The weird reason why your ego holds you back

You’re going to find that life gets a lot simpler when you understand one secret truth about the brain: Its primary goal is to conserve energy.

There’s nothing the brain wants more than to do less.

I often help my coaching clients see that fear, for example, is not actually focused on safety. Fear often leads us to miss opportunities that would increase overall safety (e.g. job promotions) and take dangerous actions (e.g. freeze during an attack). Fear’s clearly more interested in staying the same than in being safe.

One of the most draining activities the brain’s involved in is the forming of new neural pathways. That is; to think differently, to learn things, to see the nuance in a situation.

And this is where the ego comes in.

I’ve developed a hypothesis that ego – that drive for self importance which leads us to be stubborn, grandiose, boastful, and resistant to change – is just a function of the brain’s energy conservation strategy.

If you look at times where you’ve been egotistical, you’ll notice you’re behaving in a conservative way (psychologically, not politically). You’re trying to avoid changing.

You see yourself as awesome already. You don’t need to learn anything. You’re following old patterns rather than being humble. You refuse to consider the possibility that you’re wrong.

All of this is just the brain staying on flight mode with the lights dimmed, using the least possible battery life necessary in order to function.

It’s a short term and shortsighted strategy because you end up burning more energy in the longer term when you stop learning and adapting.

Be humble. Be curious. Assume you’re wrong. Look for different views. Put the effort in.

Don’t let yourself be manipulated by a 150,000 year old primate survival strategy!

For more on this topic, check out my podcast episode “The Blueprint for Bravery”:

One Response

  1. One way of identifying if your behaviour is egotistic is to ask, “Does this improve me or keep me the same?”

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