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The one game changing skill you should focus on for success

Competitve intelligenceWhy is it that some people rise to higher levels of success than others? Is it simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? Or are some people born with certain qualities that make them more capable of success than others? When comparing star performers with average ones, a consistent unique strength does emerge, but it has nothing to do with intelligence, education or natural-born talents. The “it factor” these super stars possess is called emotional intelligence (EQ). Recent studies show 90% of high performers at work are also high in EQ. Additionally, people with high EQ make about $29,000 more per year on average than those considered to be low in EQ. The great news is this game-changing skill can be learned by anyone willing to focus.

First, it’s important to understand how our brains process what we see and hear in the world. Observations we make must first pass through the emotional part of the brain before getting to the rational, thinking portion. Our brains are hard-wired to make sure we experience things emotionally before ever getting the chance to think about them.  An adrenaline rush can paralyze our thinking as the blood leaves our brain and heads to our extremities to prepare for flight or fight. This was critical when we were cavemen fighting for our lives at every turn, but not so useful when we became social beings strongly dependent on our relationships with other people. To prevent our brains from going into emotional overload, we have to be consciously aware of our emotions. 

This leads us to self-management of those emotions. As we process facts, we tell ourselves a story about it. Our emotions are based on that story and our actions are based on those emotions. This is called the path to action.

Insights 040318The story is the critical component because it creates the emotions that impact our actions. Changing the story can lead to more healthy emotions, positive actions and ultimately better results. Here’s the best part: YOU have 100% control over the story you tell yourself. Let me give you an example. An employee sends an email to her manager asking a question. The response she receives back from her manager contains a single line, “Why would you ask me that?” This makes the employee feel frustrated and leads her to consider either not responding or sending a cold, pointed one-liner back, “Thanks for nothing.” What story has the employee told herself about that email from her manager? Probably one full of negative assumptions. This leads to emotions of anger and frustration which make her want to respond with either the cold-shoulder or a harsh remark.

Do you see the path to action? She read the email. The story she told herself led to emotions that could potentially lead to negative actions. But before responding, she took a moment to examine her story. Was it completely accurate? How could she possibly know when all she received was one sentence? Maybe what her manager meant was “Why would you ask me that? You’ve got this!  I have complete trust in you to make the right decision on your own.” How does changing the story change her emotions? Now she feels confident, appreciative and respected, changing how she wants to respond. Do you see what just happened? What she saw and heard (the facts) did not change. The story that she told herself did, leading to more positive emotions and actions. She took control of her own story. 

No one makes you happy, sad, angry, frustrated, excited or any other emotion. YOU do that by choosing what story you tell yourself. Learn to master your stories to create healthier, more positive emotions which will lead to actions that will get you better results. Being aware of your path to action is a great first step to higher EQ, healthier relationships and overall success.  Next time you feel negative emotions, try examining your story before acting.  I promise you'll be glad you did.     

Join Alison VanOtterloo for EDGE Career Development at AICPA ENGAGE in Las Vegas, June 12-14.

Alison VanOtterloo, CPA, vice president, internal audit, Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Company


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