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Emotional intelligence: 9 ways to build your self-awareness

alignment, authenticity, awareness, brain, choices, coach, compassion, connection, creativity, decision-making process, emotional intelligence, emotions, expectations, fear, feelings, gut, head, heart, know thyself, loving-kindness, mBraining, self-awareness, values, wisdom

Great relationships, connections and networking are built on the foundation of emotional intelligence. It’s not enough to pretend to control your feelings, but rather to be fully in touch with your emotions and use them resourcefully.

Although you might have heard of emotional intelligence as if it were a single skill, several different skills and practices come together that allow you to stay in touch with your emotions and those around you. 

Typically, there are four key areas to emotional intelligence: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, and relationship management. The nine skills in self-awareness that I will share with you overlap with all four of these areas. 

It takes an extraordinary self-awareness to use your emotions effectively to create a better life and stronger relationships. 

I want to share nine ways to build self-awareness with you, allowing you to use your emotions effectively without simply swallowing them or ignoring your feelings.  

Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy., Dean Koontz quote

1. Creating safety is the first step of emotional intelligence

Emotions can run high and may be overwhelming. Physiologically, this impacts rational thought. At that moment, emotions can overcome you, putting you in a reactive state rather than measuring your words and focusing on your thoughts. 

If you want to practice self-awareness, the first step to master is creating safety; much like you would for a toddler having a tantrum. If you’ve read Crucial Conversations, Non-Violent Communication or any other book on negotiation skills, you will be conversant with the need to create safety. First, safety for yourself. Then safety for others that are with you. 

Safety might be physical safety, but it’s often emotional and mental safety. More often than not, it’s safety in your body – turning off the fight/flight/freeze response in your nervous system and bringing yourself into a calm (yet alert) state. 

You want to be in touch with your emotions without being overpowered by them.  

Until you have mastered the ability to create safety, you will find it impossible to stay in touch with your emotions and your rational mind at the same time. 

Emotional intelligence requires that you step into mindfulness.

Intentionally create a space within yourself that is safe and calm. Notice if you need a change in your physical environment to create safety: a library, café or stepping away from the person or situation. 

If we lack emotional intelligence, whenever stress rises the human brain switches to autopilot and has an inherent tendency to do more of the same, only harder. Which, more often than not, is precisely the wrong approach in today's world., Robert K. Cooper quotes

2. Mindfulness and body scans: building self-awareness

How do you know you are in a relaxed and calm state, where you feel safe? 

The short answer: because you know what it feels like to be calm and relaxed! 

One of the ways that you achieve this, is by regularly practising mindfulness or doing a body scan. Mindfulness can be practised in many different ways: 

  • Watching your thoughts without getting caught in them 
  • Noticing your emotions 
  • Focusing on your breath or heartbeat 
  • Sitting in nature and concentrating on the sounds or just watching 
  • Sitting in a plaza or at a café and watching the world pass you by, being present with the world around you

Coming back to yourself

But most of us don’t need help staying in our heads or focusing on the world around us. What we avoid is being present in our bodies and with ourselves.  School teaches us that the only memory that matters is in our head and that our thoughts and mindset can change anything. 

While that is true to some extent, ignoring all the rest of you can result in challenges for emotional intelligence.  

So, practice being present in your body: 

  • notice your breath and the rise and fall of your chest, 
  • feel your heartbeat in your neck or belly, and 
  • pay attention to the state and sensations in your gut: are there any knots in your stomach?  Are your guts churning, or are they perfectly at peace?  

Noticing the sensations in your body is a small step towards greater self-awareness. It can help you monitor tension, stress and emotions.  

A body scan

Get used to running a body scan: starting at your toes, travelling up your legs, through your hips, and up your spine. Notice where you typically hold tension, and any muscles that you find that are tense, tighten them even further, hold for ten seconds, and then totally relax them. Now, notice the difference in how relaxed you are.  

Over time, you will begin to notice what emotional states can be identified in your body and how to return to a calm and relaxed state.  

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate, C. Jung quotes

3. Emotional intelligence makes meaning of what you are feeling

Part of the power of emotional intelligence is understanding what you feel (putting a name on the emotion) and making meaning of why you feel this way. 

