Many people end up in survival situations because of their ego. Our egos blind us to reality and push us in irrational directions. Often, a person is trying to prove something or establish their superiority by doing things such as climb mountains, engage in extreme athletic events, and so on. In the city, many (mostly men) will end up getting into street fights in order to “save face”. The cause of many violent crimes is exactly this – injury to the ego and the avoidance of shame or humiliation. In schools, the same behaviour is replicated by youth, both male and female, copying their adult role models. In fact, entire lives are often based around ego – the pursuit of high-status jobs, fame, wealth, etc. Nations go to war as an extension of the leaders' egos. And civilisations self-destruct for the same reason.
Unfortunately, however, ego has nothing to do with our health and well-being; rather, it is the source of misery and our own self-destruction. Even on a broader scale, the destruction of the natural world, including climate change, can be seen as a direct result of our egos, our selfishness and greedy pursuits.
So what to do? One of the best pieces of wisdom comes from that old Kenny Roger's song, “The Gambler”:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
This is very good advice!
For example, in the wild, many people get into survival situations because they ignore weather forecasts. They did not “walk away” from their initial plans. Similarly, many people end up in trouble when they press on through dangerous conditions, just trying to get to their destination, rather than either turn back or stop and seek immediate shelter. They were stubborn and unwilling to accept a change in plans.
In a potential street fight, or a war between nations, the fight can be avoided if at least one of those involved has the wisdom to back down, defer, walk away, etc. - and just be willing to look like the weaker one for the sake of peace. This of course requires humility.
The point is, we have to know when it's time to walk away, whether from the poker table, from dangerous weather conditions, from war, from the burning of fossil fuels, from dangerous technologies, from a legal dispute, or simply from an argument between two people. In all these cases, failure to walk away means making things worse.
The failure to walk away is an act of self-destruction, which we discover only too late.
Make the best choice. Ignore your ego.