An ongoing series of information, personal stories, and resources
EQ - What's that?
According to Psychology Today, “Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” Basically, there are three main skills we all need: “emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and cheering up or calming down other people.”
All of us have some of these skills to a certain extent, but few have really mastered any of them. That’s ok. As long as we are human, we will have room to grow in just about every aspect of our lives. Learning or bettering the skills of EQ positively impacts every aspect of life because it starts with greater understanding of ourselves and works outward to better personal and professional relationships. It can’t make you like the driver that cuts you off in traffic, but it can help the event not wreck your mood, consume your thinking, or impact the way you drive.
Emotions have gotten a bad wrap because people think having emotions equals being out of control. Nope! You need your emotions. They are like the dashboard in your car. They tell you all kinds of things about yourself and others. Without our emotions, we can’t make good choices, build lasting relationships, find value in life and more.
Some will argue that it is the lack of emotions that allows for clarity, calm, stable, intelligent decision making. I would say that those who have learned to listen to, understand, and guide their emotions are more able to have clear, calm, stable, and intelligent interactions and make good choices. It is not in the suppression of what we feel that we succeed. It is in the application of understanding self and the skills needed to put that understanding to work that we flourish.
Young People Need EQ Coaching
Anyone who interacts with children and teens knows that they can struggle with their emotions. They may overreact to simple things, maybe not care enough about others. They may be hard to communicate with because they are withdrawn or aggressively opinionated. But whatever a young person struggles with, it’s pretty obvious that they all could use a little help understanding and regulating their emotions.
Some skills are being taught today in an increasing number of schools. Sayings that promote skills like tolerance of differences, inclusion, and patience with others decorate school hallways all over the country. There are educators really trying hard to help young people at least get along. However, many of the same problems that have always been there for young people, like bullying, stereotyping, criticising, excluding, and more continue in force today. Especially given social media and its ability to reach many people quickly, young people are having to deal with complicated emotional challenges nearly every day.
That’s why it’s important to do more for young people than what’s being done in school. We all need a better handle on how to understand and productively use our emotions. Over or under-reacting to events or people doesn’t help, and anxiety and depression can be crushing. So, it makes sense that starting children and teens on a path to learning things like grit, self-control, evenness, contentment, and drive, as well as good listening and communication skills will go a long way to helping them successfully navigate their growing up years and their adulthood.
Emotional Intelligence Coaching has, until recently, been viewed as a privilege of C-suite management, only for those in power and with cash. And though it is very true that people in power should have a great understanding of their own and other’s emotions and a good handle on the associated skills, this kind of learning and success should not be limited to anyone or by anything. In our current society, with all its distractions, complications, and choices, young people especially should have access to great coaching. They should have every opportunity to learn the skills that are at least equally as important as IQ and talent for the potential of their success.
8 Tips for Riding the Mood Elevator
Guest Post: By Larry Senn
Originally published on LinkedIn
The Mood Elevator is an illustration of the human condition; it is our moment-to-moment experience of life. We all ride the Mood Elevator every day, take a moment and identify what floor you are on right now.
The Mood Elevator map is based on my own experience, as well as input from hundreds of groups and tens of thousands of people who have attended seminars that Senn Delaney, the culture shaping firm has put on over the past few decades.
Look at the top of the Mood Elevator and think of the times you’re more likely to be at those levels. It could be when you hug your children at the end of the day, it could be spending quality time with your significant other, or it could be when you accomplish something at work. We all, of course, would love to live on the higher levels but that’s just not realistic. As part of the human condition we will experience loss, stress, financial insecurity and other events that will cause us to drop down to depression, anger, and stress.
In my new book The Mood Elevator, I provide a variety of tips and tools that will help you better understand your human dashboard as well as help you navigate the daily up and down ride of the Mood Elevator.
Here are 8 tips to help you better ride The Mood Elevator:
Know that to be human means you will ride the Mood Elevator and visit each and every floor. Don’t expect to live at the top of the Mood Elevator all of the time, cut yourself some slack when you drop down.