You often think, “I don’t know why I feel this way”. 

When you don’t know why you feel angry, you might feel helpless to change the situation. This can be disempowering. 

We are wired to make meaning in our heads of our emotions, telling ourselves stories that justify the way we feel and then allowing us to choose how to act. 

Of course, emotional intelligence requires that the meaning we make be accurate!  

Ways we can make meaning of our emotions.

Some of the ways you might make meaning of your emotions: 

  1. Use an emotion wheel to identify what emotion you are feeling 
  2. Make the sensation or feeling bigger, and then remember another moment in the past when you felt this way. Allow that memory to resurface. Notice what is the same about this situation. Also, take note of what is different. Is this emotion merely a reflection of the past, or is it something to be dealt with in the present? 
  3. Journal about what you felt when this emotion appeared and the events and thoughts around it. And, as I said, perhaps consider events or situations from the past that were similar in which you felt the same way. What similarities and differences do these stories have? 

It is very important to understand that emotional intelligence is not the opposite of Intelligence, it is not the triumph of heart over head. It is the unique intersection of both, David Caruso quotes

Making meaning of your emotions does not require you to overthink or overanalyse things. It is merely noticing what is going on in life and your emotions and feelings. 

From this perspective, you can then choose how to move forward with these emotions. 

4. Thinking about your feelings: using your rational mind

While it’s not helpful to go overboard in thinking about your feelings, your rational mind plays a role in creating emotional intelligence.

Emotions are not good or bad. 

As I’ve mentioned, your feelings can be motivating and helpful, or they can hinder your progress and create chaos in your relationships. 

I’ve already mentioned the power of jealousy – you might use it as a map to show you what you desire in life. Just because another person has something does not mean that you cannot achieve what you want.  

When you feel jealous, you might take time to analyse what that person is doing differently: why have they succeeded where you haven’t? What lessons can you learn from them? And do you want exactly what they have? Or is your jealousy simply shedding light on the path ahead?  

Allow yourself to explore your emotions with some detachment, noticing what you notice. 

We define emotional intelligence as the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions, John Mayer And Peter Salovey

5. Emotional intelligence in relationships

The biggest challenge you will face is how you relate to others. Those closest to you know your triggers and pressure points best. They probably know exactly where and when to poke you to get the most significant response.  

Another perspective that you can gain on your emotions is your relationships: 

  • How are you relating to yourself at the moment? Are you showing yourself compassion and loving-kindness? 
  • What are these feelings you’re experiencing right now? Do they reflect needs that you have failed to meet? 
  • How might you do a better job in relating to yourself? 

Ways you relate to others.

In the same way, how are your emotions and feelings resulting from how you relate to others? Do you have unmet expectations? Perhaps you made a story in your mind of how the relationship was meant to be, and you are finding that reality does not meet your expectations.  

Notice how you are relating to others: 

  • body language 
  • tone of voice 
  • emotional state 

Could there be a better way of relating to them if you took different actions?  

Also, consider whether you want to invest more or less time in how you relate to this person. How would spending more time with them impact your emotions and feelings? What if you spent less time and took a break from them? 

Emotional intelligence requires that you keep an awareness of your choices – how do you choose to relate to yourself and others? 

Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships, Travis Bradberry

6. Your emotions and what is important to you

One of the reasons for emotional conflict and turmoil is that we fail to give time, money and energy to what we value most. One of our emotional intelligence roles is noticing when we feel angry or conflicted to make better choices.  

Questions that you might ask yourself to get insight: 

  • What situation(s) give rise to these feelings?  
  • What needs or desires have you overlooked or ignored? Which values did you stomp over?  

Your emotional intelligence is aided by a clear idea of your values: what do you say you value, and what do you feel? Do your emotions and feelings match what you think, do and say?  

Values and what you hold important also impact your emotional intelligence in relationships. Do your relationships and the people in your life (family, friends and work) uphold your values? Or are you constantly making concessions that leave you feeling inauthentic? 

Can you have authentic conversations with the people that matter in your life about the things that truly matter? 

