Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness, Reacting vs Responding, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Be Mindful: Respond rather than React

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is power to choose our response” – Viktor Frankl

No doubt all of us, including me, have reacted at times in our lives when we should have responded.  Upon reflection, we can often identify those events based on how we felt afterwards. We may have wished we hadn’t said something, or chosen a different tone, or had simply removed ourselves from the situation until we knew how to respond well.  As adults, we all know the right thing to do.  Yet, often our emotions get the best of us and we react – at work, at home, in the car, on social media, etc.  Until we are shown, taught, or learn something different, we often don’t know how to control our reactions, or even recognize our behaviour.  

So what is the difference between reacting vs responding?

A reaction is instinctive, based in the moment and doesn’t take the long term effects of what we do or say into consideration. While reacting in an emergency involving life and death where your survival is at stake is important, it’s when we react in everyday situations that we damage our relationships, and potential for a positive outcome.  A reaction is typically quick, tense and aggressive, while a response is thoughtful, calm and non-threatening.  A reaction typically provokes and perpetuates negative reactions.

When we react, we aren’t choosing.  Rather we are allowing our reptilian (or instinctual brain), the oldest part of our brain, to take control. The reptilian brain is all about survival: movement, breathing, circulation, hunger and reproduction, territory, and social dominance. A reaction uses our reptilian brain, which is survival-oriented.  Based on what your emotions trigger you to do, you act without really thinking through the consequences.  This might turn out okay but often a reaction is something you regret later. When we choose to simply react to what occurs in our lives, we often behave defensively, such as bating or taking revenge, blame, scapegoating, etc.  Stephen Covey defines the difference between reactive and responsive individuals as follows: “Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance. Proactive people carry their own weather with them.” 

“Respond don’t react.  When you react to a person’s negative comments or actions in an angry, overly emotional or aggressive way, then you are giving that person power over you.  If a person can easily get a rise from you, then you are no longer in control.  If you take a moment and respond in a calm, healthy, honest and real way, then you are in control.  You are not allowing anyone to take your power away, or invoke a reaction from you.” Maria Consiglio

A reaction is usually quick and typically:

  • involves the reptilian/instinctual and the limbic/emotional brain.
  • is emotional.
  • involves speaking without thinking.
  • is often tense and aggressive.
  • creates conflict.
  • perpetuates discontentment and disagreement.
  • others are in control.

However, as highly evolved mammals, we have three brains: the reptilian brain or survival-oriented brain; the emotional or limbic brain; and the neocortex brain.  While our limbic/emotional brain is highly reactive and subconsciously involves our emotions and feelings, the neocortex is the thinking part of the brain, and where we have the capability to respond rather than react derives itself.  

It is the neocortex where we develop thoughtful responses.   This is where we gather and digest the necessary information, where we decipher what we are seeing and feeling, and where we put it into context. It’s future-focused, and where we understand the world so we are capable of making sound decisions.  It is why when thinking about how you might respond in a more mindful fashion, you can plan your future responses and strengthen your ability to take action that is in your best interest.

A response is a conscious decision that usually comes more slowly, and:

  • involves your neocortex or rational brain.
  • isn’t based on your emotional trigger.
  • involves acting by really thinking through consequences.
  • it includes a plan for future responses.
  • it’s non-threatening.
  • it takes time.
  • allows for assertiveness without aggression.
  • resolves conflict.
  • you are in control of your life.

While it’s not always easy to know how to respond best in every situation, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent help tremendously (topics I’ve discussed in my earlier posts). Like self-awareness and emotional intelligence, knowing how respond is a skill that can be developed.  When we know first-hand the negative experience that can result from reacting, we are far more motivated to make sure we respond in a similar situation.  It takes practice and requires us to be able to pause in nearly any situation before speaking or acting. 

To achieve our full potential, and become more successful both personally, and professionally, we need to be more aware of, and have more influence over our responses.  From recent brain research, we know that our brains are plastic and has the ability to develop connections with the other parts.   According to Dr. Bill Crawford, a psychologist who studies the brain, and concepts of responding and reacting, our brains are constantly rewiring with every thought, emotion, and/or behavior. He says that “when we respond to life in a way that is more effective… the brain creates and reinforces neural pathways from our limbic system up to our neocortex”.

