The Emotionally Intelligent person

Release your inner self“So what exactly is emotional intelligence?” This is usually the question I face when I mention emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) and, to be honest, I’m always a little surprised that people find the term so foreign.  It was because of this, I decided to write this blog post and share some inspiration with all of you and while surprise is usually my reaction, I am also most grateful that EI elicits such a strong degree of curiosity.  Why?  Well, recent studies have shown that it is the most important factor in defining success in the workplace and happiness at home.  More and more companies are starting to hire people based on emotional competencies and this trend is starting to prove highly successful, with well recognised companies (like L’Oreal) focusing on hiring emotionally skilled people.

And thankfully, unlike IQ, which is inherently difficult to change, you can ‘up-skill your Emotional Intelligence’ with deliberate practice and training.  I will explore some themes and exercises with you later in this article.

So back to the opening question – “what exactly is emotional intelligence?”  Let’s begin by finding a suitable definition.  In its most basic translation, EI refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions.  Not only one’s own emotions and feelings but, equally importantly, the emotions and feelings of the people around you.  The way we interact with and regulate our emotions has repercussions in nearly every aspect of our daily lives.

Carolyn Gregoire wrote in an article for the Huffington Post: “to put it in colloquial terms, emotional intelligence is like ‘street smarts’ as opposed to ‘book smarts’ and it’s what accounts for a great deal of one’s ability to navigate life effectively.”  Personally, I couldn’t agree more and to such an extent that Emotional Intelligence is an integral part of my course, The 5 steps to Clarity.  In fact, it’s the first step in the program.

RelationshipsDr Daniel Goleman, an influential psychologist and behavioural science journalist, who popularised this theory in the late eighties, describes EI as “managing feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively, enabling people to work together smoothly toward their common goals.”

According to Goleman, there are four major skills that make up emotional intelligence.  I refer to them as the as the 4 Cores of EQ.  I have listed them below with a few exercises and tips to help develop your EI.

Self-Awareness:  Recognise the self by becoming more aware of your emotions and how they affect your moods.  A great exercise to help with this, is to keep a ‘mood diary’ – you’d be surprised how often we are in a bad mood or are feeling low but have no idea why.  Identifying the cause of your mood and writing it down with the corresponding emotion is a great way of becoming more self-aware, with the added benefit of being a good de-stressing exercise.

Self-Management: Next, learn to manage your moods and emotions.  It’s all well and good saying I’m angry because Bob (no offense to the Bobs of the world) said something mean, but real emotional intelligence is taking responsibility for one’s own emotional state and learning to deal with it promptly and effectively.  Remember, sometimes life events just happen.  No reason, no justification, they just happen.  But it’s our emotional reaction to these events that set us apart.  A good exercise for this Core is to write down a life event followed by your reaction to it and the outcome.  Example:  A flat tyre in the rain and you are late for work + frustration and anger = rude to taxi driver who over charges you or you are snappy with your work colleagues who complain and you are called in.  By writing this down you get to visually see how important your emotional reactions are.  And by changing your reaction, you learn to affect the outcome more positively.

The last conversationSocial Awareness:  Recognise how other people are feeling. This is referred to as being empathetic.  Stephen Covey, highly successful author (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) writes “seek first to understand and then be understood…” and this is especially true when you are learning empathy.  The key is to give the person you’re talking to your undivided attention.  Listening is the first step, but the real trick is trying to recreate the feeling they are feeling.  A good tip in this Core is to read up about body language and facial expressions.  You don’t have to be an expert, but understanding people’s postures and expressions go a long way in helping you to understand what others are feeling.

me-and-you-and-everyone-we-knowRelationship Management: Lastly, the human experience is built on relationships.  It’s well documented how the lack of affection and adequate socialising has hugely damaging effects on people; it seems we were designed to be around people.  By using the points above, you should be in an excellent position to start building effective and, most importantly, appropriate relationships with people.  By being genuinely interested in people, that curiosity combined with shared experiences through empathy and story-telling, will help to forge amazing relationships both in the work place and in your personal life.  These rich relationships will serve as great foundations for personal happiness and success.

