Category Archives: EI

To ask well is to answer

The Jungian analyst Robert Johnson writes, “To ask well is virtually to answer.” He’s writing about our internal process of individuation, navigating our internal landscape in search of wholeness.  Also true? It’s how we best connect with others, how we can calm someone down who is emotionally triggered. A true question – one ‘asked well’ – engages the frontal cortex, the connector part of the brain.  If you want to influence and make a change, ask well. It’s like answering, but better.

Also posted in Brain Science, Influence | Comments closed

Oh, that’s bad, no that’s good! (What I learned watching Hee Haw)

There is a classic skit on Hee Haw where Roy Clark tells a story and Charlie replies with either “oh, that’s good” or “oh, that’s bad”. The joke builds as every time the “that’s good” reply is corrected with Roy Clark saying “no, that’s bad.” What we thought was good news turns out to be bad in the story. And what someone would normally label as “that’s bad” gets corrected by Roy (“no, that’s good”) as we realize that the ‘bad news’ turns out to be good news as the story unfolds. What’s in your circle of control? Larger forces work their dark magic on us and we find ourselves in situations that might be called ‘less than wonderful’. Things happen, bad things happen, beyond our control. Wonderful things happen too. We can focus on what a shame it is we didn’t win the lottery, had that car accident, got that illness, didn’t get that raise, on and on.  And we can also focus on what is in our control – how we perceive and react to what we see. We can consciously choose what our perception is instead of how our unconscious bias labels. If you’re unsure of how to do shake things up in this way, try a simple trick. Whatever you’d normally judge as bad, label it the opposite. What if it’s great? The Buddhists are wonderful at this, welcoming discomfort in the service of learning. And Carl Jung took this contrarian view with this patients – good news was met with dismay because they’d be less likely to do the hard work of individuation, and bad news was met with celebration. So, is what is happening right now good or bad? Are you in heaven or hell right now? Are you sure? “Everybody has that opportunity. It’s our choice of perception. How do we perceive the world around us? We can perceive it negatively and go to hell or we can perceive it positively and make it work well and go to heaven, you know, play with the angels.” – 99-year-old Klaus Obermeyer

Also posted in Happiness, Positive Psychology | Comments closed

When do Americans love to suffer?

A student once asked Tulku Urgyen Rimpoche what was interesting about Americans. He replied, “The people in America love to suffer before the suffering comes.” According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, 40% of our thoughts are about the future, 12% are thoughts of doubt and 10% are worries about our health. The amygdala in the brain is always scanning for potential threats. It’s just trying to keep us safe. But the unfortunate result is that we anticipate future suffering. We ‘suffer before the suffering’. Are you suffering, really suffering right now? If so, it’s something to welcome in. If you feel bad but nothing bad is actually happening, it may just be anticipatory suffering. That’s not necessary or helpful. It may be more helpful to notice what’s actually happening right now. And wait to experience the inevitable future suffering only once it has actually arrived. (Thanks to Joseph Jastrab for passing along the quote)

Also posted in Play, Brain Science | Comments closed

What percent of Florida panthers are black?

Q: What percent of Florida panthers are black? A) 22% B) 100% C) 12% D) 0% Correct Answer: D) 0% In your mind’s eye, when you think of a panther, what color is it? Probably black. Our minds are good at things like that. Minds like to fill in the blanks, to simplify the world, to organize it into right and wrong, good and bad, friend and foe. It’s easier and has historically been safer not to concern yourself with nuances when a saber-tooth tiger is charging at you. The mind says, “that’s foe.” The problem? When the mind fills in the blanks for things that aren’t immediately life-threatening. And that’s pretty much most of our experience. We live in a complex self-induced web of duality. As Antonio Machado said, “In my solitude I have very clearly seen things that were not true.” Growth mindset says we’re not at our best when we’re right – we’re at our best when we’re learning. There’s the story we tell ourselves and the real story. Get curious about learning the real story.

