Got Soul?

Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

Our natural inclination as humans is to live from the perspective of our ego: our thoughts and behaviors revolve around what we are getting or not getting from life or other people. We seek satisfaction; however, we never fully realize it because the ego is insecure and insatiable—it is never satisfied.  Consequently, we are often left feeling somewhat empty or disturbed, as if there is something missing from our lives.

Interestingly, many of us go through our lives never realizing that we can make another choice, a choice that allows us to see our lives and relationships with others through a very different lens, the lens of the soul. Switching from an ego-based to a soul-based perspective is a powerful paradigm shift. It dramatically changes the way we experience the world, improving the quality of our experiences and leading us to a deeper understanding of life and the great gift that it is.

How do we make the shift to living from the perspective of the soul?

First, we need to learn to distinguish ego-based versus soul-based thoughts and actions.

Second, because the ego is a constant presence in our lives, we need to recognize when it threatens to derail us.

Finally, during these destabilizing moments, we need to intentionally choose to view our life’s circumstances differently.

Here’s an everyday example of making a different choice. One of the authors had a long and frustrating travel day. The following morning, feeling exhausted and very grumpy, he left a popular hotel chain to meet a customer. As he exited the elevator, he read the hotel’s slogan, “Wake up on the bright side” and thought, “You must be kidding!” After he met the customer, however, he felt inspired to collaborate and help solve her problems. Suddenly, he found that he was engaging and energetic.

What happened? He made a choice. (Grumpy consultants are unemployed consultants!) But moreover, in choosing to be the best he could be for this customer, he discovered he had inner resources he wasn’t aware of.

We are all capable of viewing life from a soul-based perspective because it is an inherent part of who we are. It does, however, tend to be overshadowed by the insatiable needs of the ego.

At work and at home, it takes an intentional focus to respond to life’s challenges from a soul-based perspective. It also takes time to develop this awareness so that we can choose to shift our perspective at will.

As Thomas Moore notes: “Soul doesn’t pour into life automatically. It requires our skill and attention.”

Let’s take a look at some of the wiser soul-based choices we can make:

▪   We can choose kindness in responding to others (especially when they irritate us) rather than being judgmental

▪   We can focus on using our talents and abilities to serve others as opposed to showcasing our accomplishments.

▪   We can be present now, accepting what is and embracing it, rather than ruminating about the past or distracting ourselves with fantasies about the future.

Following is a checklist of typical life situations and our responses to them. Approach each category as an exercise, thinking of instances in your life where you acted from an ego-based or soul-based perspective and the impact it had on you and/or others.

Checklist

Signs of the Ego                                       Category                          Signs of the Soul

Self-gratification                                    Personal actions                      Benefit others

Performance-based                                 Self-esteem                              Values-based

Conditional                                                  Love                                       Unconditional

Entitled                                                        Attitude                                  Grateful

Getting love                                              Relationships                           Giving love

Personal comfort                                        Religion                                 Compassionate action

Chattering mind                                         Meditation                             Transcending ego                         

Intellectual pride                                       Wisdom                                   Humility

Despair                                                           Loss                                       Hope

Promoting self                                            Education                               Serving others

Domination                                                  Conflict                                  Resolution

Parents’ agenda                                          Parenting                               Child’s aspirations

Advance self                                                Contribution                          Benefit others

What choices are you making to live a more soul-based life?

What impact has this choice had on you and others?

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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)
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4 Responses to Got Soul?

  1. Kathryn Clark Silveira says:

    In the last 6 months I have been working on this. After all the books I have been reading on how and the importance of being from the heart/soul/non judgment place it was refreshing to read this very well put blog. It reminded me of why I started on this path and has restored my faith that it is worth the time that must be put in to answer the question. Got soul?
    One of the life changing choices I have made is to come from a place of compassion. Especially for those who I could feel used or judged by but most importantly towards myself. I was holding myself to a standard that was outside of my reach. The pressure the constant struggle to do more be more wore me down. Not until someone said to me “if you were your own friend what would you say to her?” did I realize I was on a path that I wanted off of.
    My focus today is to know myself now, making your third choice my practice.
    Thank you for the reminder.

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. We all have to be intentional on a daily basis to nurture ourselves at the level of the soul. The pull of the ego can never be eliminated but only managed in mindful ways. And you are right that the soul takes us in the direction of the heart as expressed in empathy and compassion.

  2. Jim says:

    A lovely commentary about a much needed perspective in our speed of light society. Making the effort to slow down to become connected in a more God-like way with ourselves and others is essential since there are influences to tell us otherwise. Let’s be mindful that the action to serve others does not stem from the conditional needs of the ego; that it truly stems from unconditional love. Pay it forward!

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