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The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was asked why he wore only black turtlenecks and Levi 501 jeans. A similar question was posed to former US President Barack Obama as to his limited wardrobe of only gray and blue suits.
Neither restricted their clothing for a fashion fad.
It was far more basic. They simply did not want to make a choice as to what to wear.
Whimsical propensity aside, both claimed such appareling allowed them to be more effective leaders.
How could a closet full of identical garments possibly affect one’s governance?
It turns out making choices, especially many small choices, depletes one’s subsequent self-control. The term researchers use is ego depletion, and the effect has been demonstrated in countless studies.
Compared to people who had just made choices (whether that’s deciding amongst several product options to purchase or even what to eat), those who hadn’t just spent time making decisions performed several times more effectively on testing than those who did.
The data seems to show that patience, willpower, and creativity are exhaustible resources, whittled away daily through each choice we make.
Ego depletion is a powerful concept impacting both our performance and emotion.
It’s also a completely misleading phrase. Rich in tragic irony.
Far from depleted, the ego is enriched by such self-absorbed pursuits. Whether we are making many choices or restricting options makes no difference. It all reinforces the ego’s prominence and subsistence.
I am here, and this is real.
In fact, the ego cannot be depleted. But it can be transcended.
In an inverted extension of the irony, we transcend the ego by making a different choice. A decision against the ego.
Which we do by looking with gentleness - without judgment - at all our ego attachments. What’s an ego attachment? Anything that matters to us. If it leads to an emotional reaction, then it’s yet another opportunity for kind, objective observation.
The more we practice such tender consideration, we not only obviate all ego effects, but in turn we experience more patience, willpower, and creativity. With zero depletion.
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of making choices from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, and how we can make the one choice that leads to extraordinary peace. I look forward to seeing you then.