Also posted in Persistence, Brain Science | Comments closed

“That’s not me”

“That’s not me. That’s not who I am.” “That’s not us. That’s not who we are.” This is an element of a very common public apology. I guarantee you’ll hear it sometime in the news in the next few weeks. Someone famous does something stupid, or not as well as they would like and that sentence gets inserted. It’s also what we tell ourselves when we do something stupid, something we regret, something that is less than wonderful. It also often shows up when failure does. If not you, then who? Actually, that IS you. And that is that public person that did something they don’t recognize once the smoke has cleared. That is the team that froze in the spotlight. And that realization can hit to the core – a real self-identity quake. That is a sign of a full-blown amygdala hijack. The fight/flight/fear part of the brain decided it was in danger and took over the driver’s seat, shoving the frontal cortex into the backseat. Or it’s a sign that your brain isn’t yet fully formed. Our brains don’t get to full maturity until our mid-twenties, which is why so many kids do so many amazingly stupid things, like tweeting racist tweets if you’re going to be a top-five NFL draft pick. But if you’re an adult and you do something, it’s you. It’s really you. It happens inside your brain. It’s your lower impulses trying to keep you safe. It doesn’t care about damages incurred. So you can either deny it’s you. Or you can get humble and fully own it. Owning it is the only place where learning can happen. You get to learn what you do when the amygdala hijacks your smarts. You learn what triggers the amygdala. You learn the effect the amygdala aftermath has on what you care about. And you learn what’s important long-term that you can recommit to. These are very, very important pieces of knowledge. If you’re brave enough to be humble, that IS you. That IS me. That IS us. It’s okay, it’s going to happen and keep happening. And never forget that even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment we always have a choice. We can tear what we love apart or listen to the better angels of our nature. I vote for the angels. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln (part of his 1861 Inaugural Address)

Also posted in Purpose | Comments closed

Giving Voice to Joy: The Antidote to Fear

“Find out where joy resides, and give it a voice far beyond singing. For to miss the joy is to miss all. We have heard, perhaps, too much of lesser matters. Here is the door. Here is the open air.” -Robert Louis Stevenson In these often scary times, we have an alternative to the fear that inevitably arises – an antidote. When it seems or feels like things in life, the good things in life, are getting scarcer and more uncertain, to defeat that scarcity, the smallness inside and out, the antidote is to give, and to give freely – to give joy to yourself and those around you, and to give to joy. Now is a wonderful time to see clearly how richly and deeply the natural world gives to us. As the birds sing and make their nests, and the flowers bloom, and the leaves open on the trees, and the sky is clear and blue, and the warm sun lights up our faces and bathes us in warmth, we’re better able to see how simply beautiful being alive can be. And we can see how effortlessly and simply the world gives to us all of the simple joys that we need to lighten our loads. The challenge and the way through any moment when you are scared is the courage of giving freely and trusting that that giving frees up the river that flows both ways. It may be helpful to remember that this giving is a natural part of our life. Each moment we give away a breath and take in a new one again. Everything we own, every gift and natural ability we possess has been given to us. The Chinese sage Lao Tsu said, “If you want to be given everything, give everything up.” Research tells us that that happiness travels from person to person farther and longer than sadness does. Give voice to your joy and watch it travel. May you find the strength to courageously give voice to your joy, give your best to the world and notice as it gives its best to you. Learn more: Emotional Intelligence Works  – EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

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The scariest and most effective thing your team can do

When you’re too busy and the work demands you speed up, slow down. When the same way you’ve always done things is no longer working, don’t keep doing it but faster. Stop. The pause is laughed at/feared. It’s viewed as unrealistic. Yet it’s the pause, and only the pause that gets most teams to the next level. Pausing in the middle of ‘working stupid’ (and if we’re stressed we’re working stupid) gives us the only opportunity to ‘work smart’. Our brains literally function better with a pause. We access the cortex – our smarts – instead of being driven by the amygdala to just speed up today’s treadmill. It’s energy that gets the work done, not time. Time is created equal, but not energy. Energy comes and goes and “we hate one another” does not help energy. Nor does “barking orders”. If you’re too busy to have an agenda for a meeting that you get to people before the meeting, I’m here to tell you you’re too busy to have that meeting. Cancel it and do something productive like going for a walk.