Learn to recognize the feelings that accompany any unhealthy normal thinking or thought patterns, and make them a loud bell. When you start experiencing feelings like: impatience, anger, anxiety, excessive intensity, neediness, disconnection, and self-righteousness it’s a good indication that you’re sliding down the Mood Elevator. When you recognize this, you can take some corrective action to avoid an unhealthy normal.
Use pattern interrupts to change your thinking and your feelings. Pattern interrupts are anything healthy tactics that can help you escape your spiraling negative thoughts. They can include exercise, calling a good friend, watching a funny YouTube video, or getting a good night sleep.
Feed the thoughts you favor, not those that drop you to the lower floors on the Mood Elevator. If you find yourself reminiscing on a negative event in the past, or fixating on a mistake you made at work or might make at work in the future- recognize that your thoughts are going negative. You can identify your thoughts based on your feelings, if you’re feeling worried- it’s probably because you’re having worried thoughts. Use a pattern interrupt or think about something you are grateful for to break that train of thought.
Take better care of yourself and remember to stretch and recover with exercise, sleep, and time off. We are more likely to catch colds if we are run down physically, and we are also more likely to catch bad moods when we are run down physically. Exercise has many mood boosting benefits and eating the right foods can help keep our energy levels up which improves our moods. Have you ever noticed how life can look so much better after a good night sleep? Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night can drastically help us stay up the Mood Elevator.
Maintain a gratitude perspective, count your blessings daily and be grateful for life itself. Even when life doesn’t look as good as we would like it to, there are always things to be grateful for. Those who choose to look at life with gratitude are happier than those who don’t. Try starting a gratitude practice by making a daily list of what you are grateful for.
Remember that your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states; delay important conversations and decisions; don’t act on your unreliable thinking, and don’t take your lower mood state out on other people.
Have faith that when you are down the Mood Elevator; this too shall pass-just like the weather. The sun is always up there; the clouds can obscure it, but they will pass as will your low mood.
About Dr. Larry Senn
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.
What if I don't want to be nice?
In my line of work, a top priority is to help people want good stuff for other people, not at their own expense, but in some version of win/win. Real communication that does something productive and good rarely happens without this most basic commitment. I have to admit, though, that this is not easy for me always. Sometimes, I just want people to listen to me and do what I say. I can feel like I don’t have the patience or strength to go through the right process to get a good conclusion for us both. I just want it done and out of the way.
I’m hoping you know what I mean. Chances are, if you have children, are in management, or simply drive a car, you do. Other people can feel so frustrating, and if they would just listen to you, all would be well. Right? Honestly, sometimes I am so exhausted from the details of my life, I forget to even consider the other person is human. They are an obstacle, and that’s it.
But there is a bottom line in every moment of communication: I have to see the other as a person, like me, with thoughts and needs, and I have to want a good outcome for them, or even what seem to be my most brilliant ideas and my highest sense of right will create a seen or unseen spot of disconnect that will fester until it becomes a blight on the relationship. Maybe you have had this experience. If you have children in their teens or twenties, you’ve likely heard from them about how your words and actions made them feel ways you never intended. I’ve been shocked at the years-long misunderstandings of my opinions that have come out over the years with my kids. It has been humbling to realize the number of times I thought I was listening, and I just wasn’t. Or maybe you have employees, and you pride yourself on open communication and still find that people are afraid to bring up issues with you.
The work of watching our motives in communication is the most basic need if we wish to be successful. And it is work, though it becomes much easier with practice. You can read every communication book on the planet, get a Communication Coach, even attend individual or group therapy, and nothing will change for you if you are not motivated to have a good outcome for both you and those with whom you are communicating. This can seem counter-intuitive in some instances and even outright wrong in others.
