Your Body’s Role in Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Don’t let the voice of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”- Steve Jobs

When it comes to making difficult decisions, how do you hear “your inner voice,” that your heart and intuition somehow already know?

Listen to your body’s signals.

Making Difficult Decisions: Gut Feelings

Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explained the complex process of how our minds and bodies formulate and respond to a hunch for our video series Leadership: A Master Class.  You can read the excerpt here.

There’s wisdom in the body. When you’re self-aware, you get a gut feeling. You have a heartfelt sense. Our gut feelings are messages from the insula and other bottom-up circuits that simplify life decisions for us by guiding our attention toward smarter options. The better we are at reading these messages, the better our intuition.

Yet sometimes, if we have been traumatized, for example, the gut feeling we get can lead us astray. If you’ve been bitten by a dog or hurt by someone who had red hair, when you see a dog or a person with red hair, your gut may say “bad, bad, bad”, and may create a tone of negativity that is based on past traumatic experience. So bodily input doesn’t always mean you should respond to it directly. You should analyze it.

Making Difficult Decisions: Somatic Markers

Somatic marker is neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s term for the sensation in our body that tells us when a choice feels wrong or right. This bottom-up circuitry telegraphs its conclusions through our gut feelings, often long before the top-down circuits come to a more reasoned conclusion. The ventromedial prefrontal area, a key part of this circuitry, guides our decision making when we face life’s most complex decisions, like who to marry or whether to buy a house. Such choices can’t be made by a cold, rational analysis. Instead we do better to simulate what it would feel like to choose A versus B. This brain area operates as that inner rudder.

Making Difficult Decisions: Sensing

Erica Ariel Fox spoke with Daniel Goleman in his Leadership: A Master Class video series about “direct knowing”: I know this, but I don’t know how I know it. I didn’t read it in a book. Nobody told it to me. I didn’t have an Excel spreadsheet that laid it out for me. Nonetheless, I know it. She argues that we have a set of skills that coaches and leaders who work with teams might call “reading the room.” Others call it attunement or discernment. It’s not data processing and thin-slicing, and it’s also not having an emotional evaluation of decisions. It’s a sensing. When she works with a team in crisis, she recognizes that tuning in to the group’s feelings and emotions helps her ask the right questions about what’s happening.

Making Difficult Decisions: Use Your Body

When we’re under pressure, we become narrow minded and tense. We aren’t able to tap into our body signals. But we also forget to use our body to help us refocus. Taking a time out also allows us to hone our self-management skills. Paying attention to the mental and physical signs and experiences that occur during stressful situations gives you an opportunity to practice composure.

Breathing is often abandoned or compromised when anxiety arises. A few conscious deep breaths will oxygenate your brain and improve the clarity of your thinking. Here is a simple exercise you can do: Breathe in and count one… then breath out and count one. Breathe in and count two… then breathe out count two. Breathe in and count three… then breathe out. Keep repeating this in a steady rhythm.

To ground yourself further during the process, place your hands on your abdomen or chest and observe the sensation of your abdomen or chest rising and settling. Learn to relax in the experience.

Master the Art of Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Registration is open for the Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System, a live webcast series with executive coach and senior meditation instructor, Dawa Tarchin Phillips. The program is designed to help executives and leadership development professionals apply mindfulness principles to overcome common internal and external barriers to presence, productivity and performance.

Mindfulness Coaching: Start with Your Own Journey

mindfulness coaching

Mindfulness Coaching: Practice Makes Perfect

Juliet Adams’s coursework for her Masters degree in training and performance management didn’t include mindfulness coaching. And, it showed. She pushed hard to achieve, and paid the price in stress. Adams worked beyond peak performance. The result? Burnout. Then, she discovered mindfulness. With these practical techniques in her mental toolkit, she was able to recognize that her clenched jaw and raised shoulders meant stress and how to shift out of that.

At first, Adams used mindfulness for her own well-being. Then, her own learning about the impact of mindfulness seeped into her work. Initially, she noticed a shift around how she approached her job. Then, she started to incorporate aspects of mindfulness into her consulting practice. She’s found her clients to be very receptive.

