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Posts Tagged ‘Growth

The Surprising Benefits of a Quiet Ego

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If you stroll down the self-help aisle of most bookstores in America, you’ll notice that book after book is about how to be great, look good, and win. All of these promises for self-enhancement can be loud and quite overwhelming. Sometimes I cheekily wonder, why is there no such thing as a quiet self section?

Of course, I’m not so naive as to think that a quiet-self aisle at Barnes & Noble would ever be as popular as the self-help section. But I am concerned about the results of one large survey, which found that the appearance and frequency in published books of the words “humility” and “humbleness” dropped on average 43.33% from 1901 to 2000. It seems we place a great deal less value on these virtues than we once did.

Fans of current self-help literature may scoff at these findings (at worst) or merely find them irrelevant to their goals. But they’d be wrong to be so dismissive. Because here’s the thing: the latest science of well-being shows that transcending, not enhancing, the self is the most powerful and direct pathway to contentment and inner peace.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to have a healthy sense of self. But as psychologist Mark Leary has pointed out, while the self can be our greatest resource, it can also be our darkest enemy. On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-control are essential for reaching our goals. On the other, the self has a perpetual desire to be seen in a positive light. The self will do anything to disavow itself of responsibility for any negative outcome it might deserve. As one researcher put it, the self engenders “a self-zoo of self-defense mechanisms.”

Which is why I was so excited to find out about new psychological literature on the “quiet ego.” What is so great about a quiet ego is that it is not a silent ego. As Jack Bauer, Heidi Wayment, and Kateryna Sylaska, who are leading the way in this line of research, put it, “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.” The quiet ego brings others into the self without losing the self.

According to Bauer and Wayment, the quiet ego consists of four interconnected facets: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and personal growth. These four characteristics all contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others.

The researchers created a test to measure these four facets.

Facet #1: Detached awareness

The statements testing detached awareness include:

  • “I find myself doing things without paying much attention.”
  • “I do jobs or tasks automatically, without being aware of what I’m doing.”
  • “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.”

Those with a quiet ego score low on these items: they are intensely mindful and aware of their surroundings. They are focused on the immediate moment without judgment or preconceived ideas about how the moment should unfold. This non-defensive attitude toward the present moment is associated with many positive life outcomes.

Facet #2: Inclusive identity

Inclusive identity statements include:

  • “I feel a connection to all living things.”
  • “I feel a connection with strangers.”
  • “I feel a connection to people of other races.”

People whose egos are turned down in volume score higher in this facet. If your identity is inclusive, you’re likely to be cooperative and compassionate toward others rather than only working to help yourself.

Facet #3: Perspective taking

Perspective taking statements include:

  • “Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.”
  • “When I’m upset at someone, I usually try to put myself in his or her shoes for a while.”
  • “I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.”

By reflecting on other viewpoints, the quiet ego brings attention outside the self, increasing empathy and compassion.

Facet #4: Personal growth

Finally, personal growth statements include:

  • “For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth.”
  • “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world.”

Personal growth and detached awareness complement each other nicely: detached awareness is all about the present moment, whereas personal growth is all about contemplating the longer-term implications of the present moment. Both are part of the quiet ego since both are focused on dynamic processes rather than evaluation of the final product.

The researchers found that those with a quiet ego reported being more interested in personal growth and balance and tended to seek growth through competence, autonomy, and positive social relationships. While a quiet ego was positively related to having a higher self-esteem, it was also related to various indicators of self-transcendence, including prosocial attitudes and behaviors.

This is consistent with the idea that a quiet ego balances compassion with self-protection and growth goals. Indeed, a quiet ego is an indication of a healthy self-esteem—one that acknowledges one’s own limitations, doesn’t need to constantly resort to defensiveness whenever the ego is threatened, and yet has a firm sense of self-worth and value.

They also found that a quiet ego was associated with self-compassion, humility, authenticity, spiritual growth, flexible thinking, open-minded thinking, the ability to savor everyday experiences, life satisfaction, resilience, risk-taking, and the feeling that life is meaningful. If we take a multidimensional conceptualization of well-being (which I do), we see that a quiet ego is more conducive to living a full life.