For example, how can I want good outcomes for my competition? In order for me to win, doesn’t someone have to lose? In situations where the supply of something seems limited, how can we work for mutual good. That would mean I have to give something up, and who wants to do that? Well, there is a growing contingent of pretty extraordinary business minds that believe we’ll all be better off when we start considering others as equally important and valuable as ourselves. Maybe you’ve heard of Daniel Pink and his book To Sell is Human. It posits that making the sale must come second to the well-being of others, and he’s got the real-world examples to back up the idea that you’ll be better off in the long run.
More recent books, that I would say are some of the most important business books you could read, are Paul N Larsen’s book Find Your Voice as a Leader and Nate Regier, Ph.D.’s book Conflict without Casualties. In unique ways, both of these books explain the need for more effective, compassionate communication and the ways to achieve this goal. Both books have strong links to business, but every word can be translated into other relationships because communication has the same roots and the same needs regardless of the situation.
If you find it hard to even want to think about others in your efforts to communicate, I can relate, but it’s work we all must do if we want more success in our relationships and our business dealings. Reading the books I’ve mentioned will be a huge step in the right direction. Also, get yourself a Coach. Developing communication skills is a very hard job without someone to help you see where you can improve and help you stay accountable to your goals. But you can start right now trying to remember that whomever you are speaking with is a person who, just like you, at the very least, may need a little compassion. That one step will start you on a journey that you, and everyone you know, will be glad you started.
Is What You Say Costing You Something?
In my life and in my Coaching practice, it’s important to me to share what’s been useful. My conversation with author, speaker, and consultant, Jack Quarles, definitely needs sharing. Credited with saving companies tens of millions of dollars by seeing process, strategy, and people in clear and productive ways, Jack’s professional life has led him to realize most of us have habits of expressing ourselves that can cost us dearly.
In his newest book, Expensive Sentences: Debunking the Common Myths that Derail Discussions and Sabotage Success, Jack explains how little sentences like, “I’m too busy,” “We’ve always done it that way,” or “It’s too late for that” can stymie progress, limit potential, and take us far away from achieving our goals.
As a Communication Coach, I was very interested to read this book. Just from the cover, I knew I would find ideas I agreed with. What I didn’t expect, maybe due to ego, was how much I’d learn. Expensive Sentences is now a book I’m recommending, not only to my business clients, but to educators, healthcare professionals, and leaders of all kinds. Jack’s insight and ability to clearly and creatively express the problem and the solutions make his book an important read.
I had the privilege to pick Jack’s brain a bit when we spoke a few days ago. The first thing that caught my attention was his humility and thoughtfulness. Though, it makes sense. You’ll find his writing style matches his personality. So, I became very curious about what Jack hoped his book will accomplish both with individuals who read it and then their larger sphere?
Jack: My hope is that people will, maybe even from just seeing the cover [which is packed with examples of expensive sentences], start to think about what thoughts and words may be costing them something, and they’ll be able to make other choices. In business, families, and homes, these limiting ideas are just part of common vernacular. We all say them, and we let them blind us to other possibilities. I hope that as people begin to think about ideas like, “We’ve always done it that way” or “We can handle that in-house,” they’ll begin to see how those simple sentences immediately stop creative thinking and problem solving.
-- As Jack talked about this, it reminded me of an example he gave in the book about a company that was thrilled with a vendor for not having raised their contract price in years. Everyone he talked to gave that exact reason for not looking into other vendors. It turned out that, though the contract price had not been raised, it was far above what others were charging, and Jack was able to save the company thousands simply by opening thought to the idea that trusting something is good doesn’t always make it so.
One of my favorite concepts in the book comes very early. “Reality is always your friend.” This idea is one I work hard on for myself and with my clients. When you know what is real, what is true, you can do something about it. But don’t we all have moments when maybe we would rather not know? I have teen and 20-something kids. Trust me. There are things I’m sure I just don’t want to know, but being in the dark, or worse, being willfully ignorant, means I’m of little to no help, and I could find things worse, much worse, later. I asked Jack about his experience with this idea and if it’s hard to convince people that reality is really their friend.
