5 Ways to Check Your Ego and Be a Better Creative

Each Tuesday we like to give you a creative tip to help you mix up your routine, try something new, and glean fresh inspiration. This week’s tip: Kill your ego to save your creativity. 

Ego. It isn’t all bad. But it’s too easy to get wrapped up in your own self, convinced you are smarter, more talented, and more deserving of recognition than those around you. Unfortunately, those beliefs can get in the way of just about everything in life: your relationships, your work, your own creativity and ability to evolve. Hence, a regular ego check is important. Think you have a handle on yours? Think again. Here are five tips to challenge your ego. (Hint: At least one will make you cringe; that’s the one you should definitely try.)

1) Try Something You Might Suck At

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The ego craves validation, gold stars, and pats on the head for a job well done. But when you try something new—something out of your comfort zone—you might fail. And that’s OK. Rebounding from failure builds creative confidence. You don’t have to try something totally terrifying, but even experimenting with a skill-set parallel to your expertise will help you. Are you a photographer? Take a film class. Graphic designer? Try coding. Challenging yourself keeps you humble.

2) Observe Your Anger

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You mad, bro? Your ego is always looking to blow any minor transgression out of proportion. Next time you feel a surge of anger, ask yourself why. Did that constructive criticism make you feel insecure about your work? Did a coworker’s comment make you feel threatened, judged, or rejected? These feelings are all your ego’s overreaction. Acknowledge your triggers, then work on transforming negative energy into positive work.

3) Listen to Someone You Usually Dismiss

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You learn a lot more by listening than by dominating the conversation (the ego’s natural instinct). The truth is, you don’t have all the answers or the most important opinion in the room. When it comes to creative projects, we all have blindspots. Actually listening and engaging with people—especially those you think are total idiots—challenges your assumptions, forces you into the present, and shines a light on things you might not have considered.

4) Test a New Approach

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Do you have a knee-jerk reaction to change? Probably. That’s your ego’s anxiety kicking in. It’s easy to assume that the way you do things is the best way. But taking a new approach to a challenge or asking for another’s perspective can help you work better—and make surprising discoveries.

For example, I naturally resist productivity tools related to scheduling and task managing. But when my old-fashioned to-do list was getting out of control, I polled the office to find out how everyone else handles their tasks. Naturally, I was inundated with a ton of methods (one of which I adopted immediately and pretty much changed my work life). But more surprisingly, the responses to this simple question gave me insight into my coworkers’ personality types and how they view priorities. One prioritizes communication, responding to emails first; another prioritizes immediate task completion. Noting these subtleties makes collaboration with my coworkers that much easier now.

The moral? You don’t have to completely upend your process, but being open to something different lets good things in.

5) Give Someone Else Praise

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The ego wants credit and validation, but it takes a lot of work from a lot of people to make something good—no matter the project. Whether you’re managing a 50-person department or a lone-wolf freelancer, someone is always helping you. Was there a well-written creative brief? A last-minute catch by an editor? Acknowledging others’ hard work creates healthy working relationships and a more collaborative culture, which results in better work.

Want more? Check out our other creative tips.

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