Adams is now the author of Mindfulness at Work for Dummies and Mindful Leadership for Dummies. She is also the founder of Mindfulnet.org and the director of A Head for Work, a leadership and workplace productivity firm. She’s also a contributor to Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit. Adams joined More Than Sound founder Hanuman Goleman for a conversation as part of More Than Sound’s “What is Mindfulness?” podcast series.

Mindfulness Coaching in Organizations

How do you introduce mindfulness in an organization? That’s a question Daniel Goleman explores in his article, “Introducing Mindfulness in Organizations.” Goleman shares advice from his colleague and a key adviser to Google’s Search Inside Yourself curriculum, Mirabai Bush. Bush said, “When I meet with prospective clients, I listen not just for what they need – but what they perceive that they need. That helps me determine my approach. There are so many different ways to talk about mindfulness and its effects.” Bush has developed different exercises for use in a range of settings, available in her audio collection Working with Mindfulness.

If you’re in a position to hire a mindfulness coach, the first question that often comes to mind is: what makes a good mindfulness coach? Mirabai Bush offers some insights for organizations looking for such services, and for what it takes to be an effective coach:

Mindful presence

When you’re interviewing potential teachers or coaches, notice whether the person is in the moment, without judgment, and really present for you.

Training

Before people begin to teach mindfulness, they should do significant practice, not just in mindfulness but in teaching mindfulness. There are several reputable training programs available such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.

Experience

Again, teaching mindfulness is different from practicing mindfulness. There are many people who want to start teaching right after they learn it. After spending some time practicing – or even after some formal training – it’s easy to assume, “Oh, I could teach people to sit down and bring their attention to their breath and breathe in and out. Anybody can teach that.” But that is not true.

Coaching style

With mindfulness coaching and training in an organization, you’re asking your team to look inside themselves and begin an inquiry into the parts of our minds, bodies and hearts that most of us ignore most of the time. That’s profound. You really want to have someone you can trust to lead you through that exercise.

What the Research Says

Bush discussed how to apply mindfulness research and techniques in organizations with Jeremy Hunter, Daniel Goleman, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser in the print book, Working with Mindfulness: Research and Practice of Mindful Techniques in Organizations. In that book, Bush and Goleman spoke about their experience of introducing mindfulness techniques to secular audiences – including the US Army. Here’s an excerpt from their discussion:

Mirabai Bush: For a long time there was a lot of resistance to introducing mindful techniques in some of the organizations I worked with. But as soon as people agree to try it, the benefits become very obvious. Participants become more calm, more clear. They begin to have better insight into what’s happening, and they begin to get along better with the people they’re working with. So once people agree to try it, there’s really no problem. But there is still resistance to trying it, although much less since the publication of the neuroscientific research on mindfulness. All the work that’s come from Richard Davidson and others has really helped people get past a certain level of resistance and skepticism.

Daniel Goleman: I can give you a little background on that change. You mentioned Davidson. He is now a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Richard and I were fellow graduate students at Harvard. He was the other one who was interested in meditation. He did his dissertation on attention and so on, and he has gone on to develop a field called Contemplative Neuroscience, which has upgraded the quality of the research on mindfulness and meditation.

Until Richard’s work, frankly, some was great, and some was terrible. Now this research is using fMRIs and state-of-the-art brain imaging. What it’s showing is what we knew intuitively when we were in India, which is that these practices can be quite transformative. And if you practice them a lot, it’s really transformative. If you practice a little, it’s still transformative.

What we found in the research on relaxation was that one of the byproducts of focusing your mind is that your body lets go and relaxes. And the reason it lets go is that one of the things that keeps us stressed is these tight loops of thoughts and ruminations—what’s on my mind, what’s upsetting me—which are hard to let go.

Meditation training, whether it’s mindfulness or any other kind of meditation, teaches you how to drop those upsetting thoughts. Our understanding is that it’s the letting go of those thoughts, putting your mind in a neutral or present place and keeping it there, that causes the body to be able to drop the tension, let go of the stress, and then get deeply relaxed.

mindfulness coaching

We asked leaders who are shaping the mindfulness movement to offer a more nuanced survey of the mindfulness landscape. Listen to the podcasts here.

