Creative maturity: managing your ego
Much of our lives are spent analyzing things like the environment, politics, society, economics, art, parenting, crime, war, religion, etc. The list could go on forever. But one vital thing we tend to forget to do is to acknowledge our own ego amidst our day-to-day lives. It is our ego that motivates most of our decisions and drives us into any given direction.Working in business, we are inundated with problems daily, whether it be operational issues, human resource challenges, customer concerns and more. To succeed in business, one must be a problem solver. However, one of the main obstacles in developing your own ability to be that problem solver is oftentimes our inability to set our own perspective and needs aside. That’s because, more often than not, many professionals have the need to be perceived as a problem solver, but that desire overrides actually being a problem solver.
There are solutions.
We must always understand that the choices we make require analytical thinking with emotional tempering. Not the other way around. Ego is a good motivator but a terrible problem solver. Simply put, learning to manage your own ego is what separates the professionals from the wannabes. Creative confidence is shown not by those professionals who say they have the best ideas, but by those who showcase their ability to be flexible, responsive and nurturing of any good idea regardless of its origin or where that idea is headed at any given moment.
It takes a talented professional to set their ego aside and immediately listen to, discuss, address and solve problems on the spot, all the while knowing they may not have all of the right answers just then. Addressing challenges or opportunities in this manner can be difficult for some to do, impossible for others. But, as I mentioned, this ability separates the pros from the amateurs.
Compromise requires sacrifice. Sacrifice requires humility. Humility requires confidence. Confidence comes from creative maturity.
Creative maturity may seem like a contradiction in terms, but it is an absolute must when the goal is to produce the best solution possible for any situation. The dichotomy of exploring your options and ideas with a free and open mind while limiting your ego analytically isn’t always easy, but it is possible.
For those looking to further their own development in this area, the first step is to set aside the egotistical need to be “right” and instead learn how to trust others – and yourself. This means allowing yourself to be open to impromptu discussions, to step outside of your area of expertise and provide your thoughts (they do matter), to feel confident in the fact that you do have something to contribute and that your opinion is valuable. I encourage you to put yourself and your ideas on the line, especially during those instances where there is no time to prepare. You’ll be surprised at what you’re already capable of doing. For the no-holds-bar always idea making, problem solving machines of the world, who typically already have a highly developed sense of troubleshooting needs, I say it’s okay to take a backseat at times when you’re around others who are new to this creative maturation process. Allow them to venture out, learn and come to trust more in their own abilities and the concept that there is always more than one solution to any given problem. In doing so, it will help build their confidence.
Managing your ego is difficult to do and, as a business owner myself, it’s absolutely critical that everyone on my team is able to creatively mature. Without a proper balance of overall maturation, business doesn’t work. The environment naturally segments itself into “control freaks” (who become resentful and frustrated) and “wannabes” (who begin to create their own self-imposed walls the hinder their own progress and growth).
An efficient and effective way to reach the best solution in the shortest amount of time is to commit to muting our emotional needs to be right and realize that this sacrifice is required for the best solution. One does not feed the other.
Alex Raffi serves as partner and creative director for Imagine Marketing.
E-mail Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.