Interestingly, the researchers also found a moderate positive relationship between having a quiet ego and extroversion. This suggests that having a loud voice doesn’t necessarily mean having a loud ego, and having a quiet voice doesn’t automatically lead to a quiet ego. The strength of the relationship leaves plenty of room for people all across the extroversion spectrum—from extroversion to ambiversion to introversion—to turn the dial down on their ego.

Recent research even suggests that a quiet ego can buffer against existential angst. This is important because anxiety over death is a central (although often hidden) motivating force for many human activities—from religion and spirituality to sexuality to the drive for money and social status to many forms of psychopathology. While self-esteem can serve as an existential anxiety buffer, it also has a potential downside: when the ego is threatened, or when attention is brought to undesirable qualities about the self, thoughts of the inevitability of death increase.

Psychologist Pelin Kesebir argues that a much more constructive and healthier way of dealing with death anxiety is through humility. Across five studies, Pelin Kesebir tested the idea that high levels of humility (measured both as a trait and as a state of being) would be associated with lower death anxiety and lower defensiveness in the face of death thoughts. First, she found that high levels of humility and low levels of entitlement were associated with lower levels of death anxiety and anxiety-induced defensiveness. Humility warded off death anxiety more than qualities such as high self-esteem, mindfulness, general virtuousness, and even having a secure attachment style.

As Kesebir notes, “The humble person is probably more aware and accepting of the fact that against a cosmic scale of time and space, every human being is minute.” Finally, she found that memories of pride-invoking moments did not buffer against death anxiety, whereas memories of humility did.

So, there you have it: a quiet ego may have its volume turned down, but it is in fact the most powerful buffer against threats to the ego, including the biggest threat of them all: death.

Perhaps we should start building that quiet-self section of the bookstore after all.

–Scott Barry Kaufman

 

 

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Written by MattAndJojang

May 28, 2018 at 11:33 am

Does Money Buy Happiness?

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Photo: Flickr/RoBeRtO!!!

A key assumption in consumer societies has been the idea that “money buys happiness.” Historically, there is a good reason for this assumption—until the last few generations, a majority of people have lived close to subsistence, so an increase in income brought genuine increases in material well-being (e.g., food, shelter, health care) and this has produced more happiness. However, in a number of developed nations, levels of material well-being have moved beyond subsistence to unprecedented abundance. Developed nations have had several generations of unparalleled material prosperity, and a clear understanding is emerging: More money does bring more happiness when we are living on a very low income. However, as a global average, when per capita income reaches the range of $13,000 per year, additional income adds relatively little to our happiness, while other factors such as personal freedom, meaningful work, and social tolerance add much more. Often, a doubling or tripling of income in developed nations has not led to an increase in perceived well-being.

In his book The High Price of Materialism, Tim Kasser assembles considerable research showing “the more materialistic values are at the center of our lives, the more our quality of life is diminished.” He found that people who placed a relatively high importance on consumer goals such as financial success and material acquisition “reported lower levels of happiness and self-actualization and higher levels of depression, anxiety, narcissism, antisocial behavior, and physical problems such as headaches.”

The bottom line is that there is a weak connection between income and happiness once a basic level of economic well-being is reached—roughly $13,000 per year per person. To illustrate this point, the World Values Survey of 2007 revealed that people in Vietnam, with a per capita income of less than $5,000, are just as happy as people in France, with its per capita income of about $22,000. The cattle-herding Masai of Kenya and the Inuit of northern Greenland expressed levels of happiness equal to that of American multimillionaires.

Once a person or family reaches a moderate level of income, here are the factors that research has shown contribute most to happiness:

  • GOOD HEALTH  Physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH  Opportunities for learning, both inner and outer, and giving creative expression to one’s true gifts.
  • STRONG SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS  Close personal relationships with family, friends, and community in the context of a tolerant and democratic society that values freedom.
  • SERVICE TO OTHERS  Feeling that our lives contribute to the well-being of others.
  • CONNECTION WITH NATURE  Communion with the wildness of nature brings perspective, freshness, and gratitude into our lives.

