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Personal Power

Article submitted by guest author Laura A. Belsten, Ph.D.

Personal Power. What is it? Do you have it? How do you know? Test yourself with this quick quiz. For each question, give yourself a score from 1 to 10 points, with 1 being “I never feel this way” and 10 being “I feel this way all the time.”

  1. I am fully aware of my professional strengths and weaknesses.
  2. I am in full control of my life.
  3. I know what I want and go after it.
  4. I understand and respect myself.
  5. I can make things happen.
  6. I have the ability to get what I want.
  7. I am decisive; I can make decisions despite uncertainties and ambiguity.
  8. I feel completely comfortable voicing views that are unpopular.
  9. I go out on a limb for what is right, even if it means jeopardizing my car
  10. I’m living my life exactly as I want.

Total your responses, and see where you come out in the categories below:

High personal power (91-100): You are among the elite who have a strong sense of your own worth and capability. You live life with an “inner knowing,” a calm conviction about who you are and your ability to get the things you want and need in your life.

Moderately high (81-90): You have a greater sense of personal power than most people. Moderate (71-80): You are doing well in some areas, but may need to work on a few others.

Look back at your lower scores. Is there a theme? Can you resolve to work on this?

Moderately low (61-70): You are exercising personal power on a more limited basis, and probably need to look at specific actions you can take to boost your scores.

Low personal power (60 and below): Don’t despair! This score simply explains why life seems overwhelming and difficult at times. As you work to increase your personal power, you will experience dramatic results in how you view, respond to and address life’s challenges.

People with a highly-developed sense of personal power believe they can set the direction of their lives. They define themselves from the “inside out” (I am capable, I am creative, I speak up and do the right thing) rather than from the “outside in” (I’m a corporate executive, I’m an attorney).

The opposite of personal power is helplessness or hopelessness, crippling self-doubt, and a lack of conviction to tackle life’s tough challenges.

Personal power is a critical emotional intelligence competency that reveals itself in strong  personal presentation, in the ability to confidently take on new challenges, and quickly master  new jobs or skills. People with high personal power are catalysts, movers, and initiators who don’t hesitate to take on controversial issues and stand up for what they believe despite opposition and disagreement. Quite simply, personal power is the degree to which you believe you can meet life’s challenges and live the life you choose.

Do you have a strong sense of personal power?

Turn, Turn, Turn

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

It’s that time of year in Colorado when the aspens turn.  Entire hillsides are ablaze with the bright golden glow of shimmering aspen leaves, dancing their final performance before they flutter to the ground and rest for the winter.  Carloads of leaf-peepers flock to the mountains to catch a glimpse of this stunning transformation of yellow and orange before the first snowflakes begin to fall.

Seasons come and go, both in nature and in our human existence. Change is inevitable, and in many circumstances, there’s not much we can do to stop it.  Many of us invite the start of a new season and the unknown adventures it holds– but how adaptable are we when a call for change beckons in our personal or professional lives?

The ability to initiate, manage and lead change is a competency of emotional intelligence.  People who are good at this tend to recognize the need for change ahead of time, and look for ways to make it happen.  They remove the barriers that may slow things down even if it means challenging the status quo.  They’re not afraid to stand up to opposition — even more, they’re good at rallying others to champion the change along with them by setting an example of mental agility and flexibility.

Those who struggle — and this may be most of us — tend to ask things like, “Aren’t things fine the way they are?”, or make comments like, “This is the way we’ve always done things around here” and “It’s worked up ’til now — why change it?” They tend to lack the ability to keep an open mind when major adjustments are made and are often blindsided when a shift occurs.

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein. 

Whether we embrace change or invite change–it’s going to happen.  As made popular by the folk-rock group, The Byrds, the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, written by Pete Seeger, was a 1950’s adaption of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and paints a clear picture of how there is a season for the different aspects of life — and that these seasons will come and go.

“To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven…”

Resisting change is like resisting the clock to move forward.  Change will and is happening all around us. Where will you be when it does? Will you be the one kicking and screaming or the one out in front guiding others toward the new directives?  Can you learn to go with change, thrive in change, and even lead change?

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu

Here are some tips if you’re prone to resist change to the point that it’s beginning to limit your development or trip you up.

  • Reflect on your current state of affairs — dive into areas like professional relationships, personal relationships, achievement of goals, satisfaction, excitement for life, financial comfort, contentment, stress levels, etc., and ask yourself, “How’s that working for you?”  Note any areas that could be improved upon.
  • Challenge the status quo. Ask yourself,  “In a perfect world, what would each area of my life look like?” (Or, within your company, what would you and your teams be producing, achieving, and experiencing in a perfect world?) How would I (we) feel if I could shift things to that ideal?  What could I (we) accomplish if these changes were to occur?”
  • Brainstorm.  Which small shifts could you make to turn these areas of life in a new direction?  No matter how crazy or silly the adjustments may seem, jot them down. If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach.
  • Note the impact these small shifts may have on you and others.  Who will be impacted?  How will they be impacted?  Be sure to include both the negative and the positive potential outcomes.