Jack: I never try to convince people of anything. I offer examples of some expensive sentences and ask them to consider if they’ve said them before and if acting on those sentences has given them good results. Then I watch them think about it and laugh. They always have examples of times they’ve said something “expensive” and how badly it has gone in the long run.
Expensive sentences are deceptive. They give us the idea that we have a very good rationale for something, a solid basis for making a decision. But a lot of times, that’s just window dressing. You hear one of these cliches and think it’s true. Yet when you really unpack it, you find that’s just not the case at all.
-- This made me think about a much later part of the book that explains sunk costs and how to deal with them. Simply put, a sunk cost is time, energy, or money already invested. Once you’ve invested, it’s done, sunk. The problem is, many times we believe that because we have invested, we must follow through to the end of that process. For example, maybe you’ve already spent eight months developing a product only to find there is a much better way to do it if you start from scratch. The investment of time and funds may dissuade you from taking the better route, but why? If something will work out better in the end, shouldn’t we do it?
Jack: If I could get people to read only 5 pages of the book, it would be the section on sunk costs. I see that as driving a lot of decisions that businesses, families, and individuals make. Economists have a really simple way of dealing with sunk costs. They ignore them. The problem is, in real life, we don’t ignore them. We’re terrible at it, which has been proven in many academic studies. And you can think of instances in your own life when you’ve continued in a direction just because you were already headed that way.
So one of the tips I give in the book is that it’s not about ignoring sunk costs. What we need to do is actively reject them and realize, hey maybe I’m making these decisions simply because of my current trajectory. I need to actively step back and say, “OK, if I’m starting over now, where would I go, and what decision would I make.” And that’s usually going to be the right choice. It’s not because the past is irrelevant. You learn things from the past, and you acquire things from the past. But you don’t want your past decisions to be closing you in, chaining you to some future that isn’t the best for you.
-- This led me to bring up Jack’s section on trust, where he unpacks the expensive sentence, “We trust them.” I found these to be my personal favorite pages. We want to trust those we hire, those we work with, the vendors and experts we employ, and we should. But sometimes we make the mistake of concluding that our trust of someone means we should not communicate our ideas, requirements, or questions. “They are the expert, and I trust them. So I won’t check in on them.” “I hired them to do their job, and I trust they will. So I won’t get more detailed about the project.”
As Jack explains it, though we may be trying to express our trust, we may actually be setting someone up to fail.
Jack: People find that I count “We trust them” as an expensive sentence to be alarming because trust is a good thing. But trust is not monolithic. We’ve got to look at the different elements of trust. For one thing, we all think we are better communicators that we are. As mature adults, we’ve got to admit that what we think we’ve communicated, what we are sure we got through to someone, isn’t always what they hear and understand. The words I’m using, that I’m sure are clear, may actually not be connected at all to the construct I have in my brain. So communication is an area where we are probably better off trusting less.
That means we have someone, an employee, a vendor, a partner, a friend, trying to come in and do something for us, and we have a responsibility to them to be clear. It’s not obnoxious to over communicate what we want, to kind of micromanage a little bit to be sure they understand. Really, to ensure the expectations are very clear, to be sure we understand each other, is doing that other person a favor. Then they know what’s expected. They know how to proceed, and there is a much better chance that they’ll be successful. There are gracious ways to offer all the details of our preferences and requirements. So we need to view being clear and detailed as a kindness. Being more structured and communicative than we are used to allows us to get the results we hope for. That’s good for everyone.
-- There was much more to the conversation Jack and I had, but you’ll find all the ideas, and an excellent explanation of them, in his book. Expensive Sentences resonated with me as deeply useful, certainly in business where the cost of limited thinking is obvious, but also in any relationship. The universal nature of Jack’s ideas is a big reason I’m recommending everyone I know buy and read his book. Honestly, my habitual thinking was costing me too much. Thanks to Jack Quarles and Expensive Sentences, I now have ways to limit that expense with the potential to improve all of my personal and professional investments.
