Counteracting the Me Syndrome

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How do you build a collaborative environment at work? Do you lead by example? Can you move your focus off yourself? Do you lift others up and help them to succeed? Do you treat others as you expect to be treated? Can you perform random acts of kindness and expect nothing in return? Can you forgive and forget those that don’t treat you as you expect?

What would life at work be like if you could resist greed, anger, and delusion? What if you could avoid the traps of ignorance, aversion and attachment? You could very well be your best self. In Work from the Inside Out: Seven Steps to Loving What You Do, Nancy O’Hara writes about steps you can take to avoid overly focusing on yourself and how you can improve the spirit of cooperation at work.

The Me Soup
O’Hara writes:

“When we sit in a selfish, deluded state of mind — the me soup — our attitudes turn to poison and taint everything. We see the world through the me prism and stand ignorant of what is truly going on. Then our desires and attachment to the way we want things take us over and control us. Next, when the world doesn’t conform to our fantasies, we move into a state of aggression and hatred.”

What Can I Do For You
O’Hara writes:

“This is a pattern that gets repeated over and over again in big and small ways, even during the course of one day, never mind a lifetime. But you can alter this pattern and change your habitual ways of operating simply by directing your attention away from thoughts of ‘What about me?’ to thoughts of ‘What can I do for you?’ “

Love and Compassion are the Antidotes
O’Hara writes:

“In a nutshell, it is imperative that you throw into the mix of your life a large dose of love and compassion. Otherwise you will get lost in the vortex of greed, anger, and delusion. Love and compassion are the antidotes to ignorance, aversion, and attachment.”

Cooperation Over Competition at Work
O’Hara writes:

“Love and compassion belong as much at work as they do at home, if only to counteract the meanness that is too often prevalent in the workplace. And this you can do. You can help change the atmosphere at work. You can stop thinking solely about you and begin to think about others. This will bring you more joy and happiness than any other approach — though this should not be your sole motivation, because having such an expectation will only set in motion the cycle of greed, anger, and delusion. So be careful here. Do it, but as you do it be loving and compassionate — for its own sake, then for the sake of others, and, lastly, for your own sake.”

The True Goal, The True Meaning of Life
O’Hara writes:

“Here’s why, according to the Dalai Lama: ‘If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.’ Isn’t this what you really want? Isn’t this why you’ve read this far? Isn’t it in fact what we all want? To the Dalai Lama’s sentiment we can add, When you behave in a loving and compassionate way while at work, your day-to-day satisfaction on the job will increase.”

Six Ways to Counteract the Me Syndrome at Work
O’Hara provides six ways to counteract the me syndrome:

  • Imagine yourself in your coworkers shoes. Sometimes you may think your focus is on others, as you watch them get a promotion or accolades from the boss or some other perk related to the job. But too often, even as you congratulate them, you may harbor feelings of resentment and self-pity. Next time, put your anger aside and imagine yourself in your coworker’s shoes. Feel their joy. Be happy for them. Don’t look at what you don’t have. Take the focus off you — let it be on them, with love in your heart. If you can’t yet feel the love, be at least willing to be happy for them. Create that intention in your heart.
  • Lend a helping hand. If one of your colleagues falls behind in their work, lend a helping hand. And before you lapse into judgement, and without acting superior, attempt to discover why the person is behind — become a compassionate listener if your coworker is willing to open up (without jeopardizing either job, and keeping the focus on work.) Realize that when every member of the team is efficient, everyone wins.
  • Keep your ego out of it. Learn to be a team player. Don’t just look out for number one. Become a worker among workers, no head higher than any other. Don’t play the big shot. And if someone else does, don’t engage in battle. Think about what’s best for the group. Keep your ego out of it but do your best. If there’s trouble in the group, express kindness toward this person. Notice the effect. Be awake and aware at all times. Be involved in the process and not in your own small mind. Park your petty ego outside the door and work with your healthy one — the one that thinks and behaves in estimable ways and can take care of you without taking the events of the day personally, the one that can rise above any mean-spiritedness and not boast about it.
  • Treat everyone with the love and respect that you yourself deserve and at the end of the day you will be at peace with yourself. If your motivation in practicing loving-kindness at work is to make people like you, cease and desist at once. It is not in your control, and in the end it is none of your business who likes you. What is your business is loving and caring for all those around you, even if you don’t like some of them so much.
  • Be generous with your ideas, your knowledge and your expertise, without being foolhardy. Share what you know. Don’t keep secrets. If someone walks away with one of your ideas and claims credit for it, have compassion for them and believe that they needed it more than you. Express gratitude for having this person in your life and trust that you will someday know why they are there. Don’t be stingy with yourself. Your gifts are just that, gifts, to be shared with the world. Nothing withers the spirit more than repression and stinginess.
  • Engage on a regular basis in anonymous acts of charity. Do something nice for someone at work and tell no one. Do this especially for someone who has hurt you or for you hold bad feelings. And don’t make it so obvious that the benefactor can be none other than you. Anonymity here is most important. Notice the impact that such an act has on the receiver, if you are in a position to notice. Best of all is simply doing, walking away, and letting go. Just be awake for its effect on you.

Key Take Aways
Cooperation and collaboration is a better place to be in the end. Here’s my key take aways:

  • Focus on the greater good. If you focus on yourself, you limit your vantage point and you send the wrong signals.
  • Don’t harbor resentment. Forgive and forget. Dwelling robs you of opportunities to be your best. It also creates the wrong intentions, limiting you and driving the wrong behaviors.
  • Contribute to other people’s happiness. Lift others up. You’ll build a better place to be. The act of raising others will force you to operate at a higher level.
  • Expect nothing in return. If you only manipulate or expect reciprocity, then your intentions are off and you’ll be let down.
  • Let go of what you don’t control. You can’t make others like you. Don’t get hung up on trying to control what you can’t. Focus on being your best and helping others independent of their intentions or their reactions.
  • It’s how you get things done. Focus more on your why and how and the rest will follow.

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  1. This post summarizes good advice for inside and outside of work. Always try to help out people even if it doesn’t serve in your best interests. If you focus on money you will never have enough, if you focus on time it slips away and you always complain about it not being there. If you focus on helping or doing something that could potentially help many people it makes work/life much more enjoyable.

  2. I liked the way you managed to convey the advice. Useful tips.

    Comprehensively written post. I have book marked this blog and be vising here again.


  3. Thanks Mike / Shamelle – Great to hear! It’s funny how a little perspective, can go such a long way. It continuously reminds me how changing focus and changing lenses you see the world through, are the most powerful way to change your life — in an instant.

  4. Hi,
    Really great article, i m really impressed, i feel if these rules are followed seriously we can be at our best .

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