How to Use Your Ego to Your Advantage

You might be thinking, “Use my ego? What does that mean? I don’t want to have a big ego.”

A large ego definitely isn’t always the best thing to have, but a large and healthy ego that’s in check can be most beneficial. We often hear the term “ego” get thrown around in association with negative connotations. “His ego is too big. He needs to get his ego in check. His ego will be his downfall.”

A good friend once told me, “Your ego is going to take you places.” That statement took me by surprise. I’ve actively worked to keep my ego in check and had never thought of using it to help myself grow. However, I understood exactly what she meant when I began taking risks.

Your ego isn’t as bad as it’s put out to be. It can be self-destructive, but it doesn’t have to be. When kept in check and used strategically, it can help you through tough times and propel you toward success and happiness. As long as it doesn’t get the best of you, your ego can be your greatest asset.

Ask yourself this question:

If I’m capable of succeeding, why should I doubt myself?”

Let’s define “ego.” From Dictionary.com:

e·go [ee-goh, eg-oh]
noun, plural e·gos.
1. the “I” or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.
2. Psychoanalysis. the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment.
3. egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.
4. self-esteem or self-image; feelings: Your criticism wounded his ego.

In a nutshell, your ego is your perception of yourself. We will focus on ego in the sense of self-esteem and self-image.

The ego is shaped by a variety of factors including friendships, family life, work, religions, what we see, what we do, how we’re treated, internal and external expectations—it can be negatively and positively influenced by essentially everything. Therefore, the ego is something flexible, something that can be expanded and depleted.

External factors such as rejection, verbal discouragement, or disappointment may damage and deplete your ego—you don’t have any control over these variables.

On the other hand, how your ego grows and how it’s used is completely under your control.

This is contrary to common advice, but surround yourself with people and do things that build up your ego. It’s okay. We have a plan. Although it’s easy to lose control of your ego or be confused as arrogant, don’t let that turn you off. As you’ll see, the pay-off of learning to use your ego strategically is well worth the struggle.

The most successful and influential people have big egos. Ron Rolheiser uses Mother Theresa as an example of someone who had a large, but healthy ego. Few people would initially agree, but, as stated by Rolheiser, “clearly, she had a huge ego—a powerful self-image that allowed her to stand before the whole world convinced of her truth, convinced of her worth, and convinced of her importance.” To have a large ego does not imply arrogance, but demonstrates pride in our past and a confidence in our ability and our self-worth.

It’s important to build up your ego, but it’s even more important to keep it in check.

How to Keep Your Ego in Check

1.Accept praise, but never believe it totally,” states John Baldino in an article from the Harvard Business Review. Praise naturally follows when you begin to go about life differently and experience success, but remember to humble yourself. Remember that there’s always more to learn, more to explore, and more to do.

You have to ask for help in order to continue growing. By asking for help, you demonstrate to yourself that you aren’t taking praise to heart. You demonstrate that you aren’t finished learning and you’ve accepted that others know things that you don’t. Baldoni also quotes:

“It’s okay if other people think you’re God, but you’re in trouble if you start believing it.”

2. Don’t compete with anyone but yourself. It’s easy to get caught up competing with your peers. Sometimes you may end up surpassing them, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that your work is done. There will always be someone else to surpass—yourself.

As soon as you make progress, your potential grows exponentially, and you’ll. once again, work to fill in that gap between who you are and who you want to be.

Make regular check-ins with your progress compared to a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. Celebrate your victories then think about how much further you have to go. Remain humble because you are not finished.

3. Pay attention to those you hold close. Don’t just take what they say with a grain of salt. Really consider what they have to say. Your close friends are the ones who aren’t scared to tell you the harsh truth. If your ego is growing too rapidly or getting out of hand, they’ll let you know.

Although your close friends may be the ones who will help build your ego reserve, they can cap it too.  They will remind you to practice humility.

How and When to Use Your Ego

How do you use your ego? Think of your ego as a reserve. It is a reserve of your successes and the adversities you have conquered. You know what internal and external hardships you had to face to get to where you are today. You know how much you’ve accomplished. You have quite a lot under your belt and you have a story to tell. Your journey really is something to be proud of—and you should be proud of it. You’ve come a long way.

As mentioned before, you ego reserve can and should be used, replenished, and depleted. Think of it like rationing water for survival. If you’re stranded in the desert with one gallon of water, you shouldn’t drink it all at once. You should drink it when you need to. Likewise, use your ego when you need to.

1. Use your ego when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. There will be moments that will feel like a personal all time low. You’ll feel like giving up, like you’re wasting your time—you’ll feel useless. There will be times when no amount of comforting words or ice cream can pull you back up. You can’t be uplifted unless if you truly believe in yourself and realize your greatness.

Take your ego, your successes, your knowledge of your progress and improvement and remind yourself of the amazing things you are capable of.

Remind yourself that this is just another phase and you’ll get through it just like you got through everything else life has thrown at you. Remind yourself of how much you have left to do. Don’t let this momentary difficulty hold you down.

