Much has been said about the importance of continuous self-improvement and personal growth as a means to finding happiness and fulfillment in life. But “personal growth” can cut a pretty wide swath, including many potential interpretations and avenues (intellectual growth, emotional growth, physical growth, spiritual growth, etc.). Focusing on any one single avenue at the expense of another can lead to imbalance and sub-optimization of your life’s potential. Based on my observations, I would venture to say that many of us are neglecting at least one (hopefully not all!) of the growth avenues available to us as we journey along life’s path. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not judging. I’m just pointing out that there are other personal growth opportunities available to us outside of learning the “7 Simple Steps to Better Organization” or the “Secret Habits of the Millionaire Next Door”.
I, for one, spent the majority of my adult years pursuing personal growth of the intellectual variety. After high school I joined the Marine Corps and was indoctrinated with a mentality that craved and rewarded continuous self-improvement. I learned leadership training and consumed books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and many other mainstream self-improvement titles (among many other non-fiction books). After the Marine Corps, I went to college…then graduate school. It was all new to me and I was thrilled to be learning and “growing” more knowledgeable and worldly…and it would be foolish to think that these exposures didn’t inform my world view in a decidedly positive manner, right? But what of emotional growth and intelligence?
Unfortunately, much of the wisdom associated with emotional intelligence and growth was not within my sphere of exposure during these years. I actually don’t remember anybody thinking or talking about concepts of emotional growth and maturity growing up…perhaps such concepts were just not “manly” enough for a boy in the US at that time. Given what I know in hindsight, it would have been fairly useful information to complement all of that other personal “growth” that was happening in my life, right? I think the data is pretty clear…people with more evolved states of emotional intelligence are quite often better able to navigate the perils of the world by virtue of their self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills (all, BTW, are hallmarks of emotional intelligence). I don’t know why I wasn’t exposed earlier to the importance of emotional intelligence as a means to finding happiness and fulfillment in life, though I have my suspicions. What I do know is that you’re never too old to learn new tricks.
There are obviously many different resources out there for the budding emotional intelligence aficionado, but I would like to point out one particular article on the site TinyBuddha.com that dances around many of the hallmarks of emotional intelligence and maturity. While it doesn’t explicitly call out definitions and frameworks for emotional maturity and intelligence, it illustrates the mindset of someone that demonstrates mastery of such. The article is entitled Ten Things I’ve Let Go and How This Has Set Me Free by Sara Fabian, and the reasons that I love this article are many. For one, the author encapsulates a ton of very powerful emotional concepts within the confines of a very modest article. That is, the reader is exposed to a wide variety of extremely useful information with only minimal time commitment required on their part (Ironically, you could also spend a lifetime studying these concepts!). Another reason that I love this article is that the concepts are so easily relatable. I would be utterly shocked if you read Sara’s article and couldn’t see how at least one of the ten mindsets listed might help you to gain perspective and clarity in your life. Thirdly, I think it’s just very well written and an enjoyable read…with some stunning quotes from greats like Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, and Louise Hay. Here’s just one:
“I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then the problems fix themselves.”
The ten things that Sara “let go” of in her life are as follows:
- The need to be perfect
- The need to be busy all the time
- Making assumptions about what other people feel, want, or think
- Competing with others
- Chasing happiness
- Worrying about the future
- Pleasing others
For all ten, she explains in greater detail…giving perspective and depth to each in turn. As a man in traditional modern society, it can be tempting to dismiss the above ideas and constructs as too “feminine” or “girly”. In fact, many of these ideas run contrary to the stereotypical roles typically assigned to males in our world (ego-centric, competitive, driven, etc.). To this I would say, “Ignore these ten constructs at the peril of your happiness and fulfillment in life”… Masculinity has nothing to do with emotionality or the expressions thereof. I, for one, am over trying to bridge the gap between my happiness and societies expectations for my achievement of such. Be you.
If you get a chance to read the article, let me know what you think…