When we look over this list, it is clear that happiness does not have to cost a lot of money. A tolerant society does not cost a lot in material terms, but the rewards to the social atmosphere in civility, congeniality, and happiness are enormous. Feelings of communion with nature and the cosmos come free with being alive. The quality of relationships with family and community grow from the quality of the time and attention we give to them. Personal growth requires nothing more than paying attention to the experience of moving through life. Feelings of gratitude for life are free.

Happiness is a nonmaterial gift that can spread like a contagion among family, friends, and neighbors—rippling out to touch people who do not even know one another. This is the striking conclusion of a study of more than forty-seven hundred people over a twenty-year period. The study found that one person’s happiness can affect another’s for as much as a year. Researchers also found that, while unhappiness can spread from person to person like an infection, that emotion appears to be far weaker, and does not spread as far or as powerfully, as happiness. The study also explored the importance of friends and social networks as a source of happiness as compared with the importance of money. The study’s coauthor states, “Our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise.” In the face of economic difficulties, his message is “You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.” Happiness is a social network phenomenon and can reach up to three degrees of separation (the friend of a friend of a friend), which means that your happiness can involve persons you have not even met.

Happiness is largely a networked social phenomenon once a sustaining level of material well-being is reached. If we worried less about material appearances and thought more about soulful connections with others, we could put our life-energy into creating robust, healthy, and rewarding relationships. The more we learn about the “science of happiness,” the more we see that focusing on material acquisition and status is not serving us well and that it would be enormously helpful to redefine progress.

~ Duane Elgin

Written by MattAndJojang

August 6, 2012 at 4:43 pm

A Lesson From Michael Jackson

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michael jackson_1

Yesterday was a very somber day with the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Based on the enormous amount of coverage of his death, I believe it will be one of those moments of “Where were you?” I can already hear people asking, “Where were you when they pronounced Michael Jackson had died?”

No death is exciting, but I believe all deaths do tend to make people reflect on life. Whether you liked him or hated him, Michael inspired the music careers of those who you may claim to enjoy. More importantly, Michael found a way to make his dream come true.

On Twitter, a good friend of mine posed this question “Would the world be mourning if Michael Jackson had gotten a “real job?” He then followed it by saying go “courageously after your dreams.” My friend, Willie, was exactly right. When you have a dream, go for it. About three weeks ago, I tweeted, randomly, that Michael Jackson picked a niche and got rich-the glove, the high water pants, the jacket, and the slick dance moves. Those who worked with Michael commented yesterday expressing sorrow, but also sharing how meticulous he was about his work. He believed in his dream and he pushed himself to give his fans what they wanted. This would explain why when you see videos of him, you see so many of the fans crying and pouring their hearts out profusely.

What dream do you have inside of you that you are willing to show the same detailed dedication to it like Michael did?

Even more, Michael did something that amazed me. He was charitable in his own right. He created songs and made videos about social issues that were and still are plaguing many communities. He went where others did not, would not, and could not go. In the end, he helped bring an enormous amount of attention and awareness to these issues. As he said in the lyrics of his song Man in the Mirror, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change!”

Friends, live your dreams! The world is waiting for what you have to offer. Just like Michael touched the lives of others through his dream, you too can do the same. Your very own dream is meant to bless the lives of others, bring encouragement to others, and/or provide inspiration to others.

Live your dreams!

Rest In Peace Michael Joseph Jackson.

Laymon A. Hicks

Written by MattAndJojang

June 27, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Kaizen

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kaizen

You can always become better.

Tiger Woods

Written by MattAndJojang

June 20, 2009 at 3:59 pm

11 Ways To Make This Your Best Year Yet

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Happy New YearToday is a wonderful time to take stock and reflect on the year gone by, the triumphs you achieved, the time you shared with family and friends, the good choices you made in business. But in order to grow and develop both personally and professionally, you also have to look back at and acknowledge the things that challenged you, the things that did not go so well.