Mindfulness Coaching Audio Resources

Working with Mindfulness

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Attune: The Role of Focus in Authentic Leadership

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function

Changing Habits: Know When to Turn Off Your Autopilot

changing habits

iStock/Shivendu Jauhari

Changing Habits: When Autopilot Takes You in the Wrong Direction

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

If you think about it, we live much of our life on autopilot. We’ve developed countless habit loops for daily activities: brushing our teeth, commuting to work, setting our DVRs. Unfortunately, some of our critical decision-making skills also go into sleep mode.

In the workplace, it’s natural to develop decision-making patterns due to time pressures, other priorities, even overconfidence (“I’ve done this before. I’m a pro.”). Our responses to problems or situations become automatic. When X event occurs, pull lever Y to solve the issue.

However, not all obstacles are created equal. A lack of presence around the nuances of a situation can be detrimental to a project – or an organization. Knee-jerk decisions often lead to costly mistakes. “This is how we’ve always done it” leadership mantras can also stifle thoughtful responses to unique challenges.

Fortunately there are several ways to become more aware of your ingrained behaviors and learn more productive ones.

Changing Habits: Find Your Blind Spots

An emotionally intelligent leader can monitor his or her moods through self-awareness, and change them for the better through self-management. But where does one start? How can you identify the areas you need to improve?

One way is to ask others to help you identify your blind spots. Hearing the truth about yourself can be uncomfortable. But self-delusion can derail even the most talented professional. Gather feedback from as many people as possible – including bosses, peers, and co-workers. Seek out negative feedback, even cultivating a colleague or two to play devil’s advocate. Keep an extremely open attitude toward critiques.

Such 360-degree feedback will reveal how people experience you – and provide you with valuable information about how you tick.

Changing Habits: Know How You Process Emotions

Customer complaints, tech issues or office politics illicit different emotional responses in different people. Knowing how you respond to such challenges can help you discover and practice new thought patterns that are positive and productive.

For instance, anger is a common response to office mishaps. Sometimes it’s justified. But will blowing up at a co-worker solve the problem? Will passive-aggressive treatment change the “wrong-doers” actions? Or would taking a five-minute walk help clear your head? After you’ve calmed down, could you talk with your co-worker to get a better understanding of the factors that played into making the mistake?

Remember, we may not be able to choose our stressors, but we can always choose how we respond to stress.

It’s also helpful to understand how our brains process emotions. The emotional centers are in the middle of our brains, especially in an area called the amygdala. In Daniel Goleman’s book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, he says,

“The amygdala is a trigger point for emotional distress, anger, impulse, fear, and so on. When this circuitry takes over, it acts as the ‘bad boss,’ leading us to take actions we might regret later…. The key neural area for self-regulation is the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s ‘good boss,’ guiding us when we are at our best. The dorsolateral zone of the prefrontal area is the seat of cognitive control, regulating attention, decision-making, voluntary action, reasoning, and flexibility in response.”

Changing Habits: Stop, See, Choose

Learning to recognize mental and physical signals to emotions play a major role in shifting mental habits. Do you grind your teeth or tap your pen on the table when meetings get derailed? Practice noticing your responses to triggers. Use them as guides to shifting your internal dialogue to a more neutral place. “I’m doing it again. Let me put my pen down, loosen my jaw and count to five. Then I can gently remind the team that we need to stick to the agenda.”

The more you become aware of thoughts, feelings and physical reactions to triggers, the more opportunities you have to practice behavior change.

Changing Habits: Retrain Your Brain

Making change means rewiring our brains by doing and redoing new behaviors, over and over, to break old neural habits and make a new behavior automatic.

One approach is mentally preparing for a task. This activates the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that moves us into action. More mental preparation translates into doing better at the task. And, the prefrontal cortex is particularly active when someone prepares to overcome a habitual response. Without that brain arousal, a person will reenact tried-and-true but undesirable routines. Learning agendas literally give us the brainpower to change.

Even just envisioning new behaviors will help. Brain research shows that imagining something in vivid detail can fire the same brain cells actually involved in doing that activity. Mental rehearsal and experimenting with new behaviors make the neural connections needed for genuine change, but they aren’t enough to make lasting change. For that, we need help from others – coaches, trainers, or trusted peers.

