I think I’ve mentioned before that, during her classes, one of my favorite yoga teachers (Rebecca) loves to say that “your ego is not your amigo.” I love it because 1) who doesn’t love a catchy rhyme, yeah? and 2) it’s designed to protect you at exactly the moment that your willingness to push yourself to grow becomes your need to prove something, to yourself or the other mat inhabitants in the room. The first will help redefine your comfort zone; the second will just get you hurt. So how do you know when it’s time to go next level versus when it’s a better idea to sit tight for now?
Ah, c’mon…you know by now! Mindfulness, friends, mindfulness.
If you have a regular mindfulness practice (which yoga can count as, btw), then you’re becoming familiar with what I like to call the “mirror effect.” As you learn to observe without judging the different things that come up during a mindfulness practice, you get to know yourself quite a bit. You see where your head goes in different scenarios, you start to recognize patterns, and eventually, you can make choices about whether to let them keep repeating. You learn a lot about what your mind does when you’re in challenging situations. You begin to recognize what’s motivating you, and become better connected to your own intuitive sense of what you need to do next.
In this high-achieving segment of the world we MBA-types inhabit, we all have goals – and probably lofty ones at that. We are always thinking about how to reach the next rung on the ladder to “making it,” and perhaps occasionally (ahem) struggling with the consistent effort, patience, and even potential setbacks that come with that journey. We know that part of that process is testing our limits, but we often forget that “testing” is different than steamrolling.
If you want to shift your limits permanently, then do so mindfully. Pay attention to your own signals about when it’s time to push a little more. If it’s not time to move the bar, you’ll know, just like you also know when you are holding back on yourself. When you notice that’s what’s happening and call yourself out, then – no excuses – take the opportunity to make that growth happen. You’ll be ready, and that change will be real and lasting.
Egos are important. They teach us to appreciate ourselves and make sure we aren’t allowing anything less from others. When kept in balance, they can also help to keep us safe and ensure that our growth happens exactly when the time is right, without aggression, or hesitation. In other words, with the right amount of attention, intention and breath, you might just have yourself the beginning of a lifelong friendship after all.