Once you’ve taken these steps, it’s time to develop a written plan for change initiatives.  This plan should include:

  1. Your vision for the change.  An example vision statement template to use is, ‘I want to ____ to create _____ in my life.” Or, if the changes are for the growth of your company, ‘I want to _____ to create _____ in our organization.”
  2. A list of short-term and long-term changes that need to be made.
  3. A sense of urgency. Write down why these changes need to happen and when you’d like them to happen. Set goal dates on each step of the change initiative.
  4. A council of wisdom (friends, colleagues, a coach, trusted advisers) to provide a multitude of counsel as-needed.
  5. Strategy. Which steps will you take first?  Which steps will come next? Does this order make sense?  Check in with your council and bounce your ideas off of them. It’s OK to revise the strategy as you move forward if needed.
  6. Action Empowerment.  What hurdles are keeping you from making the change needed?  What hurdles are keeping your teams from making the changes needed?  Learn what needs to be adapted to allow for action to take place.
  7. Collaboration. Communicate these changes with those who will be impacted.  Be sure to communicate clearly your vision and how they are to be involved, as well as how the changes will positively impact them. Make sure each team member understands their role and what’s expected of them to help make the changes happen. Ask for their input, their thoughts, their reactions. Let them know you are there to support them as you navigate the new paths ahead.
  8. Celebration.  Develop a plan for congratulations to yourself and your team members as you hit short-term goals.  Maybe it’s a Friday morning coffee to talk about forward movement, or a weekly happy hour, or a quarterly lunch to celebrate successes.
  9. Anchoring.  Are there shifts in your routine you’ll need to adopt to allow the change to be a part of your daily life?  Are there shifts in the culture of your organization that need to be made to incorporate the change as the new status-quo? Define what these are and see what steps you can take to create a safe space for the changes to stick.

Learning to not only adapt to change but initiate change can make room for new leaves to blossom in the next season, enabling you and your organization to grow and bloom to your greatest potential.

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Ready or not, here I come

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Do you remember playing hide-and-go-seek?

My brothers and I spent countless summertime evening hours in our grassy backyard, hiding.  The old ash tree was base, and the person who was “It” would begin counting, to 200 by 5’s, face buried (no peeking) in their hands against the tree.  The rest of us would scatter, seeking out optimal hiding places where we’d never be found — behind the scraggly cedar bush, up high in the apple tree, lying flat beneath the grapevine, crouched behind the old shed. And then we’d wait.  The suspense built as “It” got closer and closer to 200, and once there, he’d turn away from the tree shouting a triumphant, “Ready or not, here I come!“, and the search was on.  One by one, “It” would flush us out of hiding, and we’d engage in a race for the tree with hopes of reaching base first.

Sometimes, or rare occasions, I’d choose a particularly amazing hideout.  I would hear the others’ screams of surprise and mock-terror as their hiding places were discovered and the race for base ensued. I would sit still, not moving a muscle, barely breathing, proud of myself that I’d found such a good spot, though my crouched legs began to ache. I became aware that I was quite alone in the dark. It didn’t take long for the thrill being the last one to be found to turn into frustration, boredom, and isolation.  I was separated from the others running around, laughing and chatting together, while I just cowered there doing nothing. The longer I stayed in hiding, the less fun I had and the more fun everyone else was having without me.  I knew it was time to come out of hiding and make a break for home base.  But–was it worth it?  What if I was tagged before I made it home? I knew I could leverage my strength of speedy legs, and if it came down to an all-out sprint, I’d win. But only if I had the element of surprise.  I’d hover there, silent and still, poised to run, contemplating when was the best time to make a dash for freedom. Finally, when I couldn’t take the seclusion anymore, I’d leap up and fly as fast as my feet would carry me toward the old ash tree.

Does this story have a point?

It does.

Hiding works for a while but after too long it gets old.  We as humans desire to be seen, known, and understood, but oddly we are very good at hiding.  Especially from ourselves.

“The vast majority of adults have never met themselves.” — Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Accurate self-assessment is a competency of emotional intelligence.  It’s having an inner awareness of our strengths and limitations…knowing ourselves fully. It takes honesty and at times, a brutal truthfulness about where we shine and where we stumble. It often requires us to uncover, peel back, and reveal who we really are, no matter how this exposure make us feel about ourselves. But discovering our true selves, especially the not-so-pretty parts, can be downright scary.  What if we don’t like what we find?  What if others don’t like what they find? It often seems much easier to find a place to hide and stay there, crouching, in the dark.

