awareness, and "me" is the ego.
Even when you become very self-aware, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns. You will never be self-aware 100% of the time, but if you practice daily, then you will usually be able to spot your ego when it goes off on one of its mad tangents.
The goal is not to destroy the ego (which would be futile) but to become aware of it and not identify with that voice in your head. The negative thoughts, feelings and the voice will still be there, but you can just ignore it or laugh it off.
I find exercise, mediation and daily mindfulness really help to strengthen my self-awareness and I regularly make a point to write in my journal and question all of my beliefs and thoughts on a regular basis.
The Beauty of Self-Awareness
When you make it your practice to enter into regular states of awareness beyond the ego, you will find many benefits and your life will start to change dramatically.
Most of the negative emotions you experience, like fear, hate, anxiety, jealousy and anger are products of your ego. These emotions are the result of THINKING, you think yourself into fear and anxiety.
In awareness, you will experience the more enjoyable feelings in life, like love, creativity, passion, inspiration and compassion. These emotions lie beyond the ego, and you can not think your way to these feelings, you can only access them by entering into awareness and letting go of your thinking mind.
Ever tried to solve a problem by forcefully thinking about it until you get a headache, then the answer comes to you later when you're doing a task where you are NOT thinking? This is the power of tapping into the creative part of your mind that lies beyond thought.
When you have mastered your practice of daily self-awareness, your thoughts, limiting beliefs and emotions will release their grip on you.
Your ego will never cease its self-deprecating self-talk; the secret is to become aware of your true nature and realise that you are not your ego or your thoughts, you’ll then see your ego for what it really is – a scared, fragile little child who is afraid of everything.
Then you can begin to let go of all your limiting beliefs, negative thoughts and self-defeating behaviour. When you have removed all these blocks, you become open to the limitless opportunities and possibilities that exist for you and you can pursue your dreams and goals with confidence.
"The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master."
– Robin S. Sharma