Changing Habits: Real-Time Test

Habit change may be a self-directed process, but it can’t happen in a vacuum. Our relationships with others help us articulate and refine our ideal self, compare it with reality, assess our progress, and understand the usefulness of what we’re learning.

We need to practice new skills with other people – in a safe environment. We need to get feedback about how our actions affect others and to assess our progress on our learning agenda.

Changing Habits: Additional Resources

Brain Science

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights

Practical Application

Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress

Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit

 

 

 

 

 

How Do You Explain Mindfulness?

explain mindfulness

How do you explain mindfulness?

How Do You Explain Mindfulness to Someone Unfamiliar with It?

Many definitions of mindfulness only make sense to someone who already knows about mindfulness. That’s what Juliet Adams has seen in her work as an organizational consultant. Adams is the author of Mindfulness at Work for Dummies, the founder of Mindfulnet.org, and the director of A Head for Work, a leadership and workplace productivity firm. (Juliet is also a contributor to our Thriving on Change program.)

Adams joined More Than Sound founder Hanuman Goleman for a conversation as part of More Than Sound’s “What is Mindfulness?” podcast series. She said her favorite description of mindfulness is:

“the ability to focus attention and observe impartially the interplay between thoughts, emotions, and bodily responses. At any given moment, this allows you to choose a wise response to any given situation rather than a knee-jerk autopilot response that may or may not be appropriate.”

Adams said that a popular definition of mindfulness is one used by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The essence of Kabat-Zinn’s definition is: “paying attention on purpose in the present moment and without judgment.”

Adams has found that both her description and Kabat-Zinn’s definition often leave newcomers to mindfulness looking puzzled. In the first of four segments, Episode # 136: “What is Mindfulness? Your vs. Popular Definition of Mindfulness,” Adams shares an explanation of mindfulness that always gets people nodding in understanding.

After you listen, think about how you explain mindfulness? What definition resonates most with people?

Explain Mindfulness: Is it the Same as Meditation?

One point of confusion for many is the difference (and similarities) between mindfulness and meditation. Daniel Goleman clarified some definitions in his article What Mindfulness Is – and Isn’t. He says:

“Mindfulness” refers to that move where you notice your mind wandered. With mindfulness you monitor whatever goes on within the mind. “Meditation” means the whole class of ways to train attention, mindfulness among them.

He went on to point out that some meditation methods require you to be mindful of thoughts, feelings, or fantasies without judging or reacting. This self-awareness in itself tends to quiet the mind. However, many meditation methods are concentrative – you continually bring your mind back to a single point of focus such as your breath or counting. Concentrative methods use mindfulness to notice when your mind wanders so you can bring it back to that one focus.

Explain Mindfulness Through Practice

Regular practice can fine tune how you explain mindfulness. Use everyday opportunities to deepen your practice – at work, at home, or even during your commute. Below are some resources to help you get started – or take it to the next level.

Working with Mindfulness – Mirabai Bush developed mindfulness audio exercises for the workplace to help reduce stress, increase productivity, and encourage creative problem solving.

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence – Daniel Goleman created guided exercises to help people of all ages hone their concentration, stay calm and better manage emotions.

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress – Daniel Goleman developed a 45-minute audio program to help listeners effectively and naturally reduce stress.

Awake at the Wheel: Mindful Driving – Renowned Vipassana teacher Michele McDonald developed guided mindfulness exercises to practice during your commute.

Knowledge is Power: Understanding Brain Science Matters in Leadership Development

understanding brain science

Why Understanding Brain Science Matters

In this brief video clip, Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel discuss the value of understanding brain science behind effective leadership.

Understanding equals power – the power to recognize ineffective behavior and to choose actions that work. For leaders, this means having access to a range of styles suitable for different situations. Coaches and other leadership development professionals can use knowledge of brain science to target their work, and enhance their credibility.

The Key to Understanding Brain Science: Brains Can Change

A key message from neuroscientific research is that the brain is plastic, changing with repeated experiences, practice, and learning. In Brainpower, Dr. Goleman and Dr. Siegel share insights from leading researchers about how to change your brain through specific training programs.