When you are in touch with your emotional state and what you value, your conversations will open up new possibilities. Are you willing to listen to what they love and hold essential? 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence, Robert K. Cooper

7. Your emotions are not who you are

You’ve probably said it many times: 

  • I am angry
  • I am frustrated; or 
  • any other range of I am (emotion)

But that’s not who you are! It is merely how you are feeling. If you are the sky, your emotions and feelings are the weather passing through. Some days you have sunshine and joy, and others are cloudy with tears. 

Emotional intelligence requires that you sit deep in your gut and connect with who you truly are. Consider where you hold your sense of self. 

I’m pretty sure it’s not in your head! 

It’s somewhere deep within – for some people, closer to the heart and the thorax. For others, it’s closer to the belly button or deeper into the pelvis. And some feel it further back, towards the spine, rather than in the belly.

Only you know where you can sit with yourself. If you’ve never done this exercise before, I invite you to sit and be in your body, exploring and discovering where you feel most “you”.  

And then play! 

Move between sitting in the silence of being and exploring your emotions and sensations in your body. Notice how it feels just to be you versus what emotions and feelings are stirred up. 

An exercise in exploration

If you have an active imagination and can easily re-enact situations, think of a time when you were very angry or frustrated. Remember the people, the place and the sounds. Amplify your feelings and sensations of being angry. Notice what and where you feel this. 

Now, stand up and shake or dance for a moment, and then sit down and find that place again within yourself. And sit for a moment in the calm of being. 

Shake again. 

Now, remember a time that you were happy, laughing and joyful. Once again, add in the details of people, places, sounds and aromas. Amplify your feelings of joy and laughter. Where do you feel this? What are the sensations of fun and laughter? 

Shake it off, and return to that place of self.  

Emotional intelligence is partly the ability to differentiate yourself from your emotions. It takes practice. 

Inner Peace = Wisdom Anger & fear close down your cognitive capacity and limit creativity. On the other hand, happiness and joy enhance problem-solving abilities, creativity, decision-making and memory. It's not about faking it... just find calm, loving your life, grant soosalu

8. Using emotional intelligence to measure risk

One of the skills of an emotionally intelligent person is that they know how to trust their gut. The challenge you face with your gut instinct is that it never speaks in complete sentences and typically doesn’t give an explanation.

It’s just a gut feeling. 

Think about the physiology of the gut and the role it plays in your body: 

  • it is responsible for deciding whether to accept nutrients (digest) or to excrete what doesn’t serve you, deciding what is “self” or “not-self.” 
  • 80% of the immune system is in the gut 

So, does it surprise you, then, that gut feelings are often about boundaries or keeping you safe? 

That’s what your gut does for you! But, it’s not very good at talking or explaining itself coherently. 

There are several ways to build self-awareness so that you can trust your gut: 

  • practice being calm and at peace so that you know what this feels like; 
  • when something “doesn’t feel right”, allow yourself to consider when you have felt this way previously? What situation were you in where this sensation appeared? What was the outcome of this situation? 
  • Journal some questions for your gut and sleep on them. Then answer the questions in the morning “off the top of your head”, without analysing them much. Notice any dreams or images that might come up when you first awaken. 

Trust is something that you build, and it typically has four factors: 

  1. communication,
  2. consistency,  
  3. competence, and  
  4. caring. 

You can practice these with your gut instinct to build greater trust. (Competence is about allowing your gut to do boundaries, rather than letting your head overthink and anxiously catastrophise situations).  

Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you, Donald Calne

9. Using movement to get in touch with your feelings

Finally, recognise that emotions typically ask us for a response: what action will you take? The answer might be a smile or laughter and engagement if you are joyful. When you are sad, it’s okay to cry. 

It’s easy to simplify emotion to E(energy) in Motion

When you feel numb, one way to get in touch with your feelings is to move your body! 

  • Go for a walk or a run; 
  • Dance or jump around; 
  • Stretch gently and slowly; or 
  • Scream and cry at the top of your lungs (it’s also helpful to choose where and how to do this)! 

Once you are in touch with your feelings, they often show you a way forward: a conversation you need to have, a decision you need to make.  