Edgewise: Women in meetings
Have you ever heard the stereotype that women talk too much? I’ve wondered about that a lot as I’ve been surrounded by men, throughout my life, that don’t really let anyone get a word in edgewise, even other men. At home and in business, I’ve had to learn to get my ideas out in as few words as possible so that they might get heard before a man interrupts me. This has definitely had an impact on my relationships with women, however. I get with a friend, and sometimes my little inner voice of sanity tries to get me to shut up, but I just keep word vomiting like I haven’t spoken in a month.
I remember one gathering of individuals, mostly men, who had talked the entire evening. At one point, late in the evening, I interjected an opinion. It seemed to irritate the men - not what I thought, but that I had actually spoken. The conversation turned to how women can never shut up. At that point in my life (I was in my mid-twenties), I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself and demand they tell me any other moment in the whole evening that I had spoken. So instead, I left the room and basically learned the lesson that most men would not want to hear what I had to say.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve had two distinct experiences. The majority of women I work with have sometimes started off being surprised, even a little offended, by the fact that I would offer ideas in meetings in a confident way, occasionally being the first to speak when input was asked for. However, very soon, most women by far would start to talk to me privately about how much they respected me and how, once they got to know me, they realized how intent I was on collaboration and building up the team. It’s a deeply bonding experience.
On the other hand, most of the men I have worked with have either just laughed me off as though my ideas weren’t relevant or have taken me aside, knowing I was a good person and wanting to help. They tell me that I need to be more quiet in meetings, that I’m coming off as pushy, aggressive, and not very lady-like. One of the biggest talks I’ve ever been given came after a meeting where I only said two things, but both times, they were good ideas that got some attention.
As men tend to be in management positions, the male perspective that women should be quiet in meetings, only speak when directly asked to, and that women should maintain a diminutive posture at all times has really been a challenge for me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be an equal in professional settings, but this has been a long and, sometimes devastating road. I was raised to believe that if someone had a negative impression of me, they were right, and I needed to seriously consider the criticism and figure out how to change. This had led me to become more and more fearful throughout my professional career and in my former marriage.
But a few years ago, I decided that I was tired of having to figure out how to be both invisible and make a valuable contribution. I began to sit up to the table in meetings, add constructive content when I felt it was appropriate, and speak eyeball to eyeball with my male colleagues. I had a lot to learn. I didn’t do well a lot of the time. Years of being angry kept seeping out into my communications as overly stern, emotionless, and forceful communications. I might have gotten away with it if I were a man, but no one would have liked it.
I had to figure out how to be more of a team player in a way that brought the ideas of others. I had to learn to listen better, and I had to learn how not to be so hard on myself when I screwed up. I’m still working on all of this. But, the big picture is that I’m gaining confidence, and I’m giving both women and men the opportunity to think through what a truly equal, participation environment looks like. I may not do it all perfectly, but that’s ok. I can keep trying and figuring things out along the way. Perfection is way overrated anyway.
One wonderful outcome of this learning is that I’ve begun to have better experiences with some of the men I’ve worked with. Whether I was sitting in stifled silence or trying to bully my ideas into a meeting, I was very selfishly focused. As I learned better to play team, I found that some of the men really wanted that environment as well. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to hear my ideas. It was that I needed to learn how to help the meetings I was in be a more balanced field for all involved. Then, not only my ideas could get out there, but so could those of others, women and men alike.
So, yes, I need confidence and to bring my thoughts out in the open, but it is just as important that others have that same chance. Try to notice the dynamic of your next meeting. See if you can find opportunities to help someone else be heard. You may find that this one thing opens the door for you to share as well.
Does Your Work Feed Your Soul? It should.
I’ve counseled my children, all adults now, to pursue the work and the life that truly represents them and the world view they desire. While they are each still in the process of figuring this out, they’ve had many opportunities to know what they don’t want. They’ve had jobs where the company or the managers have quickly made it clear that the only purpose for existing is making money, and neither the customer nor the employee really figures into the equation successfully. My kids, and their peers, not only need more from their work than a bottom-line-driven company, they need to feel they are making a difference for good. Dr John Izzo and Jeff Vanderwielen know how they feel and have written a great book about it.