In a special preview of Brainpower, Dr. Goleman explains research by Jean Decety, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, who has shown there are three distinct wiring patterns in the brain for different kinds of empathy. Any type of leadership role requires use of empathy to maintain good relationships. Tania Singer at the Max Planck Institute has designed training programs for the empathy circuitry that produce positive changes. And Daniel Siegel’s “wheel of awareness” exercise helps boost brain integration.

understanding brain science

Preview Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

This excerpt from Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership includes two segments from the Lead with Empathy chapter. The first segment features Daniel Goleman and the second is with Daniel Siegel. (Brainpower is also available as an audio download.)

In the first segment, Daniel Goleman uses examples from the daily work of leaders to explain:

  • The three types of empathy
  • How the social brain works
  • Research on the impact of empathy in business settings

In the second section, Daniel Siegel responds to Dr. Goleman’s comments, describing groundbreaking research on the neuroscience of empathy and how to harness the power of the social brain.

Go here to stream a free exclusive excerpt of Brainpower.

Develop the Three Levels of Organizational Awareness

organizational awareness

Outstanding leaders have an acute organizational awareness.

Organizational Awareness: Inner, Outer and Other Focus

In this brief video clip from the Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel, Daniel Goleman discusses systems thinking, three levels of organizational awareness, and visionary leadership. He points out that outstanding leaders are aware of the many systems within organizations. Such leaders start with the level of self-awareness and self-regulation, move outward with empathy toward awareness of interpersonal relationships, and then further to awareness of the whole organization.

Dr. Goleman has written about this inner-other-outer “triple focus” in many contexts, including organizational leadership and education. In his article, “Why Leaders Need a Triple Focus,” adapted from his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Goleman said,

“When Accenture interviewed 100 CEOs about the skills they needed to run a company successfully, a set of 14 abilities emerged, from thinking globally and creating an inspiring shared vision, to embracing change and tech savvy. No one person could have them all. But there is one “meta” ability that emerges from research on leadership: self-awareness. Chief executives need self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own. This means inner focus.

Companies also need leaders who have an other-focus—who understand the motivations of their employees and want to help other people be successful, too. For instance, they realize that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can work to develop it.

Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms this means:

  • Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction—from the heart and to the heart—that energizes others even as it sets clear expectations.
  • Paying attention to people’s feelings and needs, and showing concern.
  • Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus.
  • Coaching, based on listening to what the person wants from their life, career, and current job….

Of course that doesn’t mean that leaders can ignore other concerns, like market trends or innovation, to meet changing demands. But the same attention skills that can help manage one’s own emotions and work relationships can help leaders stay more flexible and allow for better outer focus.”

organizational awareness

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership is a collection of streaming videos and audio downloads with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel.

Brainpower provides leaders, executive coaches, management consultants, and HR professionals with a science basis for their leadership development work.

Additional Resources to Develop Organizational Awareness

The Focused Leader

Attune: The Role of Focus in Authentic Leadership

The Competency Builder

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness

develop emotional intelligence

Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness Practices

Leaders, trainers and executive coaches can develop emotional intelligence in themselves and others with mindfulness practices. Dawa Tarchin Phillips describes how in this video clip.

Develop Emotional Intelligence: Start with Self-Management

Mindfulness as a tool for self-management is a topic Phillips explores in his article, “Take the Lead in Reducing Workplace Stress.” He suggests five steps for using mindfulness to manage yourself when you’re under stress.

Notice your reaction to a specific “trigger” situation

What caused that rush of adrenaline or stress? What conditions led to that moment? Recognizing the triggers of stress can help you prepare to deal with them more effectively the next time they arise.

First become aware, then manage

Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally when you are in a stressful situation. The first step to managing your self is to be aware of yourself and your reactions.

Stay in the moment

Pay attention to whatever is happening in the moment rather than rehashing stressful situations from the past. If the moment presents a problem, focus on finding creative solutions to that problem.

Learn to meditate

Meditation helps calm the mind and increases the ability to focus. It also helps you be able to move between mental tasks more deliberately and with greater ease.

Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths during a stressful situation will bring oxygen to your brain and clarify your thinking. Try this: Breathe in and count one…then breathe out and count one. Breathe in and count two…then breathe out and count two. Breathe in and count three…then breathe out. Repeat. If you can, place your hands on your abdomen or chest to feel the rise and settling of each breath.