How Mindfulness helps reprogram your brain

“Mindfulness give you time. Time give you choices. Choices, skillfully made, lead to freedom. You don’t have to be swept away by your feeling. You can respond with wisdom and kindness rather than habit and reactivity.” – Bhante H. Gunaratana

Your thoughts (beliefs) create your feelings; your feelings create your actions; your actions create your results.  Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment, including awareness of thoughts, without any attachment to whatever you notice.  Mindfulness is helpful because it creates space between thoughts and actions.  By increasing your awareness of your thoughts, you can begin to break old automatic or habitual chain reactions between your triggers, thoughts, feelings and actions.  Each time you choose to not to activate your old trigger-thought-feeling-action-result sequence, you weaken the connections.  Furthermore, each time you choose a different action, you program new connections.  With repetition and practice, you hardwire these new programs so your new thoughts and responses become your new habits.

When we respond to life, we:

  • become the directors, rather than the followers
  • establish stronger relationships
  • become better communicators
  • minimize confrontations
  • find more peace
  • reduce regret
  • build a confidence that we can handle any situation we come up against
  • we thrive!

In essence, when choosing to respond versus react, you are taking charge of your life.  Choosing to be responsive is taking responsibility of our lives. Recognizing the power of our words, our behavior, our tone, our delivery, etc. will make a positive difference to those in our lives. 

“Instead of asking others to change their behaviour, your power is in your changing your reaction to their behaviour.  You have no control over their behaviour, but you do have complete control over your reaction to it.” – Abraham Hicks

How you can build a response habit:

Think of a time or situation that always causes conflict for you.  What are the things you tell yourself about the situation? How do you usually react to it? Record your answers. 

Practice responding to challenging situations until these responses become reactions.

Each time you enter into a situation that you know tends to cause you to react, take a few minutes to write down how you normally react and how you want to respond instead.  What will it look like? What will you say differently? How will you act differently?

Curiosity, Self-Awareness

Did Curiosity Really Kill the Cat?

“Be curious. It might lead you to your passion or it might not. You might get nothing out of it at all except a beautiful, long life where all you did was follow your gorgeous curiosity. And that should be enough too”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Did you grow up hearing this saying “curiosity killed the cat”? A cautionary tale that suggests pursuing your curiosity would result in dire consequences.  Don’t ask questions and do as you’re told, or else!  I’m not sure where I heard it or from whom, but as a somewhat curious type, it was a bit disconcerting.  Lately, however, there has been a lot written about following your curiosity and that it’s key in discovering your passions.  Follow your curiosity, they say, and you will find your passion.  

So, with cautious curiosity I decided to dig into the origin of this proverb.   And after a bit of research I discovered that it was not curiosity that actually killed it.  Phew! The saying “curiosity killed the cat” actually originated as “care killed the cat”, and the word “care” referred to “worry or sorrow”.  So, in other words the cat actually worried itself to death. What a misunderstood statement!  So as Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic says, go ahead and “be guided by wonder and curiosity rather than be imprisoned by fear and doubt.”

Passion vs Curiosity

“Find your passion, find your purpose” is a radio ad for a technical college.  It seems like a big statement for a technical college.  Maybe it should be find a job, earn a living. Either way it’s a good marketing campaign since it taps into many people’s desire to find their passion.  So many people say they don’t know what they want to do with their life, and don’t know where to even start to “find their passion.” While many struggle to find even one tiny little passion, some have so many passions they can’t decide which one to follow, so they follow none. So, how do you figure out what you’re passionate about?   You follow your curiosity!

“When you’re curious you find lots of interesting things to do”

Walt Disney

Follow your curiosity and you’ll find your passion!

Passion is defined as an intense desire felt for something or someone.  It’s where emotional impulse prevails over reason.  It’s energy!   It’s what happens when you fall deeply in love with something.  Passion is like flame though – it needs to be fanned otherwise it will die out. Curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting… – Elizabeth Gilbert”

Here are six simple ideas to help you explore your curiosities:

  1. Watch documentaries
  2. Take a course (online or in a classroom)
  3. Ask google; search Youtube, etc.
  4. Better yet, find people that inspire you; ask questions, watch & learn
  5. Read books
  6. Go experience it for yourself

Finding what you are passionate about is a journey and curiosity is simply the compass that will guide you. Curiosity is that little voice that asks you, “Are you interested in this? Even just a tiny little bit? Then, why not giving it a go?” Don’t be frustrated if you don’t feel like you know yet. Keep trying new things. It will come even if you have to build it. If you find your passion, or find yourself hot on its trail, don’t give it up. You may discover that it sparks some interest and grows into a full-blown passion that sets your very soul on fire. Or you may find out that sure, you like it, but not that much that you’d turn your life upside down for it. Or maybe you realize that you really hate it. Curiosity totally sent you off the wrong path. But that’s ok. Curiosity is there only to give your clues. It’s your job to follow them and find out where they lead. Maybe it’s a dead end. Maybe it’s a stepping stone to your real passion.