This great cover up takes many shapes and forms.  Some of us hide ourselves in too much work. Others hide behind success, or a lack of success. Some of us take comfort in plastering a smile on our faces and never speaking our truth. Some hide behind humor, or drama, or complacency. We all do it in some shape or form.  No matter how developed your emotional intelligence is, it’s likely that some part of you is shrouded.  And it’s your choice to stay there.  But until you leap up and make a break for it, you may never reach the freedom of home base.

Are you willing to take a hard look at your blind spots? Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Art of Talking to Yourself, says this: “To know yourself, you must sacrifice the illusion that you already do.” I know, it’s easier to lay low, and not delve into our areas of growth.  Out of sight, out of mind.  That’s better, right?

Though it may seem easier to hide, staying hidden, unknown, and unseen becomes excruciating if it lasts too long. Hiding leads to a lack of self-awareness and separate us from knowing ourselves, and being a part of community, two factors that take a toll on our emotional health. In an article entitled, How Your Self-Awareness Affects Everything You Do, author Phillip Clark says this: “Altogether, self-awareness contributes to a leader’s emotional intelligence, which plays a critical part in their ability to effectively convey messages, recognize motivations, understand emotions, and manage relationships.” (https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/26329-leadership-behavior-self-awareness).

Knowing ourselves fully by coming out of hiding may be one of the toughest things we do. But it’s the only way we can develop a sense of accurate self-awareness and be fully engaged in our relationships.  So how do we make the break for home base?

1-Identify why you’re hiding.   One good way to unveil the whys is to look at your fears, and list them out. Our fears can indicate what is important to us — what we fear we might lose.  Journal about what you are afraid of.  Maybe it’s a loss of financial freedom, or feeling insignificant, or failure. No matter how ‘silly’ they may sound, allow yourself to admit these fears are there.  We all have them and figuring out what they are is a great first step.

 “To know a species, look at its fears. To know yourself, look at your fears. Fear in itself is not important, but fear stands there and points you in the direction of things that are important. Don’t be afraid of your fears, they’re not there to scare you; they’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” — C. JoyBell C.

2-Recognize and name your hiding places. You know where they are — you’ve most likely been crouching in them for years.  Mine is entertainment — when I’m laughing, and having a good time, I can pretend my stress and anxieties don’t exist. And if I fill my time with enough entertainment, then I’ll never have to face my fears, right? If you’re having trouble pin-pointing your hiding spots, ask a trusted friend.  Often the areas that are blind spots can be brought into the light with the help of someone who is close to you.

All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them. ” — Robert Zoellick

3-Weigh the risks. The hiding space you’ve created may be quite comfortable at this point, but you’re going to have to risk leaving it to discover the real you.  Ask yourself, “What’s the best thing that could happen if I leave?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if I leave?’ A simple way to work up some bravery is to list out your strengths and areas of growth. For each, write down an example of when that strength or area of growth showed up in your life, to determine if it’s real or just something you’ve concocted in your head.  Ask yourself, “Are there real examples of when these strengths or areas of growth appeared, and if so, what were they, when did they happen, and with whom?” Take a good look at these, then try to make peace with them.  We all have our good qualities and not-so-good qualities, and sometimes seeing them on paper help put them into perspective.

In life, we must choose to quiet ourselves and go through a period of reflection, an instance in time for evaluating our strengths vs. our weaknesses, an interval in time for recognizing the real from deceit, a moment in time for making necessary life adjustments for personal welfare. It’s through such, we begin to know ourselves.” –D. Allen Miller, author of Scarlet Tears

4-Leverage your strengths. Like I knew my speedy legs would carry me to home base, your strengths can be the very thing that help you run toward the freedom of accurate self-assessment. For example, if you have good people skills, are you using those relationship strengths to connect with others? Do you eat lunch alone or sit with your colleagues? Are you using your interpersonal skills to build rapport with coworkers and team members, or keeping them all to yourself? Take a closer look at your strengths and brainstorm ways you could begin leveraging them. Our greatest successes tend to come from putting ourselves in a place where we can express our strengths.  It’s important you know what they are and how to use them. If you struggle with this, enlisting the help of a social + emotional intelligence coach may help.

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.” –Toni Collette

5-Go.  At some point, you just have to make a break for it.  No one else can make the decision for you to come out of hiding.  But it’s the only to grow in this area of accurate self-assessment. It’s up to you whether you will — but ready or not, you’ll be on your way to seeing yourself a little more clearly and opening up the opportunity to connect more deeply with others.

He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”  — Lao Tzu

 

 

 

 

Your attitude determines whether you finish well in life

Article submitted by guest author John Drury.

There is an old cliché that says, ‘your attitude determines your altitude’. In other words, when you work at making sure you maintain a positive, giving and pro-active attitude it helps determine how high and how far you will go in life. I would like to add that your attitude also determines whether you finish well in life or not.

Circumstances and other people’s actions are often not within your control. However, your attitude is totally within your control. Although certain people and circumstances may ‘trigger’ you, ultimately, no-one else but you can determine your attitude.

