How ego misuses goals
Over the last few weeks we’ve fallen into a trap that we see many people in organisations falling into.
We set ourselves a goal.
If you are a leader in an organization, you might be thinking that’s not a trap.
Organisations need goals. Where there are multiple people working together, no matter how small or large, people need to know what they are there for. A goal acts like a destination on a map so that people know where they are heading. A goal gives people something to aim for. A goal keeps people on the right track. We agree – that’s why we set ourselves a goal.
A goal is a potential magnet for ego
A goal is also a potential magnet for ego. And that’s the trap. Ego misinterprets the goal. Ego sees it as an expectation to measure itself against. Ego sees achieving the goal as a measure of its self-esteem. Ego uses the goal as a stick to beat us up with.
The trap we fell into wasn’t the fact that we set ourselves a goal. We fell into the trap when we believed our ego, when it started using the goal as a stick to beat us up with.
When we set the goal, we had no idea of whether it was even achievable. We’d never done anything like this before. It really was a finger in the air job, as are many goals when they are set. Then our ego took hold of it and began to run. Ego decided that it was an expectation and that failure, of any kind, was not an option. Falling short of the target was deemed to be a failure, even though we’d aimed for the moon.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. We’re as human as the next person. We see it happening all the time in organisations and it’s not surprising that we were affected by it too. Anyone can get caught out by it at any time.
How do we break free of the ego trap?
Luckily for us, we know how it works, we know the signs, we know what to look out for and we can choose to be less affected by it, when we catch ourselves in the feeling.
When ego has lured us into the trap, it comes with a very particular feeling. Feelings such as despondency, helplessness, hopelessness, inadequacy, fear. When these feelings are linked to a goal, they are indications that ego has taken hold and we are no longer seeing the goal for what it really is.
It also means that we have lost our reason, our clarity, our resourcefulness, our confidence and all those things that we need to be able to achieve the goal. In effect, our ego has shut down our ability to achieve the goal.
When you’re caught in those feelings, you’re caught in the ego trap. When you know that’s what it is you can break free from the trap. You can loosen its grip. You can shake it off. All it takes is for you to notice that you’ve fallen into it. When you notice it and know what it is, that understanding alone can help you to get back on track, reset your aim, and reach your destination.
If this has piqued your interest, read more in our What if article ‘What if feelings are an indication of the nature of your thinking?’