How has curiosity led you to your passion? If you haven’t found your passion yet, what are you curious about? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mindfulness

The Gift of Presence

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“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I feel extremely fortunate to have had people in my life who have made me feel special.  While we all want to be liked, loved, and happy, there are some people who have made or make us feel valued.  They make us feel special.  My grandmother was one of those people.  Although she passed away thirty years ago, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.  What a gift and legacy she left!  I think about this a lot because I’d also like to leave that legacy with the people that I love.  But if the past few weeks are any indication, I have a lot of work to do.  So with this lofty goal in mind, I’m prompted to ask:  How can I be a better mother, spouse, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend?

Once again, I find the words in Maya Angelou, who sums it up so well “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  What was it about my grandma that made me feel so special?  How do I (or we) do this? The answer is – by being present.

How we nurture relationships by being present.

So many of our lives are filled with making lists, checking them off, all the while thinking about the next thing we have to do. We’re constantly busy in doing mode and it can sometimes feel like a burden or an annoyance to have to stop, even momentarily, for the people we love.  And this can be really difficult sometimes, at least for me it is.  With juggling my business, my family, and all of the other responsibilities I have, I often have a difficult time being fully present. I am guilty of daydreaming when I should be focused on tasks, looking at my phone while also having a conversation, getting caught up in multitasking and rushing through my to-do list. More often than not, I’m not 100% engaged in any given moment.  Yet, there are so many advantages that come from living in the moment.

Getting present requires a certain level of self-awareness. It’s about putting aside your own thoughts, worries, fears, and insecurities and genuinely taking an interest in what that person is saying.  There’s a saying that how you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you.  When you lack the ability to make people feel good about themselves it does nothing more than highlight your own inadequacies.

Whether you’re a parent, spouse, friend, or leader, if you believe that people matter, you must become good at making people feel great.  If you want to build and maintain lasting relationships, to consistently positively influence people, to make people feel good about themselves, and to be the kind of people everyone wants to be around, you must make them feel good.  When you press pause—physically and mentally—and hold a space for a person to fully express themselves, that person feels valued, heard, seen, and loved.  Isn’t that what all us ever really want?

How we become more present in our relationships.