To maintain a positive, giving and proactive attitude in life:

  • Is challenging and requires continual vigilance
  • Will involve some tough decisions e.g. may mean cutting some people (or at least their voices) out of your life.
  • Will mean continually wrestling yourself to ensure you never develop a ‘victim’ or a ‘poor me’ mindset.
  • You need to find a way to process regrets and deal with failure. Everyone has things they regret. Ruminating on regret is self-defeating.
  • Will mean you learn to forgive rather than hold onto offences and become bitter. E.g. I choose to believe that everyone who deals with me is doing the best they can, even if they let me down or do things that hurt me. It is my forgiveness frame.

Attitude is more important to a successful and fulfilled life than skills or ability or experience.

Explanation of the Model for Finishing Well:

  1. Those who continually work on their attitude and remain positive, giving and activewill be either an overcomer or a contributor. Both are likely to finish well.
  • The person who maintains a positive attitude despite major limitations in life is inspirational. The greatest human stories that inspire us come from the lives of people who have overcome adversity. People admire and love them.
  • The person of high capacity who has a positive, giving and proactive attitude in life is that person who is often stepping up to do the extra things that make a workplace or a community or a family function. They love to contribute and to make a difference. They are fulfilled in the service of others. People celebrate and love them.
  1. For those who lose the struggle within and become negative, taking and passivein their attitude to life, will become either a defeated pauper or a bored grumbler (a ‘grumpy old bastard’). Both make it hard for people to love them and are less likely to finish well.
  • The person who loses their way during life’s battles can become stuck in a negative mindset. They come to feel like victims in life. A sense of powerlessness and defeat that seeps into every part of their life. They decide at some level that they have nothing to give. They feel like paupers. Many become angry or depressed. They envy others who seem to be doing well. A sense of entitlement often develops. People pity them.
  • The person who has good health and capacity but has become self-focused and cynical withdraws into their own world. Grumblers become negative about the world around them and unwilling to serve or give to others. For a variety of reasons, they decide to play a very safe and small game in life. They struggle to find purpose. They become grumpy old men and women who push relationships and community away. People tolerate them.

To finish well in life, your attitude is more important than your health or your circumstances.  

A person who works hard on maintaining a positive, giving and pro-active attitude can be an inspiring overcomer even if they are unhealthy or have had major tragedy in their life. People will want to spend time with them. They will have family and friends who will be there for them to the end. They will be remembered fondly when they are gone. For a great example of an overcomer, check out this TedX talk by cystic fibrosis sufferer, Claire Wineland.

Alternatively, a person with good health and high capacity can fail to finish well if they become bored and grumpy. Or a person who loses the struggle with their attitude can be reduced to a pauper in life.

If you want to finish your life loved and celebrated by those close to you, it will have far more to do with your attitude than your wealth or intelligence or accomplishments. If you want to be pitied and tolerated, then your attitude doesn’t much matter

Only you can determine whether you live a great life and finish well.

Online Certification in Emotional Intelligence starts September 13th!

Our next online certification in EQ coaching starts September 13th, 2018!

This highly acclaimed course will equip you to administer the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile, one of the most statistically-reliable social + emotional intelligence assessments on the market today. You’ll learn how to help others increase their social and emotional intelligence and push through the hurdles that may be slowing them down. And you’ll earn 12 recertification credits from the ICF, HRCI, or SHRM upon completion!

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Exploding emotions: Do you know your triggers?

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I couldn’t help myself. I knew it would be better to stay silent, to not comment, to cool down and walk away. But my frustration levels had hit an all-time high and I could feel my heart beating faster and faster as I thought about what I wanted to say…what I needed to say…what I had to say. So I opened my mouth and out it came. It’s as if I had no filter to screen out the ugly, hurtful, harmful words — they just tumbled out in a jumble of anger, resentment, and fury. I regretted them immediately as I saw the pain on my friend’s face — he didn’t deserve this lashing.  Sure, I was upset — but my lack of self-control made an already difficult situation even worse.  Now I’d inflicted hurt upon another with my sharp tongue, and both of us now felt bad.  Oh, if only I could take those words back! But the harm was done and it would take weeks to repair our relationship.

How many times do we act on impulse only to regret it later? If only we had a way to control our reactions…

Wait a minute. We do. It’s called behavioral self-control and it’s a competency of emotional intelligence. It’s that ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses at bay. It’s that capacity to stay composed, upbeat, and unflappable, even in moments where our patience is tested.  It’s the power to restrain negative reactions and keep a clear head when we’re under siege. Those who are good at this are able to maintain their composure even in high-stress situations, and when faced with hostility or opposition, remain ‘cool” under pressure. Behavioral self-control is a powerful competency to possess, and we are all capable of owning it.