Your ego can get you back up when everyone and everything else is getting you down.

2. Use your ego to face your fears. This doesn’t necessarily mean to face your darkest fear (although you definitely could). However, you’ll have impulsive moments.

You’ll want to go somewhere new, you’ll want to join a new organization, to attempt a new hobby, to speak to a stranger, but you won’t. You probably experience those impulses on a daily basis, but you hesitate to act on them.

The next time you realize you’re hesitating, remind yourself that you may not have that opportunity again. Take action. You can totally do it. You’ve already done so many difficult things, what makes you think you can’t do this one thing?

If you aren’t sure you can achieve something, well, you can. Just take that first step.

3. Use your ego to stop doubting your capabilities. When we think of doing something amazing, something that will change the world, we subconsciously imply to ourselves that that “amazing” thing is out of our capabilities. Why? Because it’s safe to say “I can’t do that,” and not attempt it.

It’s safe to doubt ourselves because, that way, we avoid the possibility of failure. However, that’s how we limit ourselves to sub-par work and influence.

Use your ego to convince yourself that you are capable of doing amazing things, that you are capable of changing the world. Changing the world doesn’t happen overnight. It starts off small and it happens gradually, one person at a time. Take that first step to do what you believe in and use your ego to sweep aside any self-doubt and keep pushing forward despite any discouragement.

Grow your ego, use it, replenish, deplete it, get discouraged, succeed, humiliate yourself, fail, then learn more. Just remember to keep pushing on.

You can be your own worst enemy or you can be your own biggest supporter. You decide.

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References:
Humility, Ego, and Greatness by Ron Rolheiser
What is the Difference Between Ego and Pride?
How to Manage Your Ego so You Can Reach Your Full Potential by Srinivas Rao
Ways to Keep Your Ego In Check by John Daldoni
Ego and Competence by Joe Arrigo

Photo Source: David Ly Khim

10 Study Tips to Survive Final Exams

23623_414967174008_6015206_n[Note: This article has been made into an infographic!]

Studying can get frustrating sometimes (read “all the time”). The season of final exams, that dreaded week, has come for some of us and, although this post isn’t the be-all and end-all of your troubles, they’ll help you get through these trying times. Good luck!

1. Get comfortable. Don’t get so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep, but it’s important that you aren’t fidgeting around in your seat while you’re studying. Make sure you aren’t freezing from the air conditioning. Make sure you have enough room to study and lay out all your study materials (and food). Allow yourself a maximum of 10 minutes to set up. Now that you’re comfortable, before you actually get down to business…

2. Know what you’re going to be studying. Hopefully you know what classes you’ve been taking, so you must know what you’re studying, right? Well, here’s the thing, there’s a difference between studying and efficient studying. Some people actually review all their notes and re-write everything. Don’t do that. It tends to be a waste of time. You’ll end up reviewing things you already understand and not put enough time into the more difficult concepts.

Skim your notes with a red pen or highlighter in hand. If you don’t fully understand your notes or a certain concepts right away, then write down key concepts and terms on a separate page. Continue through all your notes doing this. If you see a concept that you’re even slightly uncomfortable with, write it down. If there’s a concept you had trouble with, write it down. If there’s something you don’t even remember learning, write it down. If you find yourself writing a lot, looks like you have a lot of work to do. After you do this…

3. Create a schedule. Ideally, you should create a study schedule a week ahead of time. However, that’s not always possible. Before you study, review the list of topics you need to review and assign a block of time to each topic according to how comfortable you feel about it. Of course, if you completely forgot what you learned about a concept, you should spend more time on that than on a concept you already completely understand. Schedule time blocks for everything you will be studying up until a day or two before the exam (if you have multiple exams, you’ll have to distribute your time wisely).

This study schedule will be your daily checklist for what you will get done each day. Be realistic about how much you can actually complete! It you accomplish those tasks for the day, you’ll feel good and know you’re on track to being prepared. If you aren’t able to cross everything off your list, then you know you have some more work to do!

Important! Quantify your studies by the number of chapters reviewed, number of problems done, or number of concepts you actually completely understand, not by the time you spent on a topic (i.e. I’ve been studying for 8 hours straight). There are 2 things wrong with that. 1. You haven’t been studying 8 hours straight. 2. Time doesn’t mark how much you’ve completed.  Don’t BS yourself.

Also schedule in your breaks! Alright, it’s almost time to get down to your grind, but before you jump into it….

4. Remove all distractions. This means putting your phone away so that it’s out of sight and out of mind. If you can help it, avoid using your laptop/computer to study. Plug in your headphones, put on your music, close your laptop lid, and move it aside. If need be, have a trusted friend change the password to your Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/etc. If you’re studying with a group of friends, you should all agree to follow the same study/break schedule, or make it clear that you’re going to be studying, not messing around. You want to create an atmosphere of “Don’t bother me, I’m studying.” Don’t be scared to say it if you have to.