To summarise:

  1. Recognise the self (Self Awareness) – Exercise:  Mood Diary
  2. Manage the self (Self Management) – Exercise:  Visualise your emotional reaction to a life event by writing it out
  3. Recognise others (Social Awareness) – Tip:  Read up on body language.  Listen to the person.  Try to feel what they feel.
  4. Build appropriate relationships (Relationship Management) – Tip:  Be genuinely interested in people, everyone can enrich your life with their story.

Okay, so there you have it.  I sincerely hope that this inspires you to go out there and start to improve your EI because I have no doubt that it will improve the quality of your life almost instantly.  As usual, if you need some help or know someone who does or if you’d like to ask me a question, please use the Contact Me button on the top right hand side of the screen.  I’m always happy to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this article please share on your favourite social media platform.  You never know who might see it, or who might need it.

Meaning and Happiness

BuddahIs happiness a component that leads to fulfilment or is it a product of being fulfilled?  Before I get lost in translation, let me simplify:  “should we strive for happiness in our lives or will happiness inevitably manifest when we become fulfilled?”

What got me thinking about this was an article I read recently called “Meaning is healthier than happiness”.   Let me explain.  The premise of the article was based on an old saying “healthy body, healthy mind”.  However, new studies indicate that just being happy may actually be detrimental to the physical body if it is not accompanied by meaning (which ultimately provides a person with fulfilment).

If we pursue the concept of fulfilment and contentment down the proverbial rabbit hole, we are obligied to examine the concept of happiness and the role it plays.

According to Barbara Fredrickson, a psychological researcher who specializes in positive emotions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Steve Cole, a genetics and psychiatric researcher at UCLA, the human body has a ‘forward planning’ immune system.  It’s hard coded to our genetics that certain emotions will prompt the body to prepare itself for specific and predicted threats.

Put simply, loneliness and adversity puts the body into a state where it is primed to fight bacterial infections. Why?  Well they surmise that our ancestors would often spend long days and nights alone whilst hunting and this often resulted in serious infections because of deep scratches and wounds from predators and the actual act of stalking and hunting.  The flip side of this is when we are doing well and engaged in healthy social interactions, the body shifts and prepares us for viral threats, which is an element of being around other humans.

neuroscience-and-enlightenmentLike me, I bet you’re wondering what the *bleep* this has to do with happiness or meaning for that matter?  Well, like neuroscientists who use MRI scanning to determine how regions in the brain respond to different stimuli, Cole and Fredrickson wanted to see how the body, at a genetic level, responds to feelings of happiness and meaning.

Here are their findings, which I will paraphrase:  if you are happy but without meaning in your life, your body goes into the genetic expression akin to that of the loneliness and chronic adversity mode (the body goes into an inflammatory state producing an excess of what it needs in preparation for the stress it anticipates)!

Simply put: just being happy places the body under the same negative stressors that being unhappy does!  SO – are they saying we shouldn’t be happy?!   No, not at all!  It’s a complicated study but very interesting to read and has certainly shifted some of my preconceived notions of what it really means to be happy and fulfilled.

In a world dominated by books on happiness and personal wellness, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to highlight the importance of having meaning in your life as opposed to simply seeking ‘happiness’.

Their study further reveals that the inflammatory state is offset by having ‘meaning’ or purpose.  In other words, people who derive happiness from their purpose or meaning gain a sense of fulfilment and do not create those inflammatory stressors in their bodies.  This is in stark opposition to happiness derived from purely hedonistic pursuits.

What is happiness?  The obvious answer, given to me by my four year old niece was simply – “it’s a good feeling”.  Ah, the genius of a young mind, never a truer word spoken, don’t you think?  It strikes me as almost philosophical.

happinessHowever, ‘a good feeling’ devoid of meaning can be defined as: “an empty positive emotion” and is similar in nature to a manufactured high from narcotics. This is but a chemical illusion that fools the body and mind and quite frankly can be as devastating to your well-being as chronic depression and adversity.  So, yes it is a good feeling, but the body cannot sustain it constantly, unless ‘the good feeling’ is born from fulfilment.  In other words happiness obtained through being fulfilled is actually healthier for the body.  Could fulfilment be the mind-body connector?