The Purpose Revolution: How Leaders Create Engagement and Competitive Advantage in an Age of Social Good, speaks to leaders and everyone else. Through examples, explanations, and compelling stories of companies putting the good of their employees, customers, and society at the top of their priority list, Izzo and Vanderwielen explain how we need to find our sense of purpose as individuals and as organizations because, “When we have purpose in our work and life, it becomes food for the human soul.” (quote from John Izzo in an interview I did with him and Jeff Vanderwielen)
John and Jeff have come to see a focus on purpose, as they explain in the introduction of their book, as, “not just another wave about to hit the shores of your organization but is literally the most important wave of our generation.” And through reading The Purpose Revolution and talking with them both, I’ve come to agree.
Both authors have very personal connections to this topic that have impelled the writing of The Purpose Revolution. In their professional and philanthropic lives, they’ve met people who have not been happy, and in an effort to help, discovered that encouraging a search for purpose, a way to impact others for the good, opened new avenues of work and a deeper enjoyment and appreciation of all aspects of their lives. Jeff said to me, “We all have something we want to accomplish that is bigger than ourselves. We need to connect to that.” Taking that into the organizational space has had broad impact and contributes to longevity and success.
Through reading The Purpose Revolution, I was inspired to look more deeply at how I coach and consult. I began to understand even more fully how helping people discover their own desires to be of service and be part of organizations and companies that have purpose-driven missions truly makes a huge difference. What really surprised and inspired me, though, were some of the stories John and Jeff included in the book. One that really stands out is that of Heineken Mexico.
I have to admit that I did not expect a beer company to have a purpose beyond making beer and money, and I didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing. What I discovered was that any business, no matter what it provides in products or services, can have a purpose that inspires and drives excellence and loyalty from employee and customer alike. John explained a bit more in our conversation. “Leaders often see their people the way they see their family dog - offer enough treats, and you’ll get good work.” But this isn’t even true for dogs. Research shows that dogs crave the joy and affection offered when they do a trick or perform a task way more than the morsel of food. John continued, “Work needs to be more than a paycheck, but most people haven’t been trained to lead with purpose. They use it more as an enticement to employees and customers than a foundation for the existence of the company.”
So the real motive of making money speaks much more loudly and becomes a turn-off in the long run. Jeff agreed and added, “It leads to a lot of disillusionment, and then you lose your best employees and customers. What we pay attention to grows. Leaders need training in how to get to know their employees, to find out what excites them, and how to create work that includes a meaningful sense of purpose.”
As The Purpose Revolution points out, millennials are demanding work with purpose. It gives statistics and anecdotes that prove, if you want the best young people, you need to get this purpose thing figured out. But as the book shows over and over again, it is not just the young that need to be fulfilled in their work. Every individual associated with a company or organization, whether they be the customer, service recipient, or the CEO, have a basic human need to do and be more than a worker or a person in need. Inspire a sense of purpose in others, and you start to see their best work, creativity, loyalty, and satisfaction emerge.
And yes, the book does explain how leading with purpose impacts sustainable and growing profits, but only when that leadership is authentic, transparent, and honest. The Purpose Revolution includes useful and impactful tools for genuinely implementing a purpose movement and explains well how to use them in ways that will succeed on all fronts.
Near the end of our conversation, both John and Jeff talked about how we are whole beings. We are not work people spliced together with our outside-work personas. John said, “The more we realize our need for purpose in all aspects of our lives, the less we’ll settle for work and relationships that make us feel empty. Get introspective. Find what your purpose is. Figure out what you want your legacy to be. Then act on it.” Jeff added, “Really recognize this opportunity. Do something that activates purpose in you and in others. This will be fertile ground for your legacy.”