  • Be intentional . Start with setting an intention to be more present. It sounds simple and it is. Yet most of us don’t think about how we want to show up in our relationships.  As you begin to engage with the people, having an intention to be more present acts as a reminder, anchors you in the present. You become aware of those times when you are the most present and those times when you’re not. Start to notice what distracts you from the present moment. Phone calls, to-do lists, busyness overload, social media—whatever it is. When you become aware of this stuff, you can work with it or eliminate it so it doesn’t keep distracting you.
  • Create boundaries around your time. Make sure you factor in yourself when organizing your day.  Be sure to schedule your time to include getting your needs met, physically, mentally or emotionally.  Schedule time to get your work done and focus on your priorities during that time.  Then be sure to schedule the time to be present for others.  Say no if it doesn’t fit with your goals or priorities.  I like the expression “if it’s not a hell yes, then it’s a no”.  It’s can become very easy to drop what you’re doing and focus on others’ priorities, but we all know that we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves first.
  • Pay attention to how you feel around certain people. Unfortunately, there are people in our lives who do not make us feel good about ourselves, who can take up a lot of our time with negative energy, and can bring us down.  Next time you’re engaging with that person, take a moment to check in with where you’re at and ask if you’re supporting yourself. For example, are you feeling centered, confident, and calm? What story are you telling yourself about this situation?
  • Put your stuff away. My personal pet peeve is when I’m with someone, in a meeting, having a conversation, or at a dinner, etc. and they are constantly looking at their phone, or prioritizing answering a text or call (unless they have expressed they are expecting a call). Doing this suggests that they you are not their priority.  At least turn off the sound.  Be sure to put your phone away when you walk in the door, especially if you have kids.  And please, don’t walk in the door on a call – finish the call before you come in.  It’s a good practice to put your phone or computer away while in a conversation.
  • Be authentically interested. Lean in, keep eye contact, and listen more than you talk.  One of our deepest human needs is to be understood, valued, and respected for who we are.  However, most people seek to get their point across and be understood first.  In Stephen Covey’s book, “The 7 Principles of Highly Effective People”, the 5th principle is to “seek first to understand, then be understood”.  Here are the three steps he suggests:
    1. First, listen with your eyes, heart, and ears – listening with your ears isn’t enough. Only 7% of communication comes from our words.  The rest comes from body language (53%) and the tone of our voice (40%).  To hear what other people are really saying, you need to listen to what they are not saying.
    2. Second, stand in their shoes. Try to see the world as others see it and feel as they feel.
    3. Third, practice mirroring. Repeat back to the person what they just said.  It is not mimicking.  Put it in your own words.  This lets the person know you understand what they are saying without judging or giving advice.  Mirroring phrases “so, as I see it…”; “I can see that you’re feeling…”; “So, what you’re saying is…”
  • Practice mindfulness and learn to meditate.  I started my practice a few years ago as part of the Striving Styles certification process, not only because is it part of the curriculum I teach, but because I realized it’s a vital step in becoming more self-aware and personal growth.   It’s pretty difficult to be present in our relationships if we aren’t present with ourselves. For example,  I was away a lot over the past month and wasn’t meditating or practicing mindfulness regularly. I really noticed how this negatively affected my patience and presence in my relationships.   Being mindful and practicing meditation has so many benefits, not only for ourselves but also for those close to us.  I encourage you to watch the TEDx talk: The Power of Mindfulness: What You Practice Grows Stronger, by Shauna Shapiro if you would like to learn more about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  But really, practicing mindfulness is really very simple.

What is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.”   – Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Mindfulness is our ability to pay attention to the present moment with curiosity and without judgement.  Mindfulness can be cultivated through a formal practice like meditation…and we can bring mindful attention to our daily activities.

Here are five simple ways to practice mindfulness in your daily life:

  1. Focus on your breath. Take a few really deep, controlled breaths. Deep breathing helps reduce stress, a source of fatique, and increases the level of oxygen in the blood.  Techniques can be as simple as inhaling for five seconds, holding your breath for four seconds and slowly exhaling for four seconds.  You can also try other techniques, which require different positions.
  2. Go for a walk outside. Being in nature can both invigorate you and make you feel more focused.  Here is a simple walking meditation:
    1. Simply close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature. Stand solidly on the ground and spend several moments noticing how your body feels. Start with the soles of the feet and work upward, relaxing each body part as you become aware of it.  Then, open your eyes and begin to walk slowly, focusing on your surroundings and what you see, hear, smell and feel. Pay close attention to the sensations of the sun, wind and grass on your feet and skin.
  3. Use a meditation app. I really like guided meditations. I enjoy listening to the messages and I like the instruction and structure.  You can decide on the length of time (5, 10 minutes), choose your topic (relax, sleep, focus, anxiety, self-compassion, manifestation, morning, etc.).  Here are a few apps you might like to check out:  Calm, Insight Timer, Headspace, Deepak Chopra.  You can also search guided meditations on Youtube.
  4. Focus intently on the task at hand. I can get easily distracted and overwhelmed when I have a lot of different tasks and things I’m juggling, so picking just one and focusing on completing it helps me be more mindful.
  5. Observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them. Notice when your mind is in the past or future, and gently return to the present. Ideally write them down.  Even if you’re not a writer, giving yourself the freedom to put pen to paper, without judgment, can be a helpful emotional release as well, freeing up your mind to focus on what’s happening in the current moment.

Advantages of being fully present in relationships.

Calmness.  There’s a real sense of peacefulness that comes when I’m not all agitated thinking about everything I need to do, and instead just focus on being with that person, enjoying the here and now.

Increased empathy and compassion.  Having empathy improves relationships.  Brene’ Brown explains,

“If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.” – Brene’ Brown

So having empathy helps us understand others when they communicate with us. Plus, it can reduce the amount of conflict in the individual’s life. The most common reason why other people become angry is they feel misunderstood.

