Archive for the ‘Social Intelligence’ Category

The perfect gift

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

In many countries, ’tis the season for finding the perfect gift for your friends and loved ones.  It truly can be a special time of thoughtfulness and giving.

But just to mix things up, I’d like to challenge you to give a unique gift this year… one that has a great kick-back incentive. It’s not a store-bought gift or one you order online, but one that comes from your social intelligence — the ability to be aware of those around you and manage your relationship with them. This gift is empathy.

Empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which can be easier to offer to some than others. Empathy is not only sensing others’ feelings and perspectives, but it is showing an active interest in their concerns.

For those we care about and love, showing empathy comes easy.  When a friend is in trouble, we hurt with them and want to do what we can to help out.  But have you tried showing empathy toward those who have disappointed you or let you down?  Easier said than done.

There is no magic formula to doing this. Offering the gift of empathy toward those who are not on your “Nice” list is difficult. We naturally tend to withhold kindness toward those who’ve been hurtful and even can find a sense of twisted satisfaction when we choose to not forgive their wrongdoing toward us. But we all know it’s us who suffers most when we choose anger and resentment. And opting not to forgive someone, to not put ourselves in their shoes and try to understand the why behind their behavior, instead skipping down the path of resentment, damages our own well-being.  In an article published by John Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Karen Swartz, M.D. at John Hopkins Hospital says this: “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and  immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.”  (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_connections/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

Dr. Swartz goes on to say, in contrast, “Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Anger toward someone who’s been hurtful is normal.  It’s just not a place you want to hang out for long.

Who are you holding a grudge toward or harboring anger toward?  I’m guessing someone’s name came quickly to mind. Try writing down that name on a piece of paper and, for a moment, attempt to lay aside their hurtful behavior. List out all the positive things about them you can come up with. (There’s no need to write down the hurtful behavior — no doubt you’ve replayed that in your mind countless times!) Your list of positives might be short. That’s OK. But looking at their whole person instead of focusing only on the hurtful behavior can help shift your perspective, even if just a bit. Then write down what you know of their current situation — what are they going through? Are they lonely? Are they depressed? Are they scared, worried, or trying hard to impress others? Are they financially burdened or seem full of themselves? Are they struggling with insecurity? Most of our poor behaviors occur when we’re not in a good space.  Attempting to understand their situation and offer a little understanding can have tremendous power over the anger in your heart.

“As human beings, we all have reasons for our behavior. There may be people who have certain physiological issues that dictate why they make certain choices. On the whole, though, I think we’re dictated by our structure, our past, our environment, our culture. So once you understand the patterns that shape a person, how can you not find sympathy?” — Forest Whitaker

To begin to heal, you may need to have a conversation with this person to let the know the pain they’ve caused. You may need to journal about it, talk with a friend, work with a coach, or see a counselor to sort things out. Whichever action you need to take to put this behind you and move on, do it. Every minute you hang on to  resentment and anger is one more minute you are robbing yourself from living a full life.

You don’t have to become best friends with the person.  In fact, in situations of severe hurt, it may be best to not have contact with them if possible. But whatever your ongoing relationship with them may be, there’s no need to keep replaying their destructive behavior over and over in your mind.  Why relive something so pain-filled? It happened. Past tense. No need to keep bringing it into your present. Offering a little empathy — not in any way justifying what they did — by attempting to understand why they did it, can help you begin to move forward again.

Offering the gift of empathy doesn’t make light of the pain, nor does it give license for the person to continue to inflict damage upon you.  Forgiving someone doesn’t tell them what they did was OK. It tells them that you’re not going to punish them (and yourself) any longer for something in the past. It can free you from the hurt and enable you to move forward again…with or without them.  In fact, offering someone empathy isn’t really for them — it’s a gift of love to yourself.  Yes, your empathetic behavior may bring about a shift in that person’s mindset–but that’s not your concern. Your emotions and behaviors are the only ones you can truly manage. Think of empathy as a gift you give to others which comes with an incredible kickback incentive — healing for your heart.

Empathy is probably the most perfect gift you’ll find this season. And I promise, it’s a gift you’ll never want to return. Why not give it a try?

Gratitude for a new life

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

If you’re a regular consumer of social media, you’ve most likely seen this question pop up on your news feed: “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today?” It makes us all stop and think, in the moment at least, and offer up a few sentiments to the universe before going on with our previously-scheduled programming of stress, worry, and negativity.

But what if you considered making gratitude part of your everyday life?

Gratitude is a positive emotion.  While some define it as “the state of being grateful” or “expressing thanks”, I like this definition best:

“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.” — Harvard Medical School

However you elucidate it, feeling and expressing gratitude has a positive impact on both you and others. I challenge you to find an article or video describing the ill-effects of gratitude. There are many reasons why we’d want to develop a heart of gratitude, and here are just a few.

