As 2014 nears its end, I am in a reflective mood. Looking back on this past year, there’s been a lot of angst about Uber and the evolving industry of mobile apps threatening our livelihood.
Life always brings challenges. Often, the way we handle them “emotionally” will determine if the outcome is good or bad, a win or a loss. I find human nature interesting and I love to people watch. Our industry is colorful and theatrical and filled with passionate people. But sometimes I wonder if more could be accomplished in the area of emotional maturity.
Emotional maturity stems from emotional intelligence (EI), a crucial skill for managers and business leaders. Getting in touch with and managing your emotions when interacting with others plays a major part in how well you lead and manage.
Despite this awareness, old habits die hard. Even if an individual improves EI, he can still be disconnected in real-life situations. He may learn the concepts of EI at an intellectual level, but find it hard to manage emotional reactions, and quickly revert to old, self-destructive habits and patterns when triggered.
So why is EI so hard to embrace in our daily lives? One reason is many people who work on their EI have (consciously or unconsciously) failed to deal with the root causes of their emotional reactivity. They haven’t explored the depths of their emotional history. This history of their emotional evolution is needed to understand how they “futurize their past” — how they interpret the present based on their history, experiences and memories.
Many of us choose to bury our emotions. When we do so, we bury them alive. They will return in some form, sooner or later.
Without this understanding, it’s hard to separate our present from our past. So we’re not able to see the present — people, places, events, circumstance and objects — as “fresh” and unencumbered by our emotional history. We’re unable to experience the present in a positive, neutral way, and so we see many of life’s events shrouded in a mist of negativity, judgment and fear.
In other words, few of us actually “process” our emotions. Few of us allow our emotions to just be — watching, witnessing and observing them and asking, “What are you teaching me, about me?”
Emotional maturity and EI are connected, but they retain an important difference. Emotional maturity is not “intellectual” but refers to a higher state of self-awareness — something that lies beyond “intelligence” — where we are guided by our senses, intuition and heart.
Five principles characterize emotional maturity:
- Every negative emotion we experience is a childhood emotion overlaid on a person, circumstance, place, event or object.
- Emotionally, many adults are 3-4-5-year-old children in adult bodies.
- No one can make you feel a way you don’t want to feel.
- An adult can be emotionally mature and child-like or immature and childish.
- Mindfulness, focus and presence are the keys to emotional maturity.
Emotional maturity focuses on our emotional history, beginning with our interactions with family, teachers, friends, etc. Our psychological and emotional “programming” is already set by the age of seven. Our emotional reactivity (anger, sadness, fear, shame, hurt, guilt, loneliness, etc.) triggered early in life becomes stored in our brains and arises when “related” triggers pop up later in life.
The most visible quality of emotional maturity is the ability to live in the moment, without reaction or judgment. This “being present” supports our authentic self to guide us. We intuit right knowing, right understanding, and right action. We feel our emotions without becoming our emotions. We grasp that the trigger for our reactivity may be “outside me,” but the cause of my emotions is within me.
So when we’re triggered, we watch, witness and observe but don’t succumb to a childish reaction. We accept our experience. Practicing mindfulness, presence, focus, trust and surrender, we allow our heart and soul to push aside negativity or reactivity and bring a considered, emotionally mature response.
I’ve been reading up on EI these past months taking cues from my dealings with people in our industry. Maybe you are having a light-bulb moment as emotional maturity and emotional intelligence are taken more seriously in the greater business world. Overall, I think we need to understand where our actions originate and how they affect our culture — for better or worse.