Also posted in Team Building | Comments closed

Owls, Caves, Curiosity and Delight

The trail is two miles in, starting from the ocean. It’s a mix of limestone and old coral reef under foot with dense, dry coastal forest crowding in. It’s our first day exploring Parque Nacional Del Este in the Dominican Republic. We reach the hole in the ground that marks Cueva Del Puente (cave of the bridge). We’re the only people we’ve seen so far in the park and it’s just us and the darkness in the cave. It’s bigger than either of us think it was going to be, and rooms open up into larger rooms until we hit the end of the line – a large room with enormous trees growing up from the cave floor and down from the forest floor above, bright sunlight and birdsong mixing with the cool, quiet cave. We see a movement come from a dark corner and then an ashy-faced owl lands on one of the tree branches in the cave. For the next 20 minutes we sit watching each other, its curiosity and our delight meeting each other, moving me deeply. Curiosity, delight. No curiosity, no delight. Who doesn’t want delight? And who doesn’t love curiosity? Delight + curiosity = play. Our old lizard brain, the amygdala, doesn’t want curiosity. It wants certainty. Certainty allows for decisive action. When faced with immediate physical threats, it helps to not be too curious and take action instead. Does the saber-tooth tiger want to be friends or eat me? The problem is that the amygdala can’t discern between literal and emotional threats. So, that nasty email you just received triggers your amygdala the same way a car heading straight at you in an intersection triggers it. Both move you away from curiosity and into certainty. Certainty is where modern political discourse lives, where comments on online articles live – delight-free wastelands. But if we want to connect, to be thrilled and delighted, curiosity is the path. If we want to connect to our work, to our co-workers, to our loved ones, if we want to experience delight, first we calm the amygdala – pause, breath, appreciate something – and allow for the unknown.

Also posted in Play, Nature | Comments closed

The Gift of Giving

Vincent Van Gogh said, “How can I be useful, of what service can I be? There is something inside me, what can it be?” There are 1.5 million charitable organizations in the US; there are 86,400 seconds in a day, and an infinite number of possible answers if we ask ourselves Van Gogh’s beautiful question. How best can we serve? What can we give? When contemplating giving, it’s helpful to expand the horizons of what we may imagine giving to mean. Of course it includes formal giving, whether volunteering or philanthropy. But it also includes the countless opportunities each day (Hence the 86,400 seconds in a day statistic) we have to give informally to the people we know around us, give to ourselves and of ourselves, and to people and things in the larger world that we don’t know. We each have unique gifts and myriad opportunities to use and give them. The field of Emotional Intelligence tells us that emotions are contagious, so even each emotion we feel and express is a form of a gift. Giving is something we can do every day. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s charity-based team building activities: Charity Bike Build – As featured on NPR! Teams build bicycles for underserved children in their area. Charity Wheelchair Build – Charity Wheelchair Build gets your team building wheelchairs to help disabled people stay independent in this charity team building activity. Pack to School – Fill backpacks for kids in this fun charity team building activity.

Also posted in Purpose | Comments closed

On the Road At Home

I recently returned from a lovely camping trip in the Guadalupe National Mountains National Park in west Texas. This little-used park is simply stunning. It’s the northernmost tip of the Chihuahuan Desert, where the desert ends and skies up into mountain peaks. The hiking was fabulous, and nature worked its wonderful magic tricks on me as usual. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it in my blog. But in this moment I’d like to draw your attention to the other people I met also camping. All came from different walks of life, different locations in North America and were in different stages of their life journey. However everyone shared something refreshing qualities. They had very little with them. They were on fairly open-ended journeys. They had a plan but weren’t tied to it. They met my gaze. They had easy smiles. They were curious…about me, about life. They were happy to talk about their life on the road and share stories. And they were in no way oppressed by time. None were itching to stop talking with me in order to do something pressing. I had the feeling – usually confirmed – that I would need to be the one to end the conversation. I came away from the conversation energized, a little happier and a little more excited about life. This is a strange and wonderful breed of humanity, right? Actually, that’s you. And that’s me…at our best, whether on the road or at home. If your experience of the people around you today is nothing like the above paragraph, you have an opportunity to be the change you’d love to see. You can be “on the road at home”. If today’s life feels a little too tight, take a purpose pause. And feel that lovely spring energy traveling through you, easing and opening anything constricted for you. Happy travels…on the road and at home!   Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities:  Emotional Intelligence Works – EQ is twice as important in contributing to excellence as IQ and expertise combined. Learn how to effectively manage your emotions and those around you for sustained success.

Also posted in Purpose, Nature | Comments closed