Meaning, incidentally, is described as finding a connection to something greater than the self or in a word to be ‘selfless’.

Okay – so enough with the crazy science speak, let us revisit my initial question and a draw conclusion:  “should we strive for happiness in our lives or will happiness inevitably manifest when we are fulfilled?”

In my humble opinion:  Meaning will provide fulfilment and fulfilment provides a healthier happiness.

If we live a life without meaning, our life simply becomes a patchwork quilt of moments in time matted together, and I can almost guarantee that upon reflection, you will find that it will lack purpose and by association it will be void of fulfilment too.  Thus by proxy your happiness will not be as satisfying as it could be.

DNAHelixThe human spirit is hard coded to survive – but our survival has always been dependant on meaning and purpose.   Finding purpose is part of who we are as a species.  It drives progress and evolution, and it is this that is ultimately what separates us from animals as we are able to function beyond base instinct.

If you want to see a real change in your life, give it meaning.  Find a meaning rather than a logical reason and you will naturally be driven to success.  The application of meaning to any part of our lives will result in a change.  How great and successful is dependent on your meaning.  If you struggle to find real meaning, start by becoming more purposeful.  Set goals and targets to achieve.  This will lend direction to your life and with direction comes meaning.

Try it now.  Evaluate your life by asking one simple question:  am I fulfilled?  If the answer is no, check out my program – The 5 Steps to Clarity and lets get you on the right path.


Concrete BlocksGood old writer’s block – like a bad Mafioso movie, my inspiration to write has felt more like a pair of cold, heavy concrete boots (the ones that see you sink to the bottom of a murky river) rather than my usual exuberance.  Instead of wielding my pen like Zorro – fleet footed, elegant and full of pizazz, my pen has felt more like a butter knife in the hands of a lumber jack!  And it would seem this allegory was quite apt given the mounds of scribbled and scrawled paper around me.

So what brought me out of the dreary depths of fallen writers?  Well, inspiration it seems is often found when you are at the bottom of the lake looking up (proverbially of course).  And just like that, the weighty, grey cement blocks released me from their grim depths and I was back!  Ironically, I’ve been talking about the ‘Fog of Life’ recently and have even devised a program centred on this state of mental vagueness, so it came as no surprise that irony abounded when my inspiration returned.

Blurred LensesLet me explain.  My creative lenses were seriously blurry and my thought process was stagnant!  The irony was that I was making it worse by inadvertently creating a habit by mentally repeating the same negative thoughts: “I have writers block, I have no inspiration to write”.  What exactly is a habit?  It is the repeating of an action, emotion or thought until we believe it to be true.  It moves from our conscious mind into the unconscious and that’s when we stop “thinking” about it and instead it starts to happen automatically.

Once that happens, a habit has been formed.

An action, emotion or thought compounded by repetition will bury itself into your subconscious.  And so by repeating that negative phrase to myself consistently, I was starting to believe I had lost my mojo.  Extreme and dire I suspect, but the unconscious does what it must to make the conscious believe – think about that the next time you ‘argue’ with yourself.

One of the biggest repercussions of being stuck in ‘The Fog of Life’ is the very real possibility of your unconscious accepting this as your life’s status quo.  I call this ‘negative habitising’ (yes a made up word and hopefully a book waiting to happen).  I’ve said it before;  our reality is what we believe it to be.  The addendum to this is that we create our reality by repeating actions, thoughts, emotions or processes.

RepetitionThe good news is that ‘negative habitising’ is 100% reversible.  You can choose to habitise positively because the unconscious is totally reprogrammable.  Simply remember this:  habits are a symptom of repetition.  The more you do something, the more it becomes second nature. This is true for all things (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual).  So, why not choose to create more empowering habits instead of limiting ones?  I cover this as part of my course – The 5 steps to Clarity, so if you are in need of some help or know someone who is – please get hold of me by using the Contact Me tab at the top of right hand side of this page.