There is nothing wrong with setbacks, in fact, I believe that if we don’t have obstacles to overcome along the way we won’t learn and grow. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once said, “If you want to increase your rate of success, you better be prepared to increase your rate of failure.”

We all have hopes and dreams for the future. Today the slate is wiped clean for all of us as we start afresh. Why not take a few moments to think about your dreams and goals for the year that starts today? In what areas do you want to grow? What is truly important to you? What challenges do you want to take on? Most of us don’t realise what we can accomplish when we unleash the hidden talents that we possess.

To help you make this year your best ever, take a few moments to ponder these 11 suggestions:

1. Challenge yourself

Have a clear vision and focus of what you want to achieve and set a time frame. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be at all times. Visualise what you want to accomplish. See it in your mind. Write down your goals, have a plan of action, and never doubt you will be successful.

2. Find the love factor

Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Stay away from the dream stealers, the people who would bring you down. Cherish the special people in your life and let them know you cherish them.

3. Dedicate quality time

Life is so precious; make the most of each and every day. Rise early, spend some quality time by yourself as well as with those you care about. Go for a walk, workout, read a book. Value not only the time you spend with your loved ones, but also the time you spend by yourself.

4. Stretch your comfort zone

Do at least one thing a day, which makes you feel uncomfortable. Push yourself; you will be amazed how far you can go. Remember: on the other side of fear is freedom. To remain stagnant is not to grow. To reach your full potential, you must rise above the fray and soar like an eagle.

5. Be passionate

Show passion in everything you do. Let it show in your body language, in your smile, in your voice. Let your eyes sparkle. Let the world see and hear your enthusiasm and let it feel your passion.

6. Serve others

Be a role model and mentor for people. Volunteer in your community and help others achieve their goals. Your world will be enriched and a better place for sharing your talents and giving freely of your time. Leave a lasting legacy.

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Let go of the little things you can’t control. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Recognise that perfection isn’t always the only option. Don’t let life’s imperfections bother you. Lighten up and see the funny side of things when they go wrong, the learning in them. Be tolerant, smile…don’t waste your energies on the small stuff, you have much bigger fish to fry.

8. Live with integrity

Always be true to yourself. Take pride in whatever you do. Be proud of who you are and what you represent. Accept others with all their flaws. Show compassion and goodwill to your fellow human beings. Be dignified. Lead a life of purpose and be proud of your values.

9. Show gratitude

Show gratitude and say thank-you to the people who have helped you along the way. Send a handwritten letter to someone who has touched you. Call up a friend or loved one and tell them how much they mean to you. Compliment a colleague or business associate on a job well done. Show people you appreciate and care about them. Acts of kindness cost nothing but mean everything.

10. Celebrate success

Be proud of your achievements. Take time to recognise yourself and others for even the small successes. But also be humble and dignified, sensitive to people who are not as fortunate as you.

11. Exude a positive attitude

I cannot express enough the importance of having a positive attitude and believing in yourself. Yes, you can be well intentioned, you can be determined, but without a positive attitude about yourself and about life, you will not succeed. Dreams will die, goals will fade, and gloom and darkness will replace clear blue skies and sunshine in your mind and heart.

Remember people will sometimes forget what you say to them or do for them, but they will never forget how you made them feel in their hearts. Make yourself a commitment for this year not only to have the best year ever, but to help others that you care about accomplish this goal as well.

Charles Marcus

Written by MattAndJojang

January 9, 2009 at 8:22 am

Waiting

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wait_2

A mother gives birth only after nine months.
Trees. It takes centuries for them to grow reaaaal tall and sturdy.
Real hair (not the ones you can buy from a store) takes time to grow.
Writing a book.
Wounds to heal.
Deep Friendships.
Loving a friend
Forgiving someone.

In an impatient society where everything is fast track, we forget the value of waiting. But the real things in life can’t be hurried up. Even if we still don’t understand why life unfolds as such, we choose to wait and grow. Because we trust and hope in Him who knows best.

Jojang

Written by MattAndJojang

November 4, 2008 at 3:04 pm