But let’s admit it: some of us aren’t so good at it. We react on impulse and become angry or agitated when conflict arises. We tend to be quick to anger, defensive, and can get involved in inappropriate situations because our ability to resist the temptation of a non-constructive response is weak.

What is it that causes us to make knee-jerk reactions when our emotions are involved?

Have you ever attempted to open one of those cans of pre-made biscuit dough?  You know the drill — you peel off the paper at the “Peel Here” tab, slowly, carefully, knowing once you pull it back to where it’s sealed, the trigger, there’s no going back: the can will explode and out pops the dough. It can be a bit of an unnerving process. I’ve actually heard of people who have a fear of that impending explosion and choose to not open the cans!  Similarly, we can be afraid to open our ‘can of emotions’ as our brain has a trigger point, too. The Amygdala is located in the temporal lobes and is the part of our brain that is involved with experiencing emotions. Part of the limbic system, its primary role is to process decision-making, memory, and our emotional responses (http://brainmadesimple.com/amygdala.html). An Amygdala hijack is a phrase coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, to describe an overwhelming emotional response that does not match up to the actual stimulus. Fear is usually involved. Looking back on the interaction with my friend, though my angst was understandable, my reaction was over-the-top in comparison to the reality of the situation. I exploded just like that can of biscuits, startling and disturbing both of us in the process. I experienced an Amygdala hijack. Instead of responding with reason, an emotional trigger caused me to, in the moment, experience fear, then determine that the situation was of much greater significance than it actually was.  The result? I said things that weren’t exactly the most beneficial to our relationship.

“He who blows his top loses all his thinking matter.” – Chinese proverb

We all explode from time to time. Losing it is natural, and normal if you will — but not conducive to building healthy relationships.  The good news is that behavioral self-control is something we can grow in, even if we’re pretty bad at it.

A good place to start is to keep an emotional mood journal.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — just grab a piece of paper and a pen and/or your cell phone memo pad and start taking note of how you’re feeling in the moment…and why you’re feeling it.  Go ahead and try it — right now, how are you feeling?  Try to be specific with the emotion — especially around the negative ones. Instead of “mad”, maybe you’re frustrated, or disgruntled, or discouraged, or just plain tired.  Alongside the emotion, write down what you think the cause may be.  These ‘whys’ are your hot buttons — your triggers — that place where the seal on the can will burst.

Do this for several days — a week maybe — and look back over your entries to see if you notice any trends. Are certain emotions coming up at a particular time of day (pre-coffee, maybe?).  Are they only when you’re around a certain person? Are they occurring when you feel stress, or a pending deadline, or are they arising when you’re fearful about something? Jot down any patterns you observe.

Once we are aware of the emotions we are feeling, and when we’re feeling them, we then can move to managing our behavior. In week two, write down how you react when you are feeling these emotions. Do you get quiet? Do you say something mouthy? Do you stuff the feeling down deep and distract yourself with something else? Do you eat? Do you get negative and depressed? After noticing your reactions, note whether your reaction is helping the situation or making it worse. Then do a damage report. Access the destruction your actions are causing, on yourself and on your relationships with others. Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes seeing the harm we are doing to spur us to make a different choice.

“Anyone can become angry — that is easy.  But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, and the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — this is not easy.” — Aristotle

The next step is to begin to look for new and more positive responses to those emotions. Brainstorm what  you could do differently and write these down. Post these somewhere where you can see them throughout the day. If the biscuits would stay fresh, I’d recommend setting a can on your desk as a reminder of how quickly an Amygdala hijack can occur — and how powerful the explosion can be. Maybe just download a picture and keep handy to serve as an admonition. When that old familiar feeling arises, glance at the photo and check your list. Take a breath, pause, and choose the response you want rather than reacting. Easier said than done, I know. Working with a trained social + emotional intelligence coach can help with this process.

“Our ability to pause before we react gives us the space of mind in which we can consider various options and then choose the appropriate ones.” — Daniel Siegel

Finally, once you’re able to respond to these emotions in a more constructive manner, note how you feel after making better choices. With most skill sets, practice makes perfect. Well, in this case, you won’t be perfect, but with practice you can start down the road toward behavior change, improving your mental well-being and making choices that lead to happier, healthier relationships. And maybe take some of the fear out of opening that can.

 

 

Do you have a blind spot?

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I knew I was in trouble within the first 50 yards.

It was mid-summer and I’d been riding for a good two months. In early spring, I had taken up the new-to-me sport of mountain biking, learning the basics from an experienced friend then getting out there and hitting the trails as soon as the snow melted. I embarked upon easy, rambling, single-track paths that cut through scenic groves of aspen, across meadows, and into deep mountain forests, with very few inclines or technical spots to maneuver through. These were beginner trails, but I was having so much fun I kind of missed the fact there were differing levels of terrain. I so enjoyed the breathtaking views and healthy ‘burn’ in my legs from pedaling for an hour at a time. I was feeling like a rock star navigating these routes with ease. So, I did what any brand-new rider would do (not): I registered for the Winter Park Mountain Bike race series.