Emotional intelligence will keep you moving forward in your life and relationships.

The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions, Roger Ebert quote

How to build self-awareness for emotional intelligence

So, here you have nine ways to build more self-awareness that will help you grow your skills of emotional intelligence:  

  1. Create safety within and externally;  
  2. Practice mindfulness and being present in your body;  
  3. Make meaning of your feelings 
  4. Use your rational mind to think about your feelings 
  5. Consider your feelings in how you relate to yourself and others 
  6. Take time to look at your values and what’s important to you 
  7. Find that place of self and identity  within you where you are completely present 
  8. Learn to trust your gut 
  9. Use movement to get in touch with your feelings 

Mastery of your emotional intelligence comes with practice. I don’t have a magic wand to give you! 

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Courage, motivation and action-taking: how to move forward

align, alignment, awareness, balanced heart, brain, choices, coach, coaching, compassion, connection, courage, courageous, creativity, decision-making process, desire, emotions, expectations, fear, feelings, growth, gut, head, heart, inner peace, know-thyself, knowledge, learning, life coach, peace, procrastination, self-preservation, self-worth, thrive, wisdom

It takes deep courage to live up to your potential from a place of authenticity. Most of us are afraid of how we might alienate others if we chase our dreams. We are simultaneously afraid of failure and success.

But in your commitment to moving forward and growth, I encourage you to use courage to drive your motivation. You will be rewarded by living in alignment with the best version of yourself you could be.

Courage to live the life of your dreams:

If you want to change the terms of your life, you will need to drum up courageous action and move forward. Living your best life requires moving forward despite the fear.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.E. Cummings, courageous, authentic, be authentic, living authentically, alignment
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
E.E. Cummings

Don’t get me wrong – you don’t want to use dumb courage. Allow compassion to soften your courage: for yourself, not just for others.  The invitation to courage is one lead by inner wisdom: courage that is both compassionate and creative.

Knowing your Heart’s Desires:

If you don’t have clarity on what you want to create, it won’t be easy to find the courage to take action consistently. You won’t benefit from the waves of motivation that sweep you along easily.

Courage to take action:

To drum up courage, you might consider starting with the heart: what is it that you desire to create? How important and valuable is this to you? Do your plans and goals align with your values?

Once you have done the inner work:

  • identifying your values;
  • embodying your heart’s desires;  and
  • creating goals and breaking them down into a plan

Then you can look at moving into action. When you put your plans into motion, you will start to get results. You might find that some of the actions don’t have the expected results. At that moment, you will need the courage to review your plans and recalibrate. In some cases, you will need to create new plans without giving up on your heart’s desires or values.

Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you. Bethany Hamilton
Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.
Bethany Hamilton

Taking action on your plans and goals is a process that goes hand-in-hand with facing your fears. You will not need to wait to feel courageous. Instead, you drum up the courage “from your loins” by moving forward. As you do this, your courage will grow.

Taking Action on your Goals Consistently:

If you want to feel courageous, then take consistent action despite the obstacles or challenges you face. As you choose to take steps all the time, you will find yourself overcoming your fears more easily.  It becomes less stressful to be outside your comfort zone and using your gut to move you forward.

You will need to plan out the necessary steps, even if the only step you know is the next right step forward. It’s not always possible to know the big picture, but you are more likely to take action if you have a clear path for your next step.

Courage builds up the motivation with us. While our desires might motivate us with a large flaming fire, it is the fire in your belly of courage that will truly move you forward.

Motivation Drives you Forward:

Think of motivation as paddling with the waves to get to a beach. Each time the wave hits you, it drives you forward. But if you fail to paddle between the waves, you can also get pulled backwards by the currents.

So, while you are waiting for the next wave of motivation to hit, keep paddling courageously! Allow yourself to be pulled towards your goals and passions by your consistent action.

Rather than allow fear to push you away from whatever pain you are trying to avoid, allow your desires and motivation to pull you in the direction of your authentic self.