Below I have provided an introduction to the four principles of ‘positive habitising’ and here is a simple acronym to help you remember them: L.O.V.E


‘We are who we are because of what we say we are’ – a bit of mouthful but read it again slowly.  We define who we are by the language we use daily.  So a useful first checkpoint on your road map is to listen to what you are saying.  Self-awareness is perhaps the most fundamental aspect personal development.  Second is language.  They say the pen is mightier than the sword but then what of words and your voice? Be aware of what you say, not only to others, but also to yourself.

Once you have heard yourself, make the change to a more appropriate language set, I call this language optimisation.  An easy way of doing this is to make a list of all your negative words that you have been using and then flip them.  For example: “I can’t” becomes “I can” or “I will”.  Here’s a challenge for you – try not to use the word “don’t” for a whole week and instead find a positive substitute.  Change your actions, emotions and thoughts by optimising your language.

Listening to what we say is the first step.  And then changing what we hear is the second, the third one is obvious – say it.  Say it or vocalise it.  Affirmations are a wonderful way of training yourself to think ‘better’.  Write down a list of empowering statements. Make them relevant to what you want to change, and write them in both current and future tenses. Repeat out aloud daily. Remember step one – listen; you need to vocalise in order to listen.  Eventually you unconscious mind will begin to accept this as reality.  The real power comes from repetition so vocalise and repeat daily!

Lastly, when we are passionate about something or we have a goal that motivates us, the human conscious system accepts this much more readily and easily (and quicker) than repetition.  So find your empowering event or a purpose to drive you.  Purpose gives us direction, and when we know where we are going, it is easier to find enthusiasm to create interesting and positive habits.

As usual any questions or queries are welcome.  Happy habitising people.

The power of imagination

emotion of apathyThis years traditional ‘spring clean’ is motivated not only by tradition, but also the fact that I am busy packing away my life here in the UK (15 days and counting…).  One of my tasks is to tidy up my computer at work and get it ready for a handover.  However, this is more a case of deleting all the rubbish I have accumulated over the past three years!  There is so much! I must be a ‘digital hoarder’ or ‘document pack rat’ because I seem to have kept everything!  None-the-less, my efforts for opening and checking hundreds of ‘Doc 1’ documents have been rewarded as I came across a poem I wrote about 3 years ago.  It’s a strange feeling reading old and forgotten poems again, not sure if any of you write, but they are wonderful vessels for storing emotions and life experiences.  My first reaction was to delete it, but as I read through it I realised it was a lesson waiting to be learnt.

“Delicious Apathy arrives on a silvery film of confusion, wrapping her lithe fingers tightly around your soul.  Her voice comes cloaked in a clandestine whisper tiptoeing into in your mind, while the mists of hope veil your vision. With her gentle, melancholic grip she seductively shawls your being, coaxing you effortlessly into a familiar haze of indifference and compounds your confusion.  Apathy seizes her opportunity to vaunt her chicanery and just like that emotional inertia is set in motion.  Those secretive whispers become jaunts of justification and the surreptitious Apathy smiles warmly as her mischievous words consume you. You smile unknowingly as the transition of your ordinary ‘black and white’ is replaced with a disingenuous grey. Oh dear Apathy, your work is done.  A finely crafted dystopia, bathed in bearable misery and I am none the wiser…”

Poetry is a personal experience and so I’d prefer not to share with you the motivation behind this poem, but rather I urge you to ‘experience’ the poem for yourself.  What I can share with you however, is how to combat the feeling of apathy.  Interestingly enough the dictionary definition of apathy reads as follows: “lack of interest or concern”, but reading a little further I found another great description and perhaps one better suited to the nature of my poem: “is a state of indifference, or lack of purpose…” and herein lies my prescription.