The first race of the series was an altitude ride, starting at 8500 feet, approximately 10 miles long with an elevation gain of 2500 feet. I had a decent bicycle, a hard tail, but one that was much more lightweight than my previous hand-me-down bike, and with my thrift store biking shorts and colorful, sleeveless top with pockets in the back, I felt well-prepared for the competition. Water — check. New cleats on my shoes — check. Energy snacks in pocket — check.  There was a chill in the air on morning of the race, and I couldn’t tell if it was from the cool temperatures at elevation or from the pre-race jitters. I was excited to be a part of the athletic, well-toned crowd of participants that gathered at the start, giddy that I’d so quickly become a mountain biker!

The starting gun exploded, and we were off. The first 50 yards were uphill, and within minutes my legs were weak, my lungs were screaming, and I found myself immediately falling to the back of the several hundred women riders. Huh?  I’d been training…!? And in the back is where I stayed. Within the first couple of miles, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, a jumble of embarrassment, fear that I might not be able to finish, and sheer physical fatigue. I fought off the cry-feeling as I struggled to tackle the steep hill climbs, the rocky, uneven paths, the stream crossings, and the lack-of-oxygen at elevation. I wrecked. I wrecked again.  A woman who looked to be well over 80 years of age whizzed by me, as did a young girl with a pink dinosaur helmet. I lost one of my cleats which enabled one of my furiously-pedaling feet to fly off the pedal each time I hit a bump — which was every few seconds. I couldn’t help but have the “da da da, da da, da” tune spinning ’round in my head, visualizing the Wicked Witch of the West frantically pedaling through the tornado on her old bicycle. On one sharp corner, I sailed right off the trail, landing in a tangle of brambles. As I attempted to climb one particular hill, I came to a complete stop and had to walk my bike the rest of the way. I got stuck in the muck of the water crossings and even did an “end-o” when I hit a large rock square on, landing flat on my back, knocking the wind out of me, as the few riders behind me quickly swerved to not run me over. It was obvious: I was in way over my head.  My leg was bleeding, my fingers ached from my death-like grip on the handlebars, and my mental well-being was, well, not so well. I was completely overwhelmed. As I passed one of the last water stations, I could hear the volunteer deliver a static message on the walkie-talkie as they started packing up the table: “That’s the last one”. Wow. Last place. Me — last? I never get last place! This thought again triggered the cry-feeling. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw the arch of the finish line ahead, glistening like the Emerald City. Very few spectators were left, as the riders they were cheering on had finished long before me. I crossed over the chalked white line, lay down my bike, collapsed in the grass, and cried.

Accurate self-assessment is a competency of emotional intelligence. It’s that inner awareness of our strengths and limitations, an ability to discern what we can and can’t do. People who have it have a good clue what they can accomplish — and what they cannot. They tend to be reflective and learn from past experiences. They are aware of their surroundings and where they fit in.

It’s something that was absent before my race, and very present at the end.

In her book Insight, Tasha Eurich makes a surprising finding after conducting a series of surveys: “95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are.” And the causes of this ‘miss’? Blind spots (those hidden areas where we need to grow), the ‘feel-good effect’ (we feel better when we see ourselves positively and ignore our faults), and what she calls ‘cult of self’, which is our tendency to be self-absorbed. (https://www.amazon.com/Insight-Surprising-Others-Ourselves-Answers/dp/0525573941/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534976016&sr=8-1&keywords=tasha+eurich+insight)

Regarding my mountain biking skills, prior to the race, I was obviously NOT in the 10-15 percentile. I missed. Badly. And I reaped the consequences. The humiliation and absolute, overwhelming exhaustion I experienced, not to mention how sore I was for the following week from the bumps and bruises on both my body and my ego, served as a healthy reminder of my lack of accurate self-assessment.

Where do you fall in that percentage? Are you truly self-aware of your strengths and limitations?

There are some indicators in those who struggle with this competency. They tend to want to appear right in the eyes of others and compete instead of cooperate. Teamwork and collaboration skills may be low (one of the areas I struggle with!). They often won’t ask for help and exaggerate their own contributions and efforts. Those that are low in this emotional intelligence competency often set unrealistic, overly ambitions, unattainable goals, and push themselves hard, at the expense of other important aspects of their lives. Sound familiar? I see it now. I had no business entering that race — but at the time my over-inflated view of my skills and abilities took precedence.

