Who is controlling your actions? Your ego or your spirit? For me back in 1997 I had the opportunity to explore this concept for the first time on a conscious basis.  I applied for selection to attend the Johnson & Johnson New Leaders Forum. I was working at Qantas at the time, it was one of the major sponsors of the leadership program. Of the 600 plus applicants I was one of the 90 chosen to attend.  I was pretty stoked but also petrified at the same time.  This was going to be my first trip away from home on my own to a place that wasn’t exactly 100% wheelchair friendly.

The forum was held at Duntroon Military College in Canberra over a 4-day weekend. For me this meant a hotel stay nearby because Duntroon didn’t have any accessible accommodation for me. Even the toilets at Duntroon were standard cubicles making me thankful that I had learned to do frontal transfers so that I could attend the daytime activities.  It wasn’t ideal but the fellow applicants were very respectful when I had to keep the cubicle door open to go to the toilet. Fun times!

The agenda ran jam-packed with keynote speakers and activities with Team Leaders to explore the values-based, vision-driven and inspirational leadership platform the forum was based on. Wow! What a weekend that was! It changed my life on so many levels and has made me think when I talk to myself or when others talk to me.


Now to explain this concept, let me go back to the speaker who presented it to me.  Jim Stynes, the famous Irish-born AFL (Australian Rules) football player from Victoria. Sadly, Jim passed away 4 years ago following a battle with cancer but I feel extremely blessed that I had the opportunity to hear him speak. I know the legacy of what he told me that day is staying with me forever. Here I was expecting football stories and analogies from Jim and instead we got hit between the eyes with ego and spirit.


(Photo: Rock climbing on Rhapsody of the Seas whilst cruising the Pacific, December 2013/January 2014)


It is the internal battle we have every day and every moment of our lives.  Those two voices that battle it out to make decisions and to respond to our environment. Ego plays a few roles, our most important role is being the ‘bodyguard’ in physically protecting us during times of danger with the fight and flight response. In these instances, we need the ego to help us survive. Generally, though, the ego is false and is more powerful and forceful. It is there to create doubt and negative thoughts. The spirit on the other hand is a pure positive energy force that pushes us to believe and connect with our higher selves. It is the more difficult vibration to hang on to.

Here are some words to help explain the difference between Ego and Spirit.

EGO                              SPIRIT

Giving Up                      Letting Go

Guilt                                Responsibility

Mind                                Heart

Fear                                 Love

Basically it is a reflection of our moral compass.  Intrinsically we know what is truly right and wrong, the environment we grow up in shapes and carves the path or the ‘voice’ we tend to listen to the most.  The ego encourages separation from others, plays with our mind and makes us believe we are victims.  It creates a negative vibe. The spirit is linked to connection and collaboration, it comes from the heart, makes us take responsibility for who we are and creates a positive vibe.  Nothing is impossible when we operate from spirit. At the end of the day, it is our choice which ‘voice’ we will listen to.

So I can already hear you say ‘so how can I access spirit so that it becomes a natural part of my life?’


1. Get Present – stop our busy lives for a minute, breathe deeply and get into the moment.

2. Choose High Vibrations – Once you are present, you can feel the high vibrations more clearly.

3. Take Responsibility Through Conscious Choice – The buck stops with you.

4. Radically Reduce Thought – When the positive vibrations take over, we think less, trust our gut and are more at peace.

5. Humility – It allows us to accept ourselves for who we are, faults and all.

6. ‘Listen’ to Spirit – This is where our true authentic self lies.

7. Commit To The Process – Focus consciously on spirit and the right answers will come to you every time.

Having implemented this theory consciously now for 19 years, I can recognise and choose the spirit option much more easily these days, that’s not to say that ego doesn’t come and make me doubt myself and try to drag me down but I can choose to ignore it more easily now.

Much like the day on the Rhapsody of the Seas cruise, where these pictures above were taken.  Ego was having a great time with me from the moment we got on the ship and the challenge to rock climb was put to me. I battled it out in my mind oscillating between ‘I can’t do that’ and ‘I want to show everyone, particularly me, that I can’.

I ended up turning the negative vibe from ego into the fuel I needed to achieve the positive result that spirit knew deep down I could achieve. Spirit over ego and bang! A very satisfying result for the memory books.

(Photo: Hobart, Diamond Princess cruise to NZ, January 2013.  Off flying along the coastline of Tasmania with friends – Mel and Luisa)

In his session Jim also asked us to go through his 7 steps, to get present, close our eyes, breathe deeply and think about what we wanted our tombstones to read when we are gone.  He encouraged us to share it in front of the whole group.  Not all of us were ready for this (the ego plays a tenacious role) but for some reason that day I was compelled to push myself down to the front and share my thoughts out loud in front of the group, this was surely spirit talking.


I knew through educating others the barriers would break down and that is how I have seen myself since my accident, an educator, whether I wanted to be or not.

Heart Led LeaderThat weekend changed my life and enriched it with incredible people.  One of these was Tommy Spaulding (Thomas to us at the Forum! The name Tommy just never stuck after that!). He was my Team Leader and guided us through our activities.  I discovered a lifelong friendship with Thomas.  He has lived through spirit in the most inspiring way.  Thomas has shown me how to live serving others, it is through service that we develop and grow to be the best that we can be. That weekend I was put at ease that my being there was of value and I had important things to contribute.  I went away with renewed confidence and an open mind to how powerful we can actually be in shaping the way our lives pan out and that of our communities.

Thomas has written a couple of books, his most recent is  Heart Led Leader, and the name says it all.  When we lead with our hearts we achieve success on every level. When our heart dictates our actions we don’t operate from the bottom line or what we can get out of doing certain things which is ego talking, instead we operate from spirit and it is about genuinely wanting others to succeed with you.

So go out there, give it a go, listen to spirit and ‘live’ in that lane.  See the changes it can make in how you see the world and more importantly how you see yourself!

lizzy hodgins