Clarity and focus.   I do a better job and enjoy the process more when I give my full attention to whatever I’m working or on whom I’m working with, whether that’s spending time with my kids, writing my blog, working, gardening, etc.

Increased happiness and optimism.  When I’m more aware of my actions and more engaged, no matter the task I’m performing, it improves my outlook on life. Feeling more gratitude and focusing on the positive develops stronger emotional bonds with others.   I adopt more of an abundance mindset when I’m more self-confident.

More meaningful conversations. When I’m actively participating in a conversation and truly taking the time to listen to what the other person has to say, I find that I always take something important away from the discussion. Whether it’s a lesson or something I learned about the person, there is a lot to be gained from being present and actively engaged.

Appreciating the little things more.  It’s easy to overlook all of the simple pleasures in life when we are trying to do too many things at once. It’s really a shame, because sometimes we can be so fixated on creating our ideal, happy life, that we forget to see the happiness and pleasure that are already right in front of us.

“Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic.” – Stephen R. Covey

What Do YOU Think?

Do you struggle with being fully present? What are some ways that you’ve found are helpful in being more present?  What are the biggest challenges to staying in the moment? Let us know in the comments!

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MBTI, Personality, Striving Styles

Will your (MBTI) personality type determine your success?

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“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden

The short answer is no. There is not one particular Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality type that is directly correlated to successful outcomes.  No one type is better than another and each type have their own unique strengths, weaknesses and gifts. For example, an INTJ is not any more likely to be successful than an ESFP.  In addition, there is so much more to you than your type such as your upbringing environment, your unique tastes and traits that make you a unique individual.  No matter what personality type we are born with, we all have the ability to be successful.   While success is somewhat subjective to the individual, I think it’s described best as those who achieve their goals or live in alignment with their life vision and values.

So what does determine your success?  Ultimately, it is your habits, mindset, and utilizing the capabilities of your full brain that will determine your success.

That said, knowing and understanding your personality type, your strengths, your preferred working styles, will absolutely contribute to your personal and professional success.  While on its own it, knowing your type won’t impact success or performance outcomes, it is a key first step in developing self-awareness which is an important and foundational factor related to your overall success.

One of the most beneficial outcomes of learning about personality type is you will feel understood.  It will also help you improve relationships and become a better communicator with people who process things differently than you do, and reduce conflict both at home and at work.

Your MBTI describes your unique characteristics, how you process information, your preferences, and how you interact with the world.  Each personality type has a dominant mental process and an inferior mental process, and everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites.  Our inferior processes tend to be the sources of many of our weaknesses and embarrassments while our dominant processes tend to be easier for us to master and use effectively.   The best way to explains this is that we all have a preferred hand to write with which is easier for us, but that doesn’t mean we never use the other hand.  For example, if you’re right-handed and you suddenly try to switch to writing with your left hand you could do it, but it would take a log more time and it would look a lot sloppier.

Here is a brief explanation of the MBTI:

  • There are four MBTI dichotomies:
    • Introversion (I) or Extraversion (E) describes where you get your energy. Extroverts gain energy from interaction with the outside world while Introverts gain energy from pondering their thoughts
    • Intuitive (N) or Sensing (S) describes how you gather information. Intuitives focus on the abstract, theoretical, and “unseen” while Sensors focus on the concrete, literal, and real details of the world around them and their experience with it.
    • Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) describes how you make decisions. Thinking types “step outside” of a decision to consider the logic, pros and cons, and the truth of a situation. Feeling types “step inside” a decision to consider how it will impact the people involved, whether harmony will be maintained, and whether the decisions aligns with their values
    • Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) describes how you interact with the outside world. Judging types like to have a schedule and a plan. They like to get all their work done before “playing”.  Perceiving types like to mix work and play, and have an open-ended, spontaneous schedule. They like to stay open for new opportunities and inspiration.
  • Everyone has a natural preference for one of the two opposites on each of the four dichotomies.
  • They describe preferences
  • There is no right or wrong
  • You use all 8 of the preferences, but you prefer four
  • Sometimes how we are at home, at work, alter our personalities to fit that environment.

*Contact me if you would like to know your MBTI personality type

While understanding your personality type is incredibly insightful in knowing our strengths and development areas, this alone will not help you achieve your goals, or ultimately determine your success.  It is learning what to do with that knowledge, and how to go about making changes in our life so we can live more fully that will make us successful.

