Moving Toward a Soul-Based Life

When it (the soul) breathes through man’s intellect, it is genius;

when it breathes through his will, it is virtue;

when it flows through his will, it is love.

_Emerson

How often in daily life do we lead with “soul”? Chances are not often. With the ego rearing its (often, ugly) head much of the time, our percentage of soul time can be quite low.

It is difficult to get our arms around concepts like ego and soul because both are difficult and some would say, impossible, to define.

Having said that, there is a distinction to be made between two almost opposite types of behavior that come from very different places in our minds and hearts and have very different consequences on our lives: one enriches our life while the other, limits it.

Let’s take a look at some signs of the ego versus soul as they arise in our daily lives.

 Signs of the Ego versus the Soul

Signs of the Ego                             Aspects of Life                        Signs of the Soul

Self-gratification                                         Action                                   Benefit others

Performance based                                  Self-esteem                             Values based

Entitlement                                                   Attitude                                 Gratitude

Someone to love me                               Relationships                           Being loving

Personal comfort                                        Religion                                 Compassion

Suspicion, Stereotyping                        Other Cultures                          Common bonds

Arrogance                                                    Wisdom                                  Humility

Self-defeating despair                                   Loss                                     Hope, Perspective

Personal gain                                            Meditation                               Being present

Self-promoting                                          Education                                Growth-oriented

Win at all costs                                      Athletics/Play                            To do one’s  best

Competition                                             Colleagues                                 Cooperation

Conquer/humiliate                                   Conflict                                    Win-Win

Superior/inferior                                 Other People                               Welcome as equals

Realize parents’ dreams                         Parenting                                Focus – child’s essence

To advance one’s own position           Contribution                               To benefit others

Now look back over the past 24 hours and ask yourself, for each of these areas, which direction has your behavior leaned—toward the ego or toward the soul? How can we move toward soul-directed behavior so that we align ourselves with our deeper values, thereby enhancing the quality of our life as well as  others?

Moving Toward a Soul-directed Life

  1. Identify circumstances that led us to slide towards ego-based behavior. When we are physically or mentally tired, or when we feel particularly insecure or threatened we tend to lapse into ego states.
  2. Find ways to manage our physical and emotional stress without sliding into ego behaviors. In Alcoholics Anonymous the acronym HALT is used to describe the circumstances under which a person is vulnerable to their disease. Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.
  3. Deal with oppositional voices that nag us with the thought that there is something basically wrong with us. Know that at the core of our being there is nothing wrong with us. The soul does not need completing; it is perfect as it is.
  4. Find the most nurturing environment where we can generate soul-driven behaviors. This may be through practices such as yoga, meditation, and prayer; in places in Nature where we quiet our hyperactive body and mind; through dance, art, and music and/or chanting;  or through the creation of a sacred space in our home.
  5. Surround ourselves with people who reinforce our move toward the true inner self and remind us when we are slipping into ego-based behaviors.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Feed a Soul; Starve an Ego and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Moving Toward a Soul-Based Life

  1. Meredith Moraine says:

    Deeply interesting and thought-provoking. Thank you both!

  2. Dan Tyler says:

    Very interesting and simple way of presenting the two different approaches to the multiple aspects of life. As I become more self-aware, I definitely see some signs of the ego in me and am learning to understand how these mis-guided approaches only lead to looking at life through a “lens of negativity”. This list does a nice job providing guidance on what the right approach is in different aspects of life. Thanks for the article and please keep more coming!

    • cedricj says:

      Dan, thanks for weighing in on this ego/soul topic. We certainly have found this is a useful way of viewing a very important part of our spiritual journey. It is never really possible to eradicate the ego. However, keeping it in check by being aware of its presence is a great start.

  3. Pingback: The Taste of Success | Cedricj's Blog

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