“Because your brain uses information from the areas around the blind spot to make a reasonable guess about what the blind spot would see if only it weren’t blind, and then your brain fills in the scene with this information. That’s right, it invents things, creates things, makes stuff up!” — Daniel Gilbert

Hopefully your ability to accurately self-assess will provide valuable insight that prevents you from entering a mountain bike race that’s beyond your capability. But you may notice it crop up from time to time in other areas of your life. Maybe you commit to spending more hours on a project than you actually have. Maybe you catch yourself bragging on an accomplishment, so you look good, or are caught embellishing stories to make them sound more grandiose. Maybe…you fill in the blank. Most likely, after the fact, you’ll realize where you missed.  And if you don’t, someone will probably let you know.

Who knows, you may be that close. You could be uncovering a blind spot or two away to take your career to the next height…” — Assegid Habetwold, author of The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For Continued Success in Leadership

Is there hope for those of us who struggle with this competency? Of course. We’re talking about behavior, and behavior can be changed. We often just need a signal, a warning flag, an alarm which goes off when it’s time to make a shift. How to develop this sort of intuition? For starters, try these steps:

  • Assess.  Consider taking a social + emotional intelligence assessment, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or a 360 multi-rater assessment to learn more about your strengths and areas of growth.
  • Learn. Read a book, sign up for a workshop, or enroll in a class to learn new things. Be open to gaining fresh insights and perspectives to develop a mindset of ongoing growth and improvement.
  • Ask. Reach out to friends, colleagues, and those close to you for feedback. This is a tough one, especially if you don’t like hearing anything negative about yourself. But often the reflections of others are the only way to recognize a blind spot.
  • Reflect. Look back on past choices you’ve made, especially those that caused angst, and journal about what went right and what went wrong.
  • Monitor.  Observe and watch what others do, when they’re successful and when they fall. A Zen proverb says, “It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.”

It’s always a good idea to consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to ensure you make progress as you head down the trail to more accurate self-assessment.

Though simple, these steps may just be what you need to move into the 10-15% of self-aware people in this world. And it may save you from unnecessary bumps and bruises that blind spots can cause — which some of us, ahem, no names mentioned, were not able to avoid.

We all have blind spots – those areas for improvement and growth. As painful as it can be to admit we’re doing things we never wanted to do and saying things we never wanted to say, it is this acknowledgement that enables us to take the first step toward change. Be gentle with yourself. Be real with yourself. Take baby steps.” — Rhonda Louise Robbins

How to inspire others

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

We so often think we need to something amazing, fantastical, and over-the-top to be an inspiration to others.  Climb a mountain, travel the world, invent a new medical device, write a best-selling book. I recently read of yet another woman who started a company that enables impoverished women in regions of Africa to use their skill sets to make a profitable living. Wow. Don’t we all dream of doing something big? Something where others are awed by our efforts and are motivated to do the same?

But dreaming and doing are often two different things, and though we may have high hopes for living large,  the reality of our day-to-day existence can sometimes prevent us from getting there. And while those who accomplish these far-reaching feats are truly inspiring — being an inspiration to others can be much simpler than you  may think.  I’m not saying don’t pursue your dreams — please do — but in the meantime of getting there, don’t negate that your current, seemingly mundane existence can be an inspiration to others.

Inspiration is simply the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something — usually something new or creative or challenging. Leading with inspiration is a competency of emotional intelligence, but it’s not a quality resigned for those in a well-defined leadership role. Each of us is capable of inspiring others by living by these two mantras:  1-Doing what you love and 2-Living the best version of yourself.

Let’s start with the first.  A dear friend recently told me she doesn’t even know what she enjoys doing anymore — work and raising kids has been her go-to for years now and she’s lost touch with things that make her spirit soar.  It’s easy to do.  Life is full of demands and in the struggle to keep up, we often let our beloved pastimes slip and slide away.

So what is it you love to do?  Chances are you already know.  Think back on a time when you felt excited, filled with joy, when you did something that “made your heart sing”.  The activities and experiences that are tied closely with our passions are the things that we love.  Maybe it was time spent at a family reunion this summer with your favorite people in the world. Maybe it was seeing a beautiful waterfall on a challenging hike.  Maybe it was crooning at the top of your lungs in the car, or laughing with friends, or reading a good book in cozy chair. Maybe it was working hard and completing a project at work, or running your first 5k.  Write down the things that bring you joy.  Note how you felt  and list out the emotions that surrounded the event.  Journal about why you felt the way you did and why you think that particular activity aroused such a strong emotional reaction.

It’s easy to think we’re too busy to do the things we love — and maybe we are — which means it’s time to make some adjustments.  Start with small steps. Carve out a little time each day/week to do something you love…even if it’s just for a few moments. I enjoy being in the outdoors and when I spend time in nature, I sense a healing of my soul. But I haven’t yet figured out how to take large chunks of time each day to be outdoors.  In the meantime, I sit outside for five minutes in the mornings as I sip my coffee. It’s just a tiny dose of the outdoors each day, but it does wonders for my well-being. We all have a few minutes here and there to spare if we prioritize a bit. Remember, it may take saying no to something to open up space for another.