Learning how to utilize and develop your “full” brain, while uncovering and replacing your old stories and habits of mind that no longer serve you with those that are more in line with supporting your best selves, starts first with self-awareness.  However, this is just the first step because then we need to “do the work”.  This is the hard stuff.

This is why I think the Striving Styles Personality System (SSPS) is so incredibly effective and offers a more comprehensive development process.  It provides a systematic approach to building self-awareness and emotional intelligence for those who want to achieve personal goals and reach their full potential.

The SSPS is an evolution of Carl Jung’s research on personality type and the MBTI.  While I have extensively used and worked with the MBTI in organizations, and still believe the MBTI is a very effective tool  when integrated into leadership and employee development programs, for improving teams, coaching individuals, and career planning, it doesn’t identify what is getting in the way of achieving our potential.

The SSPS development process helps us to examine our mindset and uncovers those negative habits of mind, including your shadow fears, beliefs, and triggers, that ultimately undermine your efforts, ambitions and potential.  It helps us understand how our brains are organized and hardwired, as well as the specific needs and emotions that drive your behaviour.  It helps identify behavioural patterns we developed as children that no longer serve us.  It offers a deeper understanding of your predominant style, your major psychological needs and fears that are associated with your style, and your associate styles, so you can look at some of the things that might be getting in YOUR way of achieving your potential.

The SSPS is a development tool that offers a way of understanding ourselves, which helps us be able to answer the questions “who are we meant to be?” and what is it that is getting in the way of achieving our full potential.

Your success will be determined by getting clear on what you want in your life and how you want to show up for yourself and others, by valuing your unique strengths and your quirks, and by developing good habits, and developing a positive mindset.  As usual, I like Maya Angelou definition of success:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou

As a bonus, here are some other factors will determine your success:

  • Have a growth mindset, defined by Carol Dweck as “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
  • Get clear on what you want in your life and what does it looks like (1 year, 5 years, 10 years). Your vision statement should describe where you are going to be, and the values you will use to get you there.
  • Know your “why” of your vision because it is your ultimate motivator and is the one the thing that will inspire you and those around you.
  • Utilize meta-habits, or those foundational habits that enhance your ability to adopt other habits, such as exercise, self-knowledge, meditation, quality sleep, etc.
  • Believe that you have self-determination, the belief that you have control over your choices and your life.
Emotional Intelligence, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles

Discovering our je ne sais quoi

” I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” – Emma Stone

Inspired by a recent group of my workshop participants, as well as my upcoming trip to Paris, France with my teenage daughter, promoted me to read and reflect on the phrase “je ne sais quoi”, a phrase often used to describe French or Parisian women.  I read recently that we spend the first half of our life trying to fit in, while the second half we spend trying to stand out.  Inspiring, nurturing, and encouraging our children to have the confidence and independence to fully embrace their unique whole selves and live fully, especially during this first half of their lives, is my deepest desire for them.  I think the best way to do this is to do our best and model it for them.  I couldn’t agree more with the following quote:

“Taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids” – Lenny Lemons

Here’s what I found that best describes someone who embodies “je ne sais quoi”:

  • Nurtures her internal well-being as much as her external beauty.  Life isn’t about impressing others but enjoying herself.
  • Accentuates her strengths, focusing on her unique characteristics, both physically and personality.  Owning what she has, not fixing or changing herself.  She shows up as the best version of herself.
  • Keeps her beauty natural and authentic to her unique physical characteristics.
  • She finds pleasure in healthy, quality food, indulging in moderation.
  • She uses her clothing and physical appearance as a tool to establish and represent her state of being.
  • Brings passion to everything she does, from the mundane to the big things.
  • Stops trying so hard to impress others.  It’s about being you!
  • She is self-possessed, and builds her life around knowing what she loves, what turns her on, what’s she’s passionate about.  She builds her life on inner joy and personal radiance.  Finds answers within and shares that passion with the world.
  • She simplifies her life so she has more space to strive for passionate pursuits and stress-free living.
  • She savours the moment by slowing down.
  • While she visualizes and plans her life, and where she’s going, she can let go of control and enjoy her journey. She focuses on how to presently show up in the moment.
  • She does not take life too seriously, approaching her life with a playfulness and friskiness that delights everyone she encounters.
  • She continuously learns and grows.
  • She exudes confidence, intelligence, sophistication, and style that comes from the clarity of knowing who she is!

