It’s a chemistry
experiment, this human business of being. The chemistry experiment of
mixing all the ingredients of life and observing the results moment by
moment has an overall objective. The objective has been the same
throughout recorded time for each and every one of our species.
Really it’s more an
alchemy process than a chemistry process because we’re trying to take
the day-to-day lumps of coal along with all the gems we find in the ups
and downs of life and transform them into gold. No matter what the
culture, no matter what the language, no matter what the race, no matter
what the personality, we homo sapiens aspire to create gold. Our
alchemy process is to turn the day-to-day seemingly valueless
circumstances and situations into the gold of “happiness.”
alchemy requires a magic ingredient and then a mixing and stirring of
very concrete practices. That magic ingredient is what this blog is
ultimately about. Mattering, that sense of making a difference in the
world and knowing how to make a difference each day is the secret sauce,
the magic ingredient. It requires the crucible of faith and the
"muscles" of emotional intelligence that one by one we will take a look
at and illustrate.
those muscles of emotional intelligence that will be the focus
of day-to-day entries in this blog. Each post will relate to one of the
seven "muscles" of emotional intelligence. So I need to give you just a
little more context.
view emotional intelligence more like physical muscle building than
studying to getting a high score on a test. Our physical muscles make up
a complex system that allows us to walk, run, sit, stand, breathe,
lift, bend, and many other actions to navigate our physical world.
There are tools like free-weights, universal gym, exercise bike, balance
ball, to help tone your physical muscles.
you want to play basketball well, you do a lot of drills in your
practice sessions so that when it comes time to play the real game you
can win based on the strength you've built and the muscle memory for
effective dodging, weaving, running, blocking, passing, catching,
real game of day-to-day life takes metaphorical dodging, weaving,
running, blocking, passing, catching, and scoring. So our model of
emotional intelligence identifies the complex muscles that allow us to
persevere, respond authentically, connect with others effectively,
bounce back from setbacks, risk, create, and navigate our psychological
and interactive world in order to experience life more richly. The seven
EQ Muscles™ are: humility, acceptance, resilience, optimism,
connection, creativity, and authenticity.
like the apparatus and tools for building physical muscles, there are
concrete tools for toning, developing, and building the seven emotional
intelligence muscles. Those tools are taught in our books, sessions, and
courses. They're not what this blog is about.
blog is about the daily game and one person's application of the
practice sessions in order to dodge, weave, run, block, pass, catch,
and score. Each "Morning Musing" will connect everyday ordinary
situations and circumstances to those emotional intelligence muscles.
It'll be like watching that basketball game and getting the
play-by-play, color commentary, and analysis. The intent is to
make applying emotional intelligence real and not just some
abstract concept. The intent is to apply emotional intelligence to that
alchemy process of life.
a catch to learning this alchemy of transforming day-to-day life into
the gold of happiness. Unlike other recipes for the perfect dessert or
steps in the foolproof chemistry experiment or steps in self help books,
this alchemy process, in order to work, is not the same for any person
as it is for any other. Each person has to put his or her own alchemy
process together. The following musings contain some illustrations and
examples that might stir your alchemy.
with me and thank you for stopping by,
By EQGAL | August 06, 2014 at 02:48 PM EDT | No Comments
Woke up this morning very aware of a current assignment that is a logistics challenge. I’m good at logistics and proud of that talent. But I can take that talent to extreme, into a rumination pattern, and live in the question: “what’s the worst that can happen?” So the emotional intelligence muscle-the resilience muscle—and bouncing out of that worrisome question into something more helpful is on my mind. (And maybe the fact that we’re conducting a session on Resilience next month http://www.thechinookinstitute.org/shop/ is helping my preparation for that commitment.) Whatever…
When I walked up the hill this morning with my lawn-chair and chai tea in hand, ready to sit and journal looking out over the valley, I interrupted a female deer breakfasting on blackberries. Suddenly aware of each other the doe and I both did the same thing—we stopped dead in our tracks, eyes riveted on one another, breath held, waiting to see if we would move and whether that movement would be relaxed or not. My hope was that she would go back to her eating. I think she hoped that I would turn around and walk back down the hill so she could refocus on that breakfast of blackberries.