Motivated to Create Opportunities:

When you live as your authentic self, you will find yourself motivated to create opportunities.  These might be moments to spend quality time with those that you love. Perhaps it’s merely the opportunity to create treasured memories or moments of your own, where you feel complete freedom and joy.

Most importantly, the awareness you create when you face your fears with courage opens up the possibility of creativity and playful exploration.  Rather than being driven by feelings of stress, fear and anxiety, you can become curious about possible outcomes in your decision-making process.

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity. Mark Twain quotes, compassionate courage, wise courage, wise compassion, creative courage
With courage, you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.
Mark Twain

As you listen to your deep inner wisdom, you will understand the difference between legitimate self-preservation needs and procrastination.  Look at the opportunities around you to take action, even small steps.

Taking Action:

The crux of courage is that taking action builds confidence and trust in yourself. The more you keep your promises and your word (to yourself), the greater your trust in your own inner wisdom.  This awareness of the connection between desires, expectations, and action will lead you into taking more small steps forward.

As you take action, you create more inner peace and a growing sense of self-worth.  Taking action is what creates certainty within your heart and mind.  You can truly be yourself when you are certain you will keep your word.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of taking action is that you begin to attract like-minded people into your life. Your fears of losing people may well be valid: you will leave some people behind as you move on. But you will also be rewarded with a new sense of belonging as your choices build new relationships and a network around you.

There is a special beauty in having deeper conversations about what truly matters to you: and as you learn to “know thyself”, you will build new connections and relationships. These richer relationships will allow you to feel fully supported: but be prepared for the fears that arise as you notice relationships dropping away.

Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others. Roy T. Bennett, courage, courageous, compassion, living authentically
Be brave enough to live the life of your dreams according to your vision and purpose instead of the expectations and opinions of others.
Roy T. Bennett

 

Courage allows you to push through the fear:

If you are committed to making changes toward living authentically, allow your courage to grow. We talk about people being spineless or growing a backbone. Allow your backbone of courage to grow, and come forward.

As emotions go, fear is typically felt and sensed at the front of the gut. Courage, on the other hand, is something we experience at the back, close to the backbone. So when we talk about “pushing through the fear”, it’s a metaphor for what we are physiologically sensing within. Courage literally pushes through the fear to mobilise us.

If you are looking to thrive, move forward with more action and small steps.

 

get on a call with Beth, introductory call, discovery call,

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Authentic: how to be your glorious self, not a people pleaser

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I always feel like I walk a thin line between being “nice” and being truly kind. Old me is a burnt-out people pleaser. To be authentic in relationships with people that used to know me before I started this journey is an ongoing lesson! See, with new acquaintances, it’s easier: they have no expectations of what I will be like or how I will express myself.  But in older relationships, I still have to catch myself.

Be authentic!
Stop acting and pretending, stop fawning and being “nice and polite” in socially acceptable ways. Instead, remember to show up as the kinder version of you.

Continue reading Authentic: how to be your glorious self, not a people pleaser

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Brutally honest: how about we try being sincere with compassion?

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Professional and personal communication is one of my biggest challenges. As an INTJ, I can be brutally honest, speaking my mind without sensing the effect my words and tone have on others.  I just blurt out what I want to communicate without considering whether it’s the right time or place to do so.

I’ve found I have better skills when I write it all out in an email or written correspondence. But this misses many nuances and can be misunderstood.

At the other end of the spectrum, I clam up when the emotional environment hits like a battering ram. Continue reading Brutally honest: how about we try being sincere with compassion?

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Overcoming fear: how to find the hidden treasures

overcoming fear, find the hidden treasures, generate fear, take action, what causes fear, fear as an emotion, trapped, immobilised, overthinking, healthy fear, acting in spite of fear, the way is through the fear, on the other side of fear

At age 22, I learned my first conscious and intentional life lesson in overcoming fear: you never actually stop being afraid. But that doesn’t have to paralyse you, leaving you frozen and unable to move.

Heights terrified me, anything more than five to six feet off the ground and I froze. As a kid, I still climbed trees, not entirely enjoying the experience, but too proud to admit my fear.

Don’t ask me to clean the gutters or paint the roof. Continue reading Overcoming fear: how to find the hidden treasures