Understanding ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses, fears and underlying beliefs that get in our way to becoming our best self is fundamental in discovering our je ne sais quoi.  The “This is You” workshop and Striving Styles Personality System helps us to further dive into an understanding of our personality,  helps us to recognize our innate strengths, offers insight and understanding of ourselves and and how our unique brain works.  These are the skills needed to uncover and nurture our authentic self.  Contact me if you would like to discover your je ne sais quoi!

Emotional Intelligence

How’s your emotional literacy?

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“And sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in.” – Thelatestquote

Knowing how you feel and how to accurately identify your emotions through words – spoken or written – is a powerful way to improve our connections with others, build understanding, and enriches our relationships.  Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.  Learning the language of emotions is difficult, and describing your feelings is tough.  At least it is for most of us.  According to Brene’ Brown’s research, the majority of people she interviewed are not comfortable with emotions and far from “fluent in the language of feelings”.

What is an emotional vocabulary?

An emotional vocabulary is one in which language accurately describes how you are feeling. While parents or adults often encourage kids to express their feelings with words (we tell them to “use your words”) we often fall short ourselves.  We often instinctively restrict our vocabulary to anything but the broadest terms (such as “angry” or “happy”) or adopt lingo (like “cool” or “awesome”) to abstract and generalize our feelings.

Why are emotions so hard to explain?

Emotions are very nuanced, with slightly different meanings, and can be very hard to explain. Imagine trying to describe a particular shade of blue – is it more purple than green? Bright or dark? Is there a specific name for that shade such as sky, navy, or indigo?

Emotions are often mixed, and to explain them, you need to be able to identify and label the tones of emotion that make up what you feel. This can be difficult for people who are adept at expressing themselves emotionally, forget those of us who haven’t had much practice developing those capacities for recognizing what we feel.

As a result, we will often forget how to express our emotions verbally, even resorting to emojis, LOL’s, etc. my personal go-to’s, ;), to clarify our feelings. These behaviors are not only adopted by our kids but encouraged culturally as the very speed of communications shortcuts vocabulary and expression to anything but the mere essentials.

Why emotional literacy is so important.

Many of us only know or rely on a few emotional descriptive words, such as mad, sad, happy. How often do you use an emotional word in everyday speech? Can you describe your emotions?   Many of us haven’t been taught.  If our family didn’t discuss emotions on a regular basis, or we were shut down when you tried, we wouldn’t have learned all the ways they can be described and communicated.

Emotional literacy is an important aspect of language.  If we can’t name or articulate what’s happening to us emotionally, we can’t address it correctly.  Much like when you go to the doctor and you are must describe your symptoms.  Without the right descriptions or words, the doctor is unable to accurately diagnose you, and therefore, offer the right prescription or treatment.

Learning to use accurate feeling words when expressing ourselves supports emotional growth.  Developing and expanding our emotional vocabulary will help us approach feelings and relationships in a more sophisticated and well-adjusted way.

Here are some words to describe emotions:

Anger

Anxious

Belonging

Blame

Curious

Disappointed

Disgust

Embarrassment

Empathy

Excited

Fear| Scared

Frustrated

Gratitude

Grief

Guilt

 

Happy

Humiliation

Hurt

Jealous

Joy

Judgment

Lonely

Love

Overwhelmed

Regret

Sad

Shame

Surprised

Vulnerability

Worried

 

Self-Awareness

What is Self-Awareness? (and how you develop it)

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“People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships – not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem.” —Deepak Chopra

Self-awareness seems to have become the latest buzzword in both personal and leadership development.  And this is really good news!  Recent research suggests that when we understand ourselves, really see ourselves, we are more confident and creative.  We make better decisions, cultivate stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively.  We’re better at our jobs and get more promotions. We’re more effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.   Unfortunately though, research on this subject suggests that 95% of people think they are self-aware, while only 10-15% actually are.

In my last post, I discussed the four components of emotional intelligence, and having and cultivating self-awareness is one of the four components of emotional intelligence (EQ).  As simple as it sounds though, it is a skill requires our undivided attention, time and patience to develop and practice.  While feeling happy is great, knowing why you feel happy and what caused you to be happy is an indicator of a person who is self-aware.  When we’re equipped with this self-awareness, we become better at cultivating more of what invigorates us in our lives, while eliminating, minimizing, or effectively navigate those circumstances that don’t.

