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.
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?