The doe decided to run toward the trees so I marched up to my usual writing spot, and continued my ritual of pondering, looking out over the world, drinking my chai tea, and plunking reflections in my journal. What a gift the distraction of the doe and her worries was. It carried me away from the planning worries that I found myself in this morning! The world always provides a reminder to breathe, and breathe in, the helpful distraction from big and little fears. The trick for me is to accept the moment’s offer.
As I started to write again, I looked up and there was the doe in the corner where those blackberries are ripe. She came back! And she brought her two fawns with her!!!
The doe, looking at me, made that snort that deer make and bounced away again with her fawns following her lead. I think she was teaching her babies to be wary of humans using me as an easy lesson for them.
Being ready for the worst is OK. Planning for contingencies—escape in the case of the doe and her fawns—but bouncing back to the tasks at hand is exercising that resilience muscle. Intentionally toning the muscle by noticing, breathing, and acting with a mundane task is the rep—putting the next foot down, and realizing that’s all that needs to be done right now—“just the next right thing.”
And then maybe a little flexing of the optimism muscle—intentionally expecting safety and resolution as the outcome.
I heard the deer bouncing in the trees and couldn’t see them anymore but suspect they were back at the blackberries—eating. The deer teach such good lessons.
We live on a little farm. As you walk or drive on our road to the house, you have to cross a creek over tiny wooden bridge that’s bordered by big fir trees and cottonwoods growing close to the creek.
It is said that hundreds of years ago the pioneers brought English ivy to our Pacific Northwest and since then it has smothered our native vegetation. Ivy, this fast growing “little house of horrors” plant (for those of you that remember the play with the man-eating plant), can take down the tallest trees with its climbing ability and weight. And you can never really pull out all its roots; it resists herbicides; and it NEVER DIES.
Why am I talking about ivy, you ask? I walk a path around the farm as my four-times-a-week exercise (so that I can eat more). And as I notice the ivy making its diligent progress climbing up all the trees around the creek, I know that I have work to do and my task is getting more and more urgent. The work is to control the ivy by cutting a four-foot girdle of space in the jacket of ivy growing up the trees. That space eliminates water from the ivy roots to the ivy growing up the tree…and kills it.
My task, involving climbing, slipping, pulling, scraping, scratching, and hacking woody ivy vines, is now urgent because if the ivy pulls a tree down across the little bridge, we can’t get to or from our house. Getting to the grocery store is in peril…I don’t have enough Cheese Curls to survive being stranded.
So I have work to do! And “work” is not a good word for me.
I’ve long recognized that redefining that word “work” is an important tactic for me as I break patterns and habits of thinking and acting that no longer serve me. I can create affirmations: “work is beautiful, work is wonderful….” Hmmm, that definitely doesn’t do it for me! I can appreciate and believe the concept but it doesn’t bring me to the eagerness-to-do-it feeling that I need to tackle and even start the job. I’d rather watch TV and eat those Cheese Curls.
The profit motive does seem to work for me…especially as I reflect that feelings are profitable. Feelings are the prizes. It’s the feeling of happiness or joy or satisfaction or exhilaration or excitement or pleasure that is the prize that really underpins vacations, clothes, cars, iPhones, boats, movies, restaurants, and on and on.
I envy those people who learned early or were taught and modeled that work feels good, something to look forward to. I envy those people who learned to seek tasks to be done like adventures. Work was hard, never-ending, a punishment. Work conjures a bad feeling anchoring a bad memory. And if you didn’t do work right it was an even worse feeling and a worse memory.
We humans are feeling-seeking and feeling-avoiding animals. Every memory is anchored by a feeling that we’ve either sought or sought to avoid.
So what feelings can I notice and understand to re-understand work? Pride, satisfaction, and validation are pleasant feelings. I would like them. They are profits. Maybe there are more enjoyable feelings that I can sense and remember and align with work.
When I think about it, there’s the feeling of hope in every task attempted and hope seems like a pretty big profit to earn. Equating work with hope, the ultimate state of optimism…jackpot!
"the rest of the story"...