Knowing why you’re feeling the way you are in any given situation requires each of us to pay attention. While we are generally aware and pay attention to all the external events in our lives, sometimes we often neglect to observe ourselves. We often don’t’ explore why we see what we see or why we feel what we feel.

More specifically, having self-awareness  involves:

  • Being able to observe ourselves, accept and recognize what we discover and be honest about how we feel, why we act certain ways in particular situations, and the change that we may need to take.
  • It is being able to pay attention and be honest about our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. When we choose this approach, we choose to welcome a life of quality, fulfillment, and contentment.

What self-awareness isn’t

To further understand self-awareness, I find it helpful to look at what it isn’t:

  • Being passive aggressive
  • Being controlling
  • Blaming others
  • Being defensive
  • Unconscious behavior changes

In other words, not being self-aware involves not noticing how our behavior adversely affects those around us and how it can sabotage the relationships we are trying to build.

Benefits of having self-awareness

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

  1. You let go of things that don’t serve you.

Letting go of things that no longer serve you is easier once you understand their negative effects.  Thus, they become less desirable.  This makes your ambitions, dreams, and goals much easier and more clearer.

  1. Become more at peace with yourself

When you take the time to listen to how you are feeling and investigate why you are feeling what you are, you become more in tune with your most authentic self. You begin the journey of searching out what piques your curiosity and thus gravitate toward moments that will cultivate more peace and harmony in your life.

  1. Become better able to communicate with clarity

By understanding yourself, especially the “why”, you can clearly communicate with others your joy, your sadness, your frustration, your hopes. And when you speak clearly, others who truly are listening will come to know who you truly are.

  1. Decision making is simplified

Knowing what you want is the most significant part to making the best decision. And when we finally discover what we want, we can say no quickly to the rest.

  1. Clear purpose and direction

While we can always appreciate different paths that others take, when we know the direction we need to take and why we are on it, it is easier to stay focused and not stray.

  1. An enriched life experience

Key to reaching self-awareness is getting clear on your why. Magnificent power is given to each of us when we answer with clarity the “why”. When knowing what enlivens us, what makes us shrink in fear or what peaks our curiosity, we can then seek out what will enrich us, what will heighten our experience and thus what will enrich our lives.

  1. Find true fulfillment and contentment

Living an enriched life is discovering what fulfillment and contentment are. Being fully present in the moment, in the lives we have created for ourselves and wanting to be there, and then having the chance to experience this similar moment every day in varying degrees is to attain fulfillment. We can only do that if we are honest with ourselves about what we feel and why in any given situation.

  1. Optimism rises

Optimism will rise as we begin to see evidence that applying what we learn about ourselves to life truly does lead us down a path that enlivens our lives. And when we see a fulfilling life is possible, we begin to believe again that life can be a truly amazing gift.

  1. Reduction of guilt and regrets

Due to the ability to make better decisions, the guilt and the regrets are diminished. When we confidently make decisions, being aware of how we feel and how our decision will effect others, we know the outcome, by and large, before we leap. Once we leap we accept that not everyone will applaud, but we won’t regret it and we will be able to let go of judgment from others as we own our decision.

  1. Improve relationships

Self-awareness is a key component of having emotional intelligence, and as was discussed here, developing our EQ improves our relationships because we are cognizant of our actions and how they affect those around us, and we know how to handle ourselves effectively as we can observe accurately what we feel and why.

  1. You become more self-confident!

A healthy balance of self-confidence and humility is the most attractive quality a person can have.  Striving to be your best and most self-confidence self inspires and enhances the lives of others in your life.

How to develop self-awareness:

“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… the power to choose, to respond, to change.” —Stephen Covey

  • Accept the responsibility of changing responses and behaviors to external stimuli: people, situations, life.
  • Reflect on the outcome in each situation and contemplate your role. Pause and examine everything quietly before you judge yourself and others.
  • Become curious about yourself. Be eager to learn new things about life and yourself in general.
  • Practice self-care, including your physical and emotional health
  • Develop high emotional intelligence
  • Change your mindset. Turn off the old mental chatter that continues to explain and justify everything in your life in the exact same way.

Seeking to develop these soft skills and personal attributes will not only enhance our life, but of those lives around us.  They enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.  At times however, the process to become more self-aware will be uncomfortable, but the unease and discomfort is normal, but temporary if you stick with it.   The reward is an enriched, quality life.