Apathy is a state of mind brought on by your perceived lack of purpose.  And if you’ve read my previous article (Status quo), you’ll remember that setting personal goals is simple way of creating a purpose for yourself.  However, I know it’s not that easy.  I can empathise with anyone who has experienced it.  So how does one change their state of mind?  The first point to memorise is the following:  the mind cannot distinguish between what is real or imagined.  Take a moment to reflect on this statement.  It’s incredibly powerful and is a scientific fact, not something I have made up.  When you are ready to accept this statement you can really use it to transform you life, but for now, I do believe I will need to convince the cynics, I was one after all.

Let’s look at the irrational fear of a young child.  They imagine that there is a monster hiding in the shadows or under the bed, the terrifying boogy man is coming to get them!  Their imagination is so powerful, that it will actually induce physical symptoms of fear: heart palpitations  sweating, tears, muscle tension and in some cases loss of bladder control.  The imagined fear is so real to the child that it manifests itself physically.  Think about this – we tend to find reasons to support our beliefs, regardless of what they are.  I know I do.  And so to the little child, every shifting shadow is the  terrible monster, every creak and crack in the house is amplified to threatening foots steps.

So the answer to my question, how does one change your state of mind?  Simple – use your imagination…  Goals can give you purpose, but it’s imagination that gives you your goals.  The only limit to your imagination is you.  So dream big and set your mind free. Try it.

Changing Lanes

It’s human nature to find a cause to the effect.  And speaking of cause and effect, I thought I’d share with you a little insight on how 2012 panned out for me. I was tasked with making a decision that would affect my future.  Dramatic, well no, not really or so I thought in April. It was a simple choice of: apply for my visa now or apply at the end of the year and turn it into a Christmas holiday with the family.  I chose the former, I mean who wouldn’t? Especially me, it’s been two years since I’ve seen my mum and dad, my sister and niece and I haven’t even met my new nephew yet.  Not to mention my old school friends – it’s been too long since I’ve felt the warm embrace of mama Africa.

How was I to know that the UK’s immigration policy would change and that my decision to apply at the end of the year would effectively mean I cannot continue my life here in London past the 26th of January 2013.  And just like that my life has been turned upside down.  Everything I had been working for has been disrupted.  The plan I had in place now requires a serious rethink.

Rail CrossroadsIn pondering how I could have ‘planned’ better so that this could not have happened I am faced with an iron clad reality:  “The best laid schemes of men and mice go often awry” (Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, 1786).   The best of plans can, and often do fail.  And well that is life, isn’t it?   We plot and plan and this becomes the driving force of our life.  But when it doesn’t work out, we become frustrated, disappointed and all that drive withers away.  The plan is marked as failed, and for most of us it’s a simple equation of failure = fear and so to avoid further failure, we adopt the ‘Que Sera, Sera’ approach:  “What will be, will be.”

If you’ve read my past posts, you will know that I don’t buy into that!  As I’ve said, I’m very much the captain of my own destiny and believe that in order to succeed we must learn from every situation.  And the lesson I have learnt is to have more than one path to my destination.

I am a huge believer in the power of setting goals.  I believe they direct us, they give us purpose and they make our journey achievable. When we set goals for ourselves, it gives us something to aim for and if you know what you’re aiming for, you are more likely to succeed.  Imagine you are asked to shoot an arrow… if there is no target or nothing to shoot at – how would you succeed?

“If we have no goals, we have no destination and subsequently there will be no journey.”  Dinesh Joseph

While goals need to be fixed (so we know what we are aiming for) plans need to be fluid.  When we create fluid plans, we are naturally more adaptable and instinctively start to seek solutions rather than problems.  Instead of obstacles we see challenges and by engaging this type of mentality, we increase our chances of meeting our goals.

Looking back, it would be easy to say I got it wrong and as a consequence my life path has been dramatically altered.  However, I’m optimistic and I am looking at this as an opportunity to redefine my ageing plan (seven years old to be exact).  And while my goal has not changed (completely), my plans to achieve it have had to be adapted.  I am looking forward to my new journey.

