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For a moment, let’s think of our personality as a vehicle. It can have only one driver at a time—ego or spirit.

EGO

Anyone experiencing dysfunction with their ego—too much or too little—has difficulty obtaining or maintaining personal power and encounters unpleasant issues.

Some of the characteristics of an inflated ego include arrogance, intolerance, self-absorption, impatience, resentment, cruelty, fear, blame, guilt, lack, conceit, craving approval, hatred, control of others, being judgmental, anger, selfishness, scarcity, vanity, greed, negativity, vengeance, entitlement, deceit, stubbornness, the need to receive “credit” for things, and that green-eyed monster—envy.

My friend Terrill Welch, author of Leading Raspberry Jam Visions Women’s Way: An Inside Track for Women Leaders, said, “I think envy in its very first blush can be a motivator. If we can use it as a stepping-stone to our own growth and action, it can enhance our work and success. However, if we stand on its soft green head too long, we will sink into the mire of our own self-rejection.”

When ego has the steering wheel and is in control of our personality while we make choices and decisions, the outcome is usually not in our best interest.

Ego is short-lived. It’s bound by time and space as we know it. An example of working from a position of ego—specifically envy—took place in my town. The owner of a yoga studio had a fantastic instructor working for her. So amazing, that the owner started working from a place of envy and fear, characteristics of the ego.

The owner became afraid that the instructor was even better than she was. As a result, she didn’t promote the instructor’s classes. In fact, she squelched them. As you can well imagine, this action had two impacts:

  • It diminished the owner’s income (a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face).
  • It provided the fantastic instructor with the opportunity to be mindful of the shifting circumstances. Being mindful—without being fearful—gave her the final push she needed to launch her own yoga studio.

When we approach life with a “guarding my rice bowl” attitude, there’s only enough rice to feed one person—self.

The individual sitting at life’s banquet with their arms wrapped protectively around their rice bowl is missing out on joy, conversation, and interaction with the other people at the party.

However, when we sit back in a relaxed position and share our time, talent, praise, and support, giving freely from our rice bowl, our life is enriched.

Since 2017, Dorothy, age sixty-five, has been the primary live-in caregiver for her mother and stepfather of thirty years. When her stepfather became gravely ill, her stepbrothers and sisters, in an attempt to “guard their rice bowl,” forced Dorothy out of the home, fearing that “possession is nine-tenths of the law” and they might not end up with as much as they wanted.

Dorothy could have gone toe-to-toe with them in a battle, but she opted to view this as an opportunity instead of a problem, and used it not only to clear material clutter from her life but to clear emotional and mental clutter as well.

She took a mindful inventory of the “stuff” in her parents’ house and opted to leave it behind. She said, “I’ve come to realize that less really is more. With fewer things to tie me down, I can do more living.” In offloading baggage, Dorothy increased her joy.

SPIRIT

Spirit is the vital principle in humans. It’s our very essence, our being, our soul.

Our inner self—the unseen part of us—is our compass, the light within. It is divine. The soul is concerned with the nature and purity of our motivation. Not so much what we choose to do or not do. But why we do or refrain from doing something—our motivation, our intention.

The soul is what inspires us. Unlike the body and mind, which are interdependent, spirit is a different entity, separable from the body.

Soul is eternal. It’s not bound by time and space as we know it. The soul’s purpose is to guide our personality, to help us determine and fulfill our life purpose—what some would call our soul contract.

When spirit/soul is in the driver’s seat as we make choices and decisions, the outcomes are for the highest and best good—positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing.

Some of the characteristics of soul include inspiration, creativity, love, generosity, dignity, empathy, acceptance, farsightedness, receptivity, patience, understanding, hope, laughter, harmony, kindness, honesty, respect, selflessness, honor, gratitude, compassion, humility, and joy.

During a client session, Natalie determined that her purpose was to “be extraordinary.” She said, “Being extraordinary isn’t being a ‘bigger’ person. It’s a soul-based life that keeps spirit in the driver’s seat. It’s waking up in the morning and saying, ‘Thy will be done through me.’”

You may have heard Gandhi’s inspirational words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This statement and Gandhi’s actions launched a Be the Change movement, which continues to wash across the globe among individuals who share the desire to make a positive change. The movement challenges people everywhere to commit to doing at least one intentional positive act of change each day for the betterment of the planet and its people.

Self-definition (how we define ourselves) determines the terrain we encounter during life’s journey and our sense of belonging. When this self is healthy and in balance, there’s an abundant return value to the heart. In this case, the dividends include not being held hostage by the opinions of others and living authentically—being one’s true self.

Laurie Buchanan, Ph.D.
A cross between Dr. Dolittle, Nanny McPhee, and a type-A Buddhist, Laurie Buchanan is an active listener, observer of details, payer of attention, reader and writer of books, kindness enthusiast, and an unabashed optimist. She’s a former holistic health practitioner and transformational life coach. Her doctorate is in holistic health with an emphasis in energy medicine. Her first two award-winning books—Note to Self and The Business of Being—are prescriptive nonfiction. Her next book, Indelible: A Sean McPherson Novel, launches a suspense/thriller series that takes place in the Pacific Northwest.