Five Ways to Drop your Ego and Get Stuff Done

Five Ways to Drop your Ego and Get Stuff Done

(This article originally appeared in Ambition, the thought leadership publication by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) – in print and online – and has been republished on this website with the permission of AMBA.)

A new year brings feelings of a blank slate and a fresh beginning. It is an opportunity to determine what behaviours and habits you want to change to produce different outcomes for the year ahead. One of the most prominent obstacles we face when attempting to change our behaviours and habits is our ego. It may sound simple, but our ego can be a primary barrier when it comes to getting stuff done.

We can be our own worst enemy. We can be the quicksand that stunts our progress. We can be the dragging force that makes goals feel unachievable. The good news is we can also be the one who recognises this and puts a plan in motion for positive progress.

Understanding why egos get triggered

We want to believe we are smart, eloquent, and all-around decent people. When we make a mistake, many of us resort to excuses, explanations, and playing dumb. At an early age, we’re taught to strive to do our best at everything. As we grow older, we learn the value of teachable moments brought on by mistakes. We also learn that in life, mistakes are inevitable.

When we make a mistake and someone points this out, it sets off feelings of guilt deep and regret and sometimes also shame. After these feelings pass, we feel anger. We question ourselves and play the offending scenario over and over in our heads. We want to believe we are infallible, but as we’ve heard many times over, ‘to err is human.’ The pursuit of perfection manifests insecurity and defensive behaviour. Sometimes, it may also inspire deceitful behaviour.

The bigger picture

The ego is so focused on the self, it tends to make you forget the bigger picture. Remember your commitment to your personal vision and mission. When we’re focused on the bigger picture, our ego driven feelings becomes irrelevant and trivial. In fact, our minds suddenly forget our egos exist. Think about team sports. All the members of the team want to do well, but it doesn’t matter who scores or who blocks. What matters is that the team works together to win the game. When leaders recall their vision and mission, the ego subsides naturally.

Therefore, we need to channel that teamwork mindset to our individual egos and inner selves, paving the way for peaceful and meaningful relationships. After all, isn’t that what success is all about?

Here are five ways you can tame your ego and get things done:

1. Embrace mistakes

Mistakes are our greatest teachers. They provide us with lessons as well as stories to help prevent others from making the same mistakes. All too often we get hung up on our mistakes and this prevents us from moving forward with new insight. If you want to get things done, you need to forgive yourself and embrace your mistakes. In fact, celebrate your mistakes when appropriate. You never know when your experience can serve as a teachable moment for someone else.

2. Channel your empathy

When you enter a conflict with another individual, your ego will be triggered. This is a fact, and it is human nature. However, what happens after the initial trigger can usually stunt your progress. Just as you might ruminate on your mistakes, you might also resort to passive aggressive behaviours that force. Instead of being productive and working toward your goals, you may expend energy on anger and annoyance with the other party. This may prevent you from getting things done in your personal and professional life. Imagine the other party is someone you deeply admired like a friend or loved one. How does this visualisation change the way you interact with them? Is there a way you can neutralise your negative feelings to create a more meaningful connection?

3. Detach behaviour from emotion

When you are angry, take a moment to explore why you are angry. The next tip is to detach behaviour from emotion. Instead of thinking ‘I’m angry,’ revisit that phrase and say, ‘There is anger in me.’ What can you do to extinguish that anger? Remind yourself ‘all feelings/emotions are okay,’ but ‘not all behaviours are okay.’ After all, you can’t punch your colleague in the face because he or she said something offensive to you. But your feelings of offense and anger are completely valid. This awareness will help you get unstuck and move forward with your daily tasks and long-term goals.

4. Respond, don’t react

It can be easy to react to emotional stimuli, especially if it is negative. When confronted with aggression, dominance, snark, or outright rude behaviour from others, take a moment to identify the emotion you are feeling. This brief reflection will help you pause in the moment and respond (if a response is warranted) instead of reacting based on the emotion that is bubbling to the surface.

Taking time to respond is a proactive approach to any conflicting situation. The few moments you spend to determine your response may save you a lot of time in the end. What does this look like? Imagine you have a colleague who blatantly criticises you in front of your peers. Instead of acting out of emotion, pause and determine the best response to the situation. You may be able to eradicate the trigger through this approach instead of having to deal with it every time it occurs.

5. Confront and request honest feedback

Few people look forward to confronting the source of their triggered ego. Instead of ignoring your trigger, make a list of a few characteristics that define your trigger. See if you can suggest behaviours or an awareness for each one, as if you were giving the trigger advice.

Likewise, request open and honest feedback regarding your own behaviours and habits when appropriate. Some neutral outside awareness can be just the thing you need to crush your goals and banish unwanted behaviours.


The ego is important, as it contributes to our feelings of self-importance and self-awareness. However, we can all agree the ego can sometimes get in our way. Increased awareness and continual practice of the above tips will sharpen your ego-taming skills over time. Make this the year where you put your ego aside and move forwards.

This is an adapted version of an article that was published on AMBA’s website, written by Salman Raza; founder and CEO of Razalution Bureau.

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