When we do the things we love, our joy is spontaneous — and spontaneous joy is hard to hide. Those who live a life they love have a twinkle in their eyes, a curve of a smile on their lips, and excitement in their voice.  You’ve heard the phrase, “She had a face that launched a thousand ships.”  The reference is to Helen of Troy, whose face was said to be so lovely that, after she was abducted, a 1000-strong fleet of ships was sent to win her back.  I think the joy that others see in our faces can launch a thousand ships.  Try it. It’s hard not to smile back at someone who flashes a toothy grin your way.  It’s difficult to not feel excitement when someone shares their fervor about a new endeavor. It’s next to impossible to not be motivated by another’s enthusiasm around a recent accomplishment. Studies around the ‘mirror effect’ show that the same neural activity that’s stimulated when we are performing an action is engaged when we see someone else perform an action.  (). Passionate people breed passionate people. The joy from doing the things you love will spill over into your relationships and serve as an inspiration to those you interact with.

Secondly, to inspire others, we want to be living out the best version of ourselves.  What is the best version of yourself?  Just like discovering what you love, you probably have a good idea of what your best self looks like. Remember the times when you felt a great sense of accomplishment…when you were proud of yourself…when you felt whole, well, and healthy, both physically and mentally? These times may be fleeting but they are good indicators of our best selves.  Again, journal or talk to someone about the times you felt that sense of wholeness. What triggered those feelings?  Describe the lifestyle that embraced  those emotions and list out the way you were spending your time. Again, adjustments may need to be made to get back to that sort of oneness with self.  A change of diet maybe, or being more discerning about who you spend your time with, or adjusting the input you allow into your head each day. Living the best version of yourself may mean revisiting your values and making sure you are practicing them…and if not, making shifts to get back there again. Many studies have been done on correlations between our lifestyle and its impact on our happiness levels (to see a few, click this link:  https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction. Sometimes our lifestyle needs a face lift to help us get back to who we really are.

When others see you living out the best version of yourself, just like living the life you love, they will be motivated to do the same.  You’ll find others will start asking about your ‘secret’.  A friend recently told me, “You look happy. What is it?”  People notice the joy that results and want a piece of it.

“Your soul is attracted to people the same way flowers are attracted to the sun, surround yourself only with those who want to see you grow.” — Pavana Reddy

Please note that none of this is about having a perfect life.  We all go through trying times, difficult circumstances, and situations that are nothing short of stressful and ugly.  It’s part of being human to experience suffering. However, our reactions to these negative life events — how we manage our emotions and relationships in the midst of them — can serve as an inspiration to others as well.  In an article on the Mental Health America site, researchers found these benefits of staying positive through difficult times:

  • People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who were optimistic
  • People who kept track of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical complaints than others
  • People who obsessively repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns—and their brain activity actually changed too. (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/stay-positive).

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”  — Nelson Mandela

How we choose to react to difficulties is vital to being our best selves.  How do you respond to trying times? If you find you tend to go down a negative path, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make some shifts.

Pursuing a life of doing what we love and being our best selves may not sound glamorous.  We may not have a biography written about us, or be interviewed on a talk show, or get thousands of followers on our social media pages.  But others will notice and be prompted to pursue a life they love and be their best selves…which will in turn motivate others to do the same…and thus begins the cycle of inspiration.  Why not start today?

“It only takes one person to mobilize a community and inspire change. Even if you don’t feel like you have it in you, it’s in you. You have to believe in yourself. People will see your vision and passion and follow you.” — Teyonah Parris

Learn to coach emotional intelligence!

DATE: Thursdays, September 13 – November 1, 2018

TIME: 3-4:30 PM (ET)

LOCATION: Online

Event Details

Learn to coach social and emotional intelligence and become certified to administer the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)®.

By completing the Coach Certification Course, you will earn 12 recertification credits from the ICF, HRCI, or SHRM. This course is conveniently delivered online by webinar, so there’s no need for expensive travel or time out of the office. Classes meet once a week for eight weeks. Each class is an action-packed 90 minutes, highly interactive, with a variety of case studies discussed. Class participants report they learn a great deal from their colleagues in the classes, as well as from their expert instructor.

Our full 8 week class is priced at $1,799 and includes:

  • Our course workbook (”toolkit”) with 200+ pages of worksheets, exercises and other tools you can use to bring social and emotional intelligence training and coaching into your practice
  • Customizable PowerPoint presentation
  • Certification to administer both the self and 360-versions of The Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile-Self (SEIP)®, the most comprehensive, statistically-reliable, scientifically-validated instrument on the market today. This includes the Work, Adult and Youth Editions.
  • 12 recertification credits (ICF, HRCI, or SHRM)
  • 10 free Self-SEIP® credits

Classes are kept small and availability is limited, so register today!

Attendees are expected to attend all 8 sessions, but we record the sessions in case you need to miss a class or two.

 

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Upcoming Classes