Ask Steve – Intuition vs. Ego

July 9th, 2006 by Steve Pavlina

How do you tell the difference between what your intuition is telling you vs. what your ego is telling you?  Which should you listen to?

This is usually a significant challenge at first.  It takes practice to recognize the difference between genuine intuitive guidance and ego-based messages.

Here are some pointers that may help you tell one from the other:

  • Fear vs. fearlessness.  False guidance is rooted in fear.  The underlying assumption is that the world is unsafe and that you are not secure, so the guidance will be aimed at increasing your degree of control.  Genuine intuitive guidance comes from a place of love and the assumption that you are perfectly safe and secure as you are, so instead of trying to gain control, the focus is on expressing your true self.
  • Outside-in vs. inside-out.  The ego requires external results in order to feel good.  It will push you to achieve more in the hopes that it will make you happier.  Its focus is outside-in.  Give me money, success, and status, and then I will feel good.  Genuine intuitive guidance is inside-out.  It will urge you first to work on your inner development and secondly to express your best qualities outward.  It will not push you to seek happiness outside of yourself.
  • Scarcity vs. abundance.  The ego assumes you live in a world of scarcity.  For you to gain, someone else must lose.  The ego’s message assumes you live in a competitive world of winners and losers, rich and poor, successful and unsuccessful.  Your higher self knows only abundance.  It assumes there is plenty to go around, and that when you gain, so does everyone else.  It urges you towards joyful self-expression.
  • Head vs. heart.  The voice of ego remains stuck in your head.  It needs to justify itself to you through logic; it will eagerly engage you in a mental debate to prove that it’s right.  Intuition is heart-centered.  Its guidance will make you feel joyful and uplifted.  It doesn’t bother with justification because it expects you to recognize it as truth.  If you attempt to debate with it, it will simply give you the same answer again.

Here are some specific examples to illustrate the difference:

  • Intuition guides you to write a song from your heart.  Ego wants you to write a song that will become a hit.
  • Intuition guides you to ask someone on a date to share your happiness with someone.  Ego pushes you to get a date so you won’t be alone.
  • Intuition guides you to start a business that will help people.  Ego urges you to start a business to get rich.
  • Intuition guides you to forgive.  Ego pushes you to seek revenge.

Notice that the actual guidance can be the same from either voice.  Yet you’ll attract vastly different outcomes depending on the intention behind your actions.  When you heed the voice of intuition, you invite the flow of greater love, inner peace, and abundance.  When you heed the voice of ego, you invite more fear which fuels your drive for ever greater control.  Both of these are unending cycles.

Which voice should you listen to?

There is no should.  The choice is entirely yours to make.  If you align your consciousness with fear-based thinking, meaning that you believe that the world is inherently unsafe and that you need control to feel secure, then you’ll be led by the voice of ego.  You will take an outside-in approach to life, making the physical world primary and your inner world secondary.  The central focus of your life will be to achieve security by gaining control over your external world.  As an example, this is presently how the United States relates to the rest of the world:  achieve greater and greater control in order to assuage fear.

If, however, you align with love, meaning that you believe you’re unconditionally safe here and that your true self can never really be harmed, then you’ll be led by the voice of intuition.  You’ll take an inside-out approach to life, so your inner world will be primary and your outer world secondary.  The central focus of your life will be joyful self-expression.  As an example, this alignment was how Jesus and Buddha interacted with the world:  express inner peace and joy outward through loving service.

Although one approach may sound better than the other, both are equally valid.  You should feel completely free to choose whichever alignment you feel most drawn to.  Most likely you currently find yourself on the fear side, since that’s the most popular approach and one that is socially conditioned in the Western world.  While you can certainly listen to both voices, these two mindsets are really incompatible, so you’ll achieve more congruent results if you consciously decide to polarize one way or the other.  You always remain free to switch alignments at any time.

This entry is part of the “Ask Steve” series.  See the original Ask Steve post for details, or view the Archives (July 2006) to peruse the entire series.



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