**Get the book at https://drjohnizzo.com/the-purpose-revolution-book/
Originally published on LinkedIn
A Better Question
Guest Blog by Scott Mautz
Originally Published on LinkedIn
The question to ask yourself, in fact, is not “What inspires me?”
Instead, real insight and application lies in the question, “How did I lose my inspiration
in the first place?”
Remember, we all had it – we started our jobs filled with inspiration. As I mentioned before, we didn’t even have to think about it really, it was just there, everywhere, like half-finished highway construction.
How might we return to that blissful time?
When we closely analyze how it is that we tend to lose our inspiration, it reveals root causes lying under the surface that have been slowly draining our inspiration over time. Such causes derail us from all the most critical things which can self-sustain inspiration.
Furthermore, such analysis engenders more control because, when known, the root causes are things that you can do something about – so inspiration no longer has to seem so passive, elusive, or repressed.
That’s why “How did I lose my inspiration in the first place?” is such a powerful question – a question for which the answer, and its implications, will inspire you.
Before examining this vital question, let me return for just a moment to the related but less potent question of “What inspires us?” The forces behind our inspiration have long been debated and are often shrouded in mystery. In fact, early accounts on the source of our inspiration actually linked it to madness. Socrates labeled inspiration as “a state of manic possession or enthusiasm.” Other early interpretations of inspiration attributed it to the unconscious mind, while still others linked it to the supernatural. Still others have linked it to Lionel Richie.
A more universally known explanation comes to us from Greek and Roman mythology. Zeus and Mnemosyne had nine daughters: nine goddesses who each presided over different factions of art and science. Legend goes that these daughters serve as the spirit or source that inspires an artist. You may know the goddesses by their stage name – The Nine Muses. You’ve probably heard of an artist “waiting for his muse” to gift him with the inspiration required to create and discover. The Nine Muses are so effective at dumping inspiration into the heads of artists that they need their own warehouse for the net output – the “museum”. The word “music” also comes from these mythological maidens.
Now, to blow your mind.
What if there were not only such muses at work in the real world, but there were counterforces at work as well? What if there were powerful forces laboring to actually kill our inspiration?
And guess what?
There are nine of them.
These forces aren’t goddesses, though.
And they’re hell-bent on stripping your work life of inspiration.
They are The Anti-Muse.
I’ve discovered there are indeed such evil forces at work – but knowledge brings hope. Once you’re aware of and understand these inspiration sappers you can address them and foster the conditions that will reignite your inspiration at work - and sustain it.
Read Find the Fire to learn about the Nine Anti-Muses and how to be equip for them.
About Scott Mautz
Scott is the CEO of Profound Performance – a keynote, workshop, coaching, and online training company that helps you “Work, Lead, & Live Fulfilled”. He is also a Procter & Gamble veteran who ran several of the company’s largest multi-billion dollar businesses, including their single largest, a $3 Billion Dollar division. At P&G, Scott consistently transformed business results and organizational/cultural health scores along with it.
Author of upcoming book, Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again, and award-winning keynote speaker and author of Make it Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, a book that’s been named “The 2016 Leadership Book of the Year – First Runner Up” by Leadership & Management Books and a “Best 30 Book of the Year” by Soundview Business Books.
My early memories have some sweet moments of my mom making a picnic and taking my brother and me out on the row boat to the island. That sounds grander than it is. The pond in our side yard was about an acre big, and the island was about 20 feet in diameter, and I loved every inch of it. The island was tree covered and felt like a world all unto itself.
Anyway, whether it was time on the island or across the street to the stream, when I was very little, before I started school, there were creative, wonderful moments with my mom. Then my dad’s business went bankrupt, and they both started working nearly 24/7. The mood changed at home. Both of my parents worked incredibly hard to stay afloat. I have never known anyone who worked as hard at being “good” people as my parents did. I owe a lot of what I really like about myself to their example.