A Healthier Body

According to Robert Emmons, leading researcher on gratitude and its effects, those who practice gratitude in a consistent manner report a host of benefits including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and are less bothered by aches and pains. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good). In an article published in the National Communication Association’s Review of Communication, Stephen M. Yoshimura and Kassandra Berzins explored the connection between the expression of gratitude and physical health. They found that gratitude consistently associates with many positive health states and reduced reports of negative physical symptoms. (https://www.natcom.org/press-room/expressing-gratitude-makes-us-healthier-who-wouldn%E2%80%99t-be-grateful)

“Gratitude can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience. There is growing evidence that being grateful may not only bring good feelings. It could lead to better health.” – Jeff Huffman

Peace of Mind

Gratitude can also benefit our mental health. Emmons conducted multiple studies linking gratitude and mental well-being. His findings were that gratitude can increase happiness and decrease depression. And a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that athletes can increase their self-esteem, an important component of mental wellness, by expressing gratitude. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022440507000386)
“Results indicated that counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction, and decreased negative affect.” In a separate study, children who practiced grateful thinking showed signs of more positive attitudes toward their family and at school. (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).

Sleep Tight

And how about that elusive but necessary thing called sleep? A study done in 2016 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that more than one third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. (http://www.healthcommunities.com/sleep-disorders/overview-of-sleep-disorders.shtml) Struggling to doze off, waking in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, starting the day feeling exhausted– sound familiar? Try gratefulness as a sleep aid. One study showed that those who were grateful fell asleep quickly and slept more soundly, supporting evidence that more grateful people may sleep better because they have more positive thoughts when they lay down to go to  sleep. Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.” (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399908004224). And in a 2008 study by Alex M. Wood, “Gratitude predicted greater subjective sleep quality and sleep duration, and less sleep latency and daytime dysfunction.” (https://www.jpsychores.com/article/S0022-3999(08)00422-4/fulltext)

Make new friends

Gratitude can help with creating new relationships. A study led by UNSW psychologist Dr Lisa Williams and Dr Monica Bartlett of Gonzaga University showed that the practice of thanking a new acquaintance for their help makes them more likely to seek an ongoing social relationship with you.  “Our findings represent the first known evidence that expression of gratitude facilitates the initiation of new relationships among previously unacquainted people,” says Dr. Williams.

But how?

Gratitude acts as a strengthener of our positive emotions, like exercise for the muscles. This practice of appreciation eliminates feelings of envy and angst as it allows our memories to be happier. Through gratitude, we experience positive feelings, which in turn help us thrive after disappointments and failures. It shifts our attention away from toxic emotions and makes it harder to ruminate on negative events. In a study done by Joel Wong and Joshua Brown in 2007,  involving 300 subjects who were seeking mental health counseling, they found that when people are more grateful, they experienced brain activity which is distinct from neurological activity related to a negative emotion such as guilt. In addition, they exhibited a greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with learning and decision making. (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)

Now what?

Though we may understand the many benefits of expressing gratitude, incorporating it into our day-to-day lives can be tricky.  Life’s pressures bear down on us and staying thankful often doesn’t come naturally…negativity does. But with a little effort, it is possible to maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Here are some ideas to try:

1-Eat thankfulness for breakfast.  Literally, don’t allow yourself to get out of bed until you’ve said, out loud, at least 5 things you are thankful for, whether great or small.  Pause after each and soak in the warm, positive feelings that are associated with each. It’s a healthy and optimistic way to start each day.

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” — Kahlil Gibran

2-Fill a thankful jar.  Find a colorful jar at a local thrift shop and set it somewhere you can see it throughout the day. On a scrap of paper, jot down anything and everything that happens each day that makes a positive impact on you:  a kind word from a colleague, a surprise gift from a loved one, the beautiful sunrise on your way to the office, the aroma from your pumpkin spice latte. Wad these up and throw them in your jar, then, at the end of the year, spend an evening reading through each special moment.  You’ll feel like the richest person in the world.

3-Say it.  Get in the habit of saying “thank you”, to everyone you interact with…the barista, the security guard, your coworkers — even those you don’t get along with.  And don’t forget to thank yourself — self-love is an important part of maintaining a positive outlook — and taking time to appreciate your own accomplishments, achievements, and successes can help with that.  “I appreciate you” is a great ending to almost any email or text!

4-Let gratitude tuck you in at night.  Before going to bed, try opting out of scrolling through what everyone else in the world is doing, and instead, journal about a positive event from today. It may be as small as, “I got out of the house without spilling my coffee”, or as grandiose as realizing a long-term goal — but no matter the significance, get in the habit of writing the positives down.

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”– Henry Ward Beecher

And who knows, your own attitude of gratitude may be just the encouragement someone else needs. Don’t be surprised if, as you grow in expressing gratitude, that others will want a piece of the pie.  Joy is contagious and when others seeing you living a life of physical health, mental health, sleeping deeply and enjoying healthy relationships — to name a few — they will want to learn your secret.  If not for yourself, consider developing a heart of gratitude to be a light to others and encourage them to live a new life.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

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“The course facilitator’s knowledge of the subject matter was excellent. She not only taught from a place of expertise and experience but also welcomed the insight of others.” — Ted Riter, Empowered Leadership, S+EI Certified Coach

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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.

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

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