If you’re studying with a group, try this game: stack everyone’s phone in the middle of the table. If anyone touches their phone (with the exception of emergencies), that person owes the group something (a pitcher at the pub, a dollar to everyone, etc.)

More work can be done in 45 minutes of uninterrupted, undistracted, focused studying than in 4 hours of distracted, unfocused studying.

5. Take breaks and reward yourself. For some people, grinding for hours on end works, so in that case, continue! However, in my case, I take a lot of breaks. Breaks are necessary for information to really settle in. I like to study in hour-long cycles. This means 45 minutes of constant studying. No distractions. No talking. No eating. I try to avoid going to the restroom if I don’t absolutely have to.

Follow this up with 15 minutes of complete mental rest. Be honest with yourself, if you’ve really studied efficiently, then reward yourself. Go for a walk, have a conversation unrelated to studying, watch some TED talks or YouTube videos, do something completely unrelated to studying. Eat! Take a nap if you have to. Repeat. For the entire day. It’s easy to lose track of time, though. Remember to time your breaks! 

Here are some timers you can download to help you with this study cycle.

6. Ask for help and help others! If you understand the material very well, then help someone else through it! Teaching and helping someone else is the one of the best ways for you to study because you’re forced to think about the concept from another point of view. It will help to further ingrain the concepts to memory. Likewise, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be doing both you and your study buddy a favor.

7. Take practice tests. Professors give you them for a reason (or you can do a Google search for some). It’s best to review all the material before you take the practice test. If possible, take the practice test a few days before you take your actual exam (this is why you should be done reviewing the material a day or two before your exam). Simulate the test situation as best you can. Time yourself and do not look at the answers until you’re done! If you’re studying with friends, let them know that you’re taking a practice test so they don’t disturb you during the 1-2 hours of your timed exam. Even those brief moments of saying “hi” or “bye” will distract your concentration, and your performance on the practice test will not accurately reflect how prepared you are.

This is a great opportunity to gauge how ready you really are for the exam and it’ll let you know what topics you should spend more time on. After taking the practice test, check your score and carefully look at each question you got wrong and understand exactly why you got it wrong. If possible, cover up the answer and try it again right then and there to make sure you really do understand it. Then later on, try it again to make sure you still remember how to do it.

8. Change locations. A study has shown that changing your study location helps improve memory retention. This works by association. When you study, you associate what you learn with what you see. If you switch locations, there are more objects and scenes to associate information with. This doesn’t mean you should switch your location every hour, but if you spent an entire day in one study room, it would be a good idea to relocate the next day.

9. Remember to eat and sleep! These two should go unsaid, but I’m guilty of not wanting to or forgetting to do both, so I’m sure many others also need the reminder. You have to provide your mind and body with nutrients to push through these trying times. Eat as healthy as you can! This will give you the proper energy you need to study. Don’t eat anything that may upset your stomach (you know what happens)! Sleep will help strengthen your memory retention. You also don’t want to fall asleep during your exam–or worse, you might sleep through your exam.

10. Realize it when you have momentum going. This is very important to keep in mind. If you’re on a get-work-done-high, then by all means, keep going. Don’t take that scheduled break. Don’t get lunch. Don’t worry about how numb your butt is from sitting down all day. Keep going. Ride your momentum out.

Good luck with your studies!

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The UP Lab: This Side UP

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Welcome to The UP Lab!

Our Mission Statement at The UP Lab

The purpose of The UP Lab is to promote positivity, encourage people to follow their passions, and unlock human potential. We will do this by sharing personal stories of unparalleled ambition, dedication, and perseverance which everyday individuals display. We will share quotations from influential persons throughout history and provide genuine encouragement to each individual. We want to help each person realize their significance to the world and their immense potential to be remarkable.

Why UnParalleled? So there are intersections?

Yes. We believe that, no matter how you try to compare yourself to someone else, no two people are the same, and there is no flawless method of comparison. Although there may be a common ground where our lives intersect and connect, our lives are not and should not be identical. Each person thinks differently, each person has their own history and background, each person has something unique to contribute to the people around them and to the world. Everyone is extraordinary in their own way—whether or not they realize or embrace it. No two people are paralleled. We each have an UnParalleled mind, and live UnParalleled lives.

Why a Lab? Not all of us are scientists.

We’re not all scientists, but experimentation—trying new things and having new experiences—is essential for improvement and moving forward in anything.

In a scientific experiment you must tweak different factors to find what works, what doesn’t work, why it does or doesn’t work, and most importantly, how it works. We believe that each individual should always be experimenting with their life. We should always tweak variables to improve ourselves, working to move to the next level of development. We want to help others develop their own lifelong laboratory and develop themselves into who they want to be. We are each our own UnParalleled Lab because we are always adjusting, experimenting, and trying to find what is right for us to make UnParalleled progress in our lives.

Everyone has an immeasurable potential that can be unlocked with the right catalyst.

You’re very welcome to join us.

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Feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions at theuplab@gmail.com.