What went wrong for me, though, was that their stress and fear loomed large at home. Regardless of what they wanted to portray, I felt judged, put down, and either too much or not enough. Those feelings grew with bullying in high school and with my first marriage. Some bosses and acquaintances added to the negative impression I had of myself. People would say I wasn’t good enough in some way, and I believed all of it.
After my divorce, I started to feel like maybe it wasn’t always me. Maybe those who put me down had their own issues that clouded how they saw me. Maybe that is the way it always is. People can’t really like or dislike me. They can only relate or not relate, and I will have control over some of that, but probably not very much.
So, who do I work to please? How do I have friends? How do I feel like I am enough?
I’ve watched and analyzed people for as long as I can remember. I’ve known some people who chose to take a “Fuck You!” attitude where what others think doesn’t matter. But these people have seemed unhappy. Their attempts to mask their desire to be approved of aren’t really working. It’s just making them more and more sad and angry. Then there are those who don’t care what others think, and they are content, free. They are able to be themselves without resentment.
I could be wrong, but the difference seems to be that the first people have believed their detractors, and the second have not. Somehow, the second group of people have an ability to like themselves no matter what anyone else thinks. But they also seem to be able to let others be themselves. They don’t have big judgments about others. They “live and let live.”
I’ve worked hard over the last few years to clear out as many judgments of others as I can. I don’t want to think that someone isn’t dressed right or doesn’t use the English language just right, or doesn’t know enough, or is wrong in some way. I haven’t gotten rid of all of my judgments, but the more of them that legitimately leave, the better off I am.
As much as I’ve always wanted to have no prejudices, subtly, over time, they crept in. I started noticing in college. I didn’t like the thoughts in my head. I wanted to see the beauty in everyone. I never wanted to be the source of rejection in anyone’s life. I don’t want to do to others what I had experienced.
Being human and fallible seemed unacceptable traits throughout much of my life. It’s been hard to let myself be human and to not try desperately to live up to someone else’s ideas of what I should be. I’m not fully there yet, but I will be. The increased sense of self-care and freedom has been so worth the effort.
I know that who I am at my core is awesome. There may not be throngs of people who can relate to me, but why should that matter? I’ll be content with those who can. They exist, and I am profoundly grateful for each one of them. And as I find my own sense of confidence and grace, and am more able to offer that to others.
Do you have to be perfect to help?
I hope not! But I’ve been told by some that if I let people know that I’m not perfect, it will negatively impact what I’m trying to do. I no longer believe those people. I know there are individuals who have issues I can help with. Disclaimer: I am quite far from perfect.
I have PTSD from childhood and adult trauma. I have anxiety and depression. I work hard every day to work around these things and to heal them. I have made huge progress, but I still have days where doing anything beyond getting out of bed feels very challenging. I want to help people understand that they are valuable, capable, smart, talented, resilient, full of grit, content, and sometimes happy. Part of that is helping them understand that the opposite stuff they feel is ok.
Everyone is anxious, depressed, grumpy, nervous, shy, self-critical, and more, at least sometimes. If we can’t move beyond those feelings, we need to learn some specific skills. We need to train our brains and our emotions to respond more harmoniously to the situations and activities of our lives. And you can do that work and still be of service at the same time.
So, if you would like to be doing things that are helpful for others, but you are worried that you won’t be good enough or that you still have too much “wrong” with you, consider this: If you needed to navigate a dense jungle, would you want a guide who has navigated it before several times, or would you want one who theoretically knows about jungles? What you have been through is part of what makes you who you are. You have learned from some of it. In some ways, you are stronger because of it. Understanding that your struggles are helping you grow will give you some perspective on how to use those challenges to better yourself and to be compassionate, patient, and helpful to others.
Be wise about how much you share of your personal experience. When helping, we can make the mistake of burdening others with our problems while we attempt to relate. But, being humble, admitting that you don’t have everything figured out, listening more than talking, giving little to no advice, being supportive of their thought process can all go very far in helping others feel heard and helped. You don’t need to be “perfect” to do that. You just need to be present.
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