In a previous post about authentic networking, I mentioned that there is a process by which we can become more grounded and clear about what we really want to do in the world. This is the key to giving others the opportunity to tell you whether or not they can help you. Your level of clarity will also make it easy for them to give you specific help in the areas you need it most.

Underlying the process of developing clarity and authenticity are the emotional intelligence skills that form the basis for well-being, work performance, high emotional and social functioning, and ultimately success in your own life, on your own terms.

These emotional intelligence skills are part of the skill set called “self-perception,” which includes:

  • Self-regard: a conscious understanding of your strengths and weaknesses; confidence in your unique gifts and your ability to overcome obstacles and to succeed in your life
  • Self-actualization: a conscious and consistent pursuit of goals that bring meaning and purpose into your life
  • Emotional self-awareness: the conscious awareness of how you feel, at the moment you feel it; an understanding of what triggered it; and a sense of how your emotional energy is affecting those around you.

Without these three skills firmly established, it is difficult to master the other emotional intelligence skill sets (self-expression, interpersonal, decision-making and stress management) that are the hallmark of successful people in all walks of life.

You may have noticed that each of the skills above begin with the word “conscious.” This is because conscious awareness is the first step to gaining the skills that allow you to see the world around you, and your own thoughts, feelings and behavior, from the perspective of “observer.”

In order to observe your thoughts, feelings and behavior from this perspective, you must learn to let go of judgment—one of the hardest and most rewarding things you’ll ever learn to do. Many clients fear that if they stop judging themselves, they’ll get lazy and stop working toward a better future or a more evolved self. Nothing could be further from the truth. Releasing judgment is a way of letting go of the behaviors that have been standing in the way, clearing a path for you to try new behaviors and perspectives. Becoming an observer of your own emotional, physical and mental states will allow you to consciously manage stress, make better decisions, and create the kind of life you’d prefer to live.

If the first step in the process for developing these three foundational skills is conscious awareness and the ability to observe your own life, how do you develop conscious awareness?

The answer is: by practicing mindfulness exercises and developing mindfulness tools that you can incorporate into your daily life. You’ll create a habit, much like the habit of showering before work or having that morning cup of tea or coffee or Red Bull Fortified With Mountain Dew and a Doughnut—a habit that you wouldn’t dream of skipping.

Like all “sticky” habits (and I’m not just talking about the doughnut), the habit of mindfulness is developed over time, taking one small step in the direction of mindfulness each day, a single bite of the mindfulness doughnut rather than trying to swallow the thing whole.

I recommend short mindfulness breaks throughout the day. Thirty seconds to two minutes to simply check in on your feeling state. This effortless level of awareness will teach you to do the one thing you absolutely must commit to in order to reap the benefits of emotional intelligence: taking full responsibility for your emotional energy at all times.

To learn more about how to read and manage your own emotional energy, see the blog post titled, “Emotional Energy Part One: Developing Emotional Self-Awareness.”

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