Wish me luck, 2013 is going to be a great year!

Shadow Shibari

Our daily bondageGiven the world’s sudden obsession with 50 Shades of Grey,  it sparked a train of thought that led me to arrive at the following question: “is bondage actually the ultimate act of freedom?”  This question got my creative cogs spinning and so I began to do a bit of reading and research.

Some of you may be familiar with the word Shibari.  For those of you who aren’t, the word Shibari has incorrectly come to mean an erotic form of Japanese rope bondage in the western world of BDSM.  Shibari is a noun and literally means ‘to tie’ or ‘to bind’.  There is very little reference as to why such a bastardisation occurred, but from my understanding it is a classic case of ‘lost in translation’.  Japanese as a language uses context specific words with particular meanings ascribed to them whereas in English, meanings can be assumed and words assimilated to have various meanings regardless of the context  The correct word to use is the adverb Kinbaku. It is the most accurate and contextually correct word to use when referring to bondage.  Its literal meaning is ‘the beauty of tight binding’ and its recognised ‘father’ is Seiu Ito.

I guess you are wondering what on earth an inspiration blogger is doing talking about bondage.  Sit tight (if you’ll pardon the very wry pun) and I shall attempt to unravel what I’m getting at.

Bondage is a component of submission.  True submission requires you to relinquish control of yourself.  You let go of your fear and insecurities, and you derive pleasure from being absolutely free from decision.  What an amazing concept, don’t you think?  To be able to put yourself in a frame of mind where you are secure in yourself,  free from worry and doubt, in a mode where you actually allow yourself to receive pleasure because there are no obstacles preventing it.  Amazing.

My question to you is, how do we emulate this mindset without subscribing to the world of BSDM?  How can we model this feeling of freedom and release ourselves from our daily ‘bondage’ (work, stress, debt, anxiety, insecurities, etc.)?

In the realm of inspiration and motivation, the first step in transforming our lives is to become self aware.  To become truly self aware we need to face who we are at ground zero; we need a clear perception of our personality, our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.  But very often the path to self awareness is in the shadow of our daily bondage.  And hence the reason why I’ve called this post ‘Shadow Shibari’.  So how do we slip the ropes of our Shadow Shibari?

Well, the experience of reading through this article should hopefully have got you thinking.  And if you’re thinking, you’re on the right track.  Becoming self aware is a process, an evolution of the self.  You can only become self aware if you make the decision to explore the real you. Take a moment and reflect on this statement:  The REAL you?  Do you know who that is?

In time, I will post a series of articles that will take us on an interesting path of self discovery.  But in the meantime, here is something to help you begin your journey.

Write out the following on a piece of paper:

  1. Describe your best self in 3 words – have fun with it, think about your top 3 most positive qualities. How would you ‘sell’ yourself to someone in just 3 words?  Once you have your 3 words, use a thesaurus on each one and find alternative words for yourself.
  2. Describe your worst self in 3 words – be brutally honest with yourself.  The key here is to dig deep and not list what you have heard others say, but what you know to be your worst self.  Challenge each of these traits.  Where did they come from?
  3. If you were allowed to change one physical aspect of yourself – what would it be? Remember to write out why you want it changed? Reflect on what you have written.  Do you want to change it because of the way you feel in front of others? Examine this feeling.
  4. What is your goal for 2013?  Be very specific. Detail how you are going to achieve your goal.
  5. Write down 5 things that you are truly grateful for.

Put the date on the top right hand corner of the paper, then fold it into a neat little square and put it somewhere safe (not too safe that you forget about it).  Put a reminder on your phone or in your email to check your list in 3 months time.  Do the list again.  Have you changed?  Is your goal still on track?  Are there 5 new things you are grateful for?

One of the keys to unlocking self awareness is to understand that it is a continuous process that never ends.  It’s like the tiny snowball that gets bigger and bigger as it rolls along.  The more you understand yourself, the more you want to understand yourself.  Dig deep, you can only better yourself.