‘Self-mastery requires self-awareness plus self-regulation’

Some interesting reading from one of my favorite subjects, emotional intelligence and brain states:

From: The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (Amazon)

“Self-mastery requires self-awareness plus self-regulation, key components of emotional intelligence. One value of self-mastery is being in the right brain state for the job.

When it comes to personal effectiveness, we need to be in the best internal state for the task at hand, and every internal state has its advantages and downsides. For instance, research shows that the plusses of being in a positive mood are that we’re more creative, we’re better at problem solving, we have better mental flexibility, and we can be more efficient in decision making in many ways.

The negatives, though, include a tendency to be less discriminating in distinguishing weak from strong arguments, or making a decision too quickly, or paying too little attention to detail on a task that demands it.

On the other hand, there are some plusses to being in a sour mood – or at least more somber. These include a greater capacity to pay attention to detail, even in boring tasks – which suggests it’s best to get serious before reading a contract. In a negative mood we’re more skeptical, so, for example, we are less likely to simply rely on the opinions of experts, we ask searching questions, and come to our own conclusions. One theory about the utility of anger is that it mobilizes energy and focuses our attention on removing obstacles that thwart a goal – which can fuel, say, a drive to beat a competitor on the next round who has just won a victory over us (whether that competitor is a school team or another business).

The prime negative of being in a bad mood is, of course, that it’s unpleasant for us and those around us. But there are more subtle costs: At the cognitive level, we’re more pessimistic, and therefore more likely to give up more quickly when things go wrong than if we were in an optimistic state. Bad moods give us a negative bias toward whatever we might be considering, and so put a negative skew on our judgments. And because we’re less pleasant to be around we can be disruptive to the harmony of a team – a cranky team member can lower effectiveness for everyone.”

— Daniel Goleman (The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (Amazon))

Life happens.

Life happens.

Sometimes it’s good.
Sometimes it’s bad.

And sometimes it dumps a pile of shit in your path.

What matters is not whether it’s fair (it often isn’t).
What matters is how one chooses to deal with it.

We can spend time complaining.
We can spend time pointing the finger.
We can spend time blaming others for the situations we find ourselves in.
And we can learn to identify as a victim of the unfairness of life.

Or we can take personal responsibility for our lives and use our ability to seek out more favorable options (including how to cope) and move on.

Every single person on the planet is forced to deal with hardship and misfortune at one time or another.

Sometimes it’s because we make bad decisions.
Sometimes it’s because we tolerate things far longer than we should.
Sometimes it’s because we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And sometimes we are simply thrust into things we don’t want to be a part of.

But that’s life.
It happens to everyone at one time or another.

You don’t improve your life by complaining about the one you have.
You don’t improve your life by refusing to take personal responsibility for it.

You improve your life by taking steps to change it for the better.

It can be a lot of work — and it may require some sacrifices — but taking personal responsibility for one’s life and taking steps to change it is far more effective than staying where one is, doing nothing, and complaining about the view.

The fact is, our lives are a direct reflection of our priorities.

Want to be healthier? Focus on your health.
Want to be smarter? Focus on your education.
Want to be a better person? Focus on self-improvement.
Want to be more resilient? Challenge yourself.
Want to get over your fears? Face them.

If we don’t like where we are in life, we can change that. But complaining about it won’t do it. And blaming others won’t do it either.

Want a better life? Work for it.

Change your priorities and you change your life.

No one else is going to do it for you.

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

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Something wonderful


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Whether it’s a smile on someone’s face or a look of gratitude in their eyes, every day is an opportunity to bring something wonderful to the world that won’t exist in the universe until you — and you alone — create it.

Every single moment in our lives is a one-of-a-kind opportunity. And although the positive moments we share with others can sometimes seem insignificant, never underestimate the power they can have on those who are affected by them.

Every time you perform an act of kindness, you generate a wave of positive energy that didn’t exist in that form before you created it. That wave creates ripples that can be both long-lasting and far-reaching.

Create and contribute to these ripples whenever you can and you may just find you attract more of the types of positive moments you desire in your life.

The people you encounter in your life are always much more likely to treat you with kindness when they witness or experience your kindness, your compassion, your generosity, and your willingness & desire to find ways to be helpful or make things more convenient for others.

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“Think positive.” No. Think intelligently.

“Think positive.”


Think *intelligently*.

Know what you want. Believe it’s possible. Create a strategy to achieve your desire. Take action to make it happen. Acknowledge obstacles & focus on solutions to overcome them. Make mistakes & learn from them. Refine your strategy as necessary. And push forward.

Relying on chance and wishful thinking is not an effective way to dictate what happens to you — or because of you — in life.

Just because “think positive” is a nice thing to say doesn’t mean it’s going to do you any good. Without a strategy, “Think positive” is a meaningless catchphrase.

Think *intelligently* and take action.

It is through being kind, being compassionate, leading by example, and inspiring others with your actions that you will make a far bigger difference in your own life — and the lives of those around you — than you will if you just “think positive”.

Memes don’t change your life. *You* do when you know what you want and you act with intention.

“A person who has resolved to ‘think positive’ must constantly scan his or her mind for negative thoughts – there’s no other way that the mind could ever gauge its success at the operation – yet that scanning will draw attention to the presence of negative thoughts.” — Oliver Burkeman from The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking

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“One of the most counterproductive pieces of advice spewed from keynotes, gurus, and motivational speakers of every stripe is this: Think positively. Why? It’s not a one-size-fits-all guide to leadership (or life) and adds considerably to your stress load. Because you not only have to tackle the obstacles you’re already facing; you have to also wrestle any negative thoughts you have about them to the ground.” — Jan Bruce (Forbes contributor)


Where “being yourself” fails

Seen in a passing meme:

“Embrace who you are and don’t make any apologies for being yourself.”

I’d like to add a major caveat to that:

First, we are *all* works in progress, we all make mistakes, we all have blind spots in our level of awareness (particularly with regard to ourselves), and we all have room for improvement.

But some more than others.

While I am all for people being authentic and real, I’d much prefer not to encourage the assclowns, douchebags, and dirtbags to just “be themselves” and never apologize for it.

“Yeah, I cut you off in traffic. So what?”
“Yeah, I double parked. Just being myself, man.”
“Yeah, I litter. Big deal.”

Sure, if you’re kind, compassionate, and authentic, if you strive for progress and improvement in your life and your self, if you aim to make a positive difference with what you have to offer, then by all means continue. Even if you occasionally make mistakes, as we all do.

But if you’re someone who goes through life making things more difficult, painful, or inconvenient for others, then perhaps it’s better you don’t just “be yourself”.

Perhaps it’s better if you aim to be the kind of person you and others can actually be proud of rather than just accept who you are with no intention to change.

“Be yourself. Unless you suck.” — Joss Whedon

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