Ivy slashed on the trees by the bridge. Die you fiend! Die!
It is an unconscious pressure. At least it was for me. And as the Passenger song says, “you only know you miss the light when it’s burnin’ low.” Not that I miss the pressure of needing to know the answer. It’s that the awareness only comes when you notice the contrast.
I’m grateful to expect to know more later…to get more information gradually. I can know the answer for now and “the now” a bit down the road and maybe even a bit further down the now road. But expecting more information and being open to more information is so hopeful and gentle!
It’s a comforting stance that was not modeled for me in my family nor taught in all the managerial and leadership courses in my various careers and positions. My mom and dad both used the “you-should-know-better” feedback phrase popular in their parenting generation…bless them both. And the popular vision of the successful leader certainly built on that expectation of the leader’s worth being measured in knowing all the answers and knowing them before everybody else. Is that too harsh an assessment of last century’s leader characterization? Did I just make that up or just hear the wrong advice? I do remember a very successful leader’s admonition “don’t ever let them know you’re in doubt, Val.”
The real downside for a leader’s having all the answers and doing all the talking in all those company and organization meetings is that the quietest voice doesn’t get heard. Even the normally louder voices are “taught” the quiet behavior and unconsciously turn off the thinking that is the fertile soil for innovation.
I don’t think that anyone in any age or generation really thinks in terms of teaching arrogance. But isn’t that the ultimate result? It’s a puzzle isn’t it…valuing decisiveness, strength of conviction, persuasiveness and valuing doubt, openness, and transparency of vulnerability? Ah, the balancing act of talents and talents taken to extreme!
All I know is that it feels one heck of a lot better to look forward to getting more information, choosing to decide on and accept the real-sized now step. The contrast is palpable…being desperate to work out the answer now, staying awake fearing consequences of being wrong with all its follow-on imagined consequences. Easier, gentler…welcome lovely and strong humility!
By EQGAL | August 09, 2010 at 02:25 PM EDT | No Comments
A quick set of reps with the perspective free-weight... to set the day's trajectory: "Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, These three alone lead life to sovereign power."— Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) It's the concept of "putting the oxygen mask on mySelf first." It's only then that I can solidly and authentically help others. It's only then that my energy is maximized for my own unique creativity. It's only then that I can make a difference.
By EQGAL | August 07, 2010 at 04:57 PM EDT | No Comments
“There’ll be days like this” the song by Van Morrison says. Unlike the usual perspective after saying that phrase, the song goes on to talk about all the right things that happen in a day, like “when the pieces of the puzzle come together” and you make sense of life’s situations.
It’s a positive spin. The song turns the usual phrase of complaint that “maybe the full moon was out” on “days like this’ into the lesson to look for the days when nothing is there to harm you…all’s right with the world. Evidently Morrison’s mom told him that there would be these blissful days: ”My Momma told me there’d be days like this.”
So this morning, talking to my mom on the phone, because she’s in Chicago and I’m in Portland, Oregon,I worked on my optimism muscle. She’s 90 and slipping into dementia. Mom and I still track though, and have a great connection. She’s always suffered from depression and also was quite a rageful person in the middle years of her life when her marriage to my father became more and more unbearable to her. She experienced sexual abuse by her brothers as a very young little girl and her mother was a pretty dark and dower woman. So it makes sense that my mother uses a fearful, angry and pessimistic strategy to navigate life even now. Happy thoughts are not her forte…just sayin’.
Optimism is one of the seven emotional intelligence muscles that I have to work hard to build and will for the rest of my life (as with all the emotional intelligence muscles). This is not a muscle that got a lot of workout for most of my life so it’s naturally weaker than say my resilience muscle. I have to really focus on it and give it some extra reps to keep it toned and actually build it up to keep a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Most mothers want the best for their children and want to protect them from the hurts that they experienced in life. They want to save their kids as much pain as they can and teach them everything they can to avoid the pitfalls that have caused them great discomfort. So they teach lessons of readiness.
Often these lessons of readiness are to be ready for the worst to happen. And these lessons are certainly necessary and critical for a child to face the world and what can be dangerous circumstances. My mom is certainly one of those shield-you-from-the-pain moms.
Readiness is also really a good lesson in the other direction, too. Be ready for the good days. Savor them.
Like many mother/daughter switches in roles later in life, Mom and I have switched, too. When I called Mom this morning, it was also to help her build her optimism muscle and think some happy thoughts. (Sometimes you need a personal trainer in this emotional intelligence muscle building.) Kinda late for my mom to develop these muscles and no one can build them for someone else, but as I build mine I can’t help but hope there’s a little pain relief for Mom.
Being aware of the optimism muscle and deciding to exercise it is the start for me. Like sensing the right position for proper physical muscle exercise and paying attention to the feeling as you do reps, consciousness about optimism makes all the difference in getting the most from the routine.
Intending to enjoy my conversation with mom was helpful today. Picking the positive memories to talk about and sprinkling the “I love you’s” liberally, bathed both of our brains in the bright side of life. The smile on my face infected both of us even though we are 1000 miles apart.
My optimism building routine continued after saying goodbye to Mom. I continued smiling and immediately said “I’m grateful that I could hear her voice today.”
Language is so important in the optimism muscle building. Focused words are the universal gym of emotional intelligence building. Positive words and phrases and sentences build the optimism muscle. Rep after rep after rep.
Doing loved activities with optimism glasses on is another part of the optimism muscle building routine. After talking to Mom with a smile on my face, I hiked for an hour on the path around our farm.With my iPod blaring my favorite songs I "trudged the road of happy destiny” in the morning sun.
My optimism-building exercise routine continued. Opening a daily-thought, email subscription reinforced that Van Morrison is not the only songwriter that has something to say about the benefits of building the optimism muscle…
“You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face, And show the world all the love in your heart, Then people gonna treat you better. You're gonna find, yes, you will, That you're beautiful as you feel.”-Carole King
I also noticed and appreciated the double benefit of exercising my physical muscles as part of exercising my optimism muscle on the hike. I can eat today and still fit into the ballgown I’m wearing tomorrow night at a very gala wedding reception. There’s another happy thought put into explicit words! Good job, Val!
"There'll be days like this!" My momma didn't tell me this like Van Morrison's mom but I'm teaching myself to notice and apply this optimism muscle every day!
What looms large...that stops me from starting or continuing or even trying?
The critical eye! I see it there in front of me...often in another person's face...that face of disapproval. How do I put that critical face, that often appears before me in another person's demeanor, into reality?
The disapproval looms like the terrifying monster in the story about the little girl on the mountainous road.* She was faced with a choice of paths, each guarded by monsters. She faced the choice of enduring one monster's behavior versus what appeared to be the gentler monster's path. She chose the quieter easier way first.
The little girl proceeded for a time on this path but all the while she could hear the other monster roaring and yelling and screaming behind her. She could see it behind her becoming more and more violent as it watched her walking away. On impulse she went back to the fork in the road where the screaming monster raged and began walking on its path.
The little girl looked back to the "easy" road that she would have taken just in time to see part of the road fall away to destruction down the side of the mountain. She turned back to the road with the scary monster and kissed that monster on its nose.
I am an artist. I paint with oils. I paint with words. I have something to say...for others to read...for me to reflect and internalize. My words can be a mirror that becomes brighter, less cloudy, less mirky.
Ah but the critical eye...my own...my reader's. It's Kramer's "stink-eye" from the Seinfeld TV episode that in reality cannot kill me no matter how terrifying. It's not the raging mother's disapproval that I might have at one time connected to the impending pain of a spanking. It's not the inherent reaction of a child's risking deadly abandonment by a parent. It's clouds across my cornea like cataracts that make me mis-perceive. I hold mySelf tight in terror of the critical eye.
Being authentic, building that emotional intelligence muscle, takes daily work, daily exercise. "Morning Musings" are my reps. I'd rather be lazy and not put mySelf, my words, out there. Some days I will have more courage than others. Some days I will be more able for others to get to know me more deeply. Some days, when I have the courage, I will get a response that's painful. It might launch me back to a safe cave with no light to reflect in a welcoming mirror.
Reps...go ahead...one by one. "Kiss the monster on the nose"...