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Every Christian leader should make detoxing their ego their New Year’s resolution for 2016!

Steven Sylvester’s profound but simple ‘without ego’ philosophy has much to offer Christian leaders, writes Shaun Lambert for The Baptist Times Steven Sylvester’s profound but simple ‘without ego’ philosophy is at the centre of his work as a chartered psychologist with world class athletes, senior executives, students, teachers, parents and others. It is now outlined in his new book Detox Your Ego: Seven Easy Steps to Achieving Freedom, Happiness and Success in Your Life. Steven is a former professional cricketer who is now a leading Chartered Psychologist providing a new approach to human performance. He helps a range of individuals and teams in professional sport, business, and life by shifting their motivation in life from an ego-based orientation built on the fear of win/lose, to a freedom-based orientation built on mastery of a skill, task, and craft and so on. When our motivation is ego-based our ability to perform at our peak is limited, because the ego is fear-based and defensive, but also significantly increases the likelihood that we will be selfish in the pursuit of our goals, and leaving our self-esteem at the mercy of our win/lose achievements. Although this approach is counter-intuitive, it is based on empirical research and Steven’s own work with many world-class athletes – enabling them to perform without the limitations of fear. He calls this the world champion contradiction! It is not just for elite athletes, the principles can be applied by all, as living ego-based lives is an automatic default for the vast majority of people when it comes to performance and life. I believe this ‘without ego’ philosophy resonates with the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus says in Mark 8:35, ‘For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it’ – he is talking about moving from a fear-based self-centred (ego) orientation to a selfless, fearless orientation. Paradoxically this shift is what transforms us – much as shifting to a without ego orientation in Steven’s philosophy also has the power to transform. To lead without ego is to move from a selfish, self-centred approach to life which is all about winning and comparisons with others, to a selfless mastery and team or community based motivation. My experience of nearly 20 years in Christian leadership is that most leaders within the church have an ego-based approach to leadership and ministry, even if they are not aware of it. This can be seen in the classic first question asked by most ministers of others, ‘How big is your church?’ The first step is to look at one’s self and establish what our motivation is: winning or mastery? This noticing and self-awareness is a form of applied and natural mindfulness, an open, curious, noticing of what our hidden and automatic motivations are. Steven enables us to examine our ego through a model with three components, inner ego, outer ego and transformational ego. The inner ego is hidden from others, the outer ego is what we reveal to others – and the goal is to reach the transformational ego which works selflessly for mastery, team and community. There are a number of other steps which build on this central foundation – and which enable us to examine the gravitational pull of our ego, both in terms of motivations, behaviours and actions. How we respond or react to our mistakes is the next step that reveals the deep roots of ego-driven selfishness within us. The ego is fear-based and triggers our natural defences, making change difficult and inhibiting performance and the exercise of skills. Our deepest unconscious fears that control much of how we react are that we believe we are not good enough, and that others will reject us – especially if we do not perform as others would want. Each step enables a progressive revelation about the ego. The next question that triggers revelation is, ‘Do you take time finding out what you avoid?’ Avoiding reality and truth is something that an ego-based orientation moves us towards. When we are mastery-focused we are able to face our mistakes, difficulties, limitations with open curiosity and in an undefended way. There are other key steps that build on the foundational ones. Our emotions give us important clues to our ego: can we smile at our mistakes, have fun, perform with joy? One of the key problems in sport, but also many other areas of life is achieving consistency in performance. The mastery orientation is the answer to that as well. In order to achieve consistency we also need to be able to remember to apply the principles, and sustain the levels of self-examination and self-awareness necessary for transformation in the moment. This is where Steven’s experience of working with people in a psychologically-informed way comes across. Each step follows the same pattern and so repetition makes the key principles part of our working memory, something we can draw on in the moments of living and performing. The final steps include asking the questions, ‘do you give to others?’, and ‘what is your purpose?’ These help us find that selfless place within that transforms the lives of others. I am going to work through this book and these principles with my key leaders here in Stanmore. I have set it up as our book of the month and I will be encouraging the whole congregation to serve ‘without ego’ in 2016. I believe we will discover the joy of selfless teamwork and mastery of the skills God calls us to exercise on His behalf. Steven’s book is available from all good bookshops and Amazon. You can find out more about his withoutEGO® philosophy from his website Shaun Lambert is an author and the minister of Stanmore Baptist Church in Middlesex. This article is written by Shaun and featured in The Baptist Times


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