We all know that having a big Ego is a bad thing. But is it egotistical to want to be “great”? If it is, how then do we rectify the Ego’s natural draw to greatness with an individual longing for purpose in life?

So often do I read the narration of writing greats like George Orwell that my consciousness begins its own narrative stream of inner monologue. Though devoid of foreign accent, my mind ebbs and flows with smart-sounding words of his that only an Englishman would find a normal habit of speaking.

Thoughts thus wander as if my words would ever be read and recalled in such a highly esteemed way. I would want such an honor, part of me. And yet I wouldn’t, another. This inner disagreement is a bizarre one. In moments’ time, I realize the conflict to be a commonly discussed struggle: attempting to rectify the ego’s draw to greatness with the soul’s longing for purpose.

Greatness Versus Purpose

In this regard, there are at least two conflicting motivations in the human mind that desire a similar outcome. On the one hand, each of us has some want to be great, recognized, as special or unique. And yet this want is driven by ego, a foul and greedy side to us all that we should strive to keep in check.

On the other hand, a much more sincere, compassionate and honest component of ourselves — the human soul — longs for some higher purpose in life. The soul longs for us to live with purpose, for a reason; to live beyond the act of living. The soul longs, beyond all else, for fulfillment.

The conflict is this: the ego and the soul both desire something similar. If we are to keep the ego in check, do we not also deny something good, such as the soul’s longing for purpose?

This “want” for greatness or fulfillment, while surely influenced to varying degrees by culture, history, and the circumstances of our lives, must originate in some facet of our humanity. The human mind is unlimited in its potential for thought and emotion: creativity, love, and others. As the human mind is virtually unrestricted in its capacity for feeling and thinking, all humans must be at least partly driven to utilize our naturally unlimited potential and utilize it toward a lifelong drive to achieve greatness or attain a sense of fulfillment.

The Motivations and the Outcome

While the ego and the soul desire a similar outcome, their motivations are strongly conflicted.

The ego is motivated by recognition. It desires greatness, proven and justified by others’ admission of it. Greatness is exemplified in lavish and outward praise, polished and admired plaques and awards hung on walls. The ego is driven to collect such symbols of greatness as concrete proof of greatness by way of its recognition by others and embodiment in physical “things.”

What irony that the absence of proof of greatness, by contrast, erases the accomplishments that had been proven as achieved. The ego’s desire for recognition makes greatness more fleeting and finite than human life itself.

Conversely, the soul longs for purpose that is evidenced only by one’s own recognition of a sense of fulfillment. Fulfillment is thankfulness and love. Fulfillment is sacrifice and struggle. Fulfillment is quiet reflection and hope. Fulfillment is immeasurable emotion, an indefinable and distinctly human sensation. Above all else, the soul’s longing for fulfillment is a exemplified in a lifelong promise and dedication to goodness — having lived with hope.