Develop Emotional Intelligence with Mindfulness

Gain insight into ways you can develop emotional intelligence in your organization through self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Dawa Tarchin Phillips will discuss each of these areas further in his upcoming webcast series, Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System.

The live webcast series is developed and hosted by Phillips, a mindful leadership expert, author, coach and classically trained senior meditation teacher. His business acumen and deep understanding of meditation techniques and mind training allow him to deliver a unique coaching program to address challenges facing 21st century leaders. Each webcast includes a Q&A with Phillips.

Develop emotional intelligence through mindfulness with these live webcasts:

Dealing with Workplace Stress: How it Impacts Performance, Culture and the Bottom Line

The Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Connection

Patience in Business: How to Overcome Doubts, Worry and Negativity

Beyond Habit: How to Change Habits that Limit Leaders

Managing Change: First, Understand and Manage Yourself

Dealing with Failure and Setbacks Mindfully: How to Move Through Struggles like a True Champion

Mindful Decision Making Under Pressure: Using the Power of Presence to Achieve Success from the Inside Out

What Oprah Winfrey Has Learned from Daniel Goleman

Super Soul Sunday

SuperSoul Sunday with Daniel Goleman and Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey uses what she has learned from Daniel Goleman every day. And, she thinks everyone can learn from Dr. Goleman’s work. That’s why she sat down with Dr. Goleman for an interview on SuperSoul Sunday. Here’s a taste of what they covered in their wide-ranging conversation:

What is the difference between IQ and emotional intelligence?

Technical and intellectual knowledge can get you in the door for a job, but emotional intelligence is what keeps you there and successful. Oprah shares examples of how she has seen the power of emotional intelligence.

What are the three kinds of empathy and why do they matter?

Any relationship or interaction is enhanced if we can empathize with others. Can you understand how someone thinks and how they feel? Does your understanding lead to concern?

How does Focus relate to Flow?

What is Flow and how can we intentionally get there? Dr. Goleman shares a key to achieving a flow state – pay attention. Goleman and Oprah discuss how our attention is under siege in daily life and how to step away from distractions.

It’s never too early, or too late, to develop emotional intelligence.

At any age, our brains can change, and we can build the mental muscles of emotional intelligence. Parents and schools can help children develop emotional intelligence from an early age. Dr. Goleman talks about the use of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) programs in schools and how cognitive control is a predictor of future success.

How can we each be a force for good in the world?

Oprah asks Dr. Goleman about his book, A Force for Good, his friendship with the Dalai Lama, and his work to help spread the Dalai Lama’s vision for the world. In the face of what seem like overwhelming challenges, we can each take steps to be a force for good. Dr. Goleman shares the greatest lesson the Dalai Lama has taught him.

Why does the media focus on negative news?

Dr. Goleman explains the brain science behind our fascination with news that is threatening or scary and how the media capitalizes on that fascination. Oprah and Dr. Goleman discuss how to manage the barrage of negative news.

What is the impact of the stories we tell ourselves?

Emotional intelligence allows us to change our relationship with our own thoughts and feelings and have more choice.

Watch the full SuperSoul Sunday interview with Daniel Goleman and Oprah Winfrey.

 

 

 

Are You Smarter Than Your IQ Says You Are?

IQ

iStock/wowomnom

Have you ever felt more intelligent than your IQ says you are?

What predicts success?            

These are a few of the questions Daniel Goleman explored with Oprah Winfrey when they sat down for a conversation on SuperSoul Sunday. That discussion airs on Sunday, March 20 on OWN.

super soul sunday

What Predicts Success? It’s Not Just IQ

Dr. Goleman looked at the fallacy that intelligence is a predictor of success and shared research that shows the importance of emotional intelligence. Angela Duckworth at the University of Pennsylvania has done extensive work on grit – the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Duckworth and her colleagues have found that some students who don’t necessarily have the highest IQs in their classes get high grades because they keep plugging away despite setbacks.

A 30-year long longitudinal study of children in New Zealand found that the kids with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s. Cognitive control refers to the ability to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, manage upsetting emotions well, and hold focus. Those skills mattered more to future success than the children’s IQ or family wealth.

Grit and cognitive control are examples of self-management, a key part of emotional intelligence. Self-management shows up in competence models – studies done by companies to identify the abilities of their top performers. Beyond grit and cognitive control, what sets apart stars from average workers are abilities across the emotional intelligence spectrum: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social effectiveness.

In an article, Dr. Goleman explained,

“IQ and technical skills matter, of course: they are crucial threshold abilities, what you need to get the job done. But everyone you compete with at work has those same skill sets. It’s the distinguishing competencies that are the crucial factor in workplace success: the variables that you find only in the star performers – and those are largely due to emotional intelligence.

These human skills include, for instance, confidence, striving for goals despite setbacks, staying cool under pressure, harmony and collaboration, persuasion and influence. Those are the competencies companies use to identify their star performers about twice as often as do purely cognitive skills (IQ or technical abilities) for jobs of all kinds.

The higher you go up the ladder, the more emotional intelligence matters: for top leadership positions they are about 80 to 90 percent of distinguishing competencies.”

Resources to Enhance Emotional Intelligence

The HR & EI Collection

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

How the Brain Can Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

How the brain can boost your emotional intelligence

Understand Brain Science, Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

Many people think “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but not Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel. They understand the brain science, which shows we can all grow new pathways in our brain that support our emotional intelligence and Mindsight. That science explains the mechanism of neuroplasticity – lasting change to the brain. During the Brainpower webcast series, Dr. Goleman and Dr. Siegel describe concrete ways leaders can grow their own brains AND help their employees build their capacity for emotional intelligence and Mindsight.

How to Develop a Connected Brain

A key to emotional intelligence and Mindsight is having a connected brain, where different parts of the brain communicate well with each other. How do you make a more connected brain?

Dr. Siegel explained,

“Here are the steps to making a more connected brain. You grow new connections between neurons with synaptogenesis and synapse modulation. You grow new neurons, at least in the hippocampus. Myelinogenesis is the creation of myelin. Myelin when it’s laid down, allows the action potential. This means that the ions flowing in and out go 100 times faster and the resting period, the refracting period between firings, is 30 times shorter. So 30 times 100 is 3,000. So with myelin, you’re 3,000 times faster and more coordinated and balanced.

So, how do you build myelin? Dan’s insightful book, Focus, talks about the key: focus of attention. The way I think about it is this: Where attention goes, neurofiring flows, and neuro connection grows. Where attention goes – how I use my mind to focus attention – gets neurons to fire and where neurons fire, they grow and rewire. I use the acronym SNAGS: Stimulate Neural Activation and Growth. One of the main things to SNAG a brain is the focus of attention. But the context in which that happens, trust, actually helps you promote more growth. There’s a social engagement system that’s turned on when you get trust going. As a leader, that’s the way you can help promote neuroplasticity. Learning and unlearning and deep practice in skill building – this is all stuff that builds myelin.”

CEO of the Mind and the Mind’s Radar

Dr. Goleman responded to Dr. Siegel’s comments focusing in on two parts of the brain that play an active role in emotional intelligence. Dr. Goleman said,

“I want to hone in on the prefrontal area of the brain. This is the part of the brain that’s really the brain’s executive, the CEO of the mind. It focuses attention, can help us integrate, plan, make decision, process information, strategize, learn, pursue goals. The prefrontal area should be the boss of the brain and is in our best moments. The amygdala, however, is at the bottom of a kind of spiral of emotional centers in the brain. The amygdala is the radar for threat in the brain; it’s the trigger for strong negative emotional responses. When the amygdala looks around, it’s asking: am I safe? Is there a threat? And if the amygdala thinks there is a threat, it can take over the prefrontal cortex in what I call an amygdala hijack and in the hijack, several things are going on.”

Three Signs of an Amygdala Hijack

Dr. Goleman explained, “First of all, there are three signs of a hijack. One is that you have a really strong emotional reaction. It might be anger, or fear, or going numb. It’s something that doesn’t help in the situation. The second is that it’s very sudden. It kind of takes you over. You’re surprised by it. Third is that it leads you to do something that doesn’t work, that’s inappropriate.”

What Happens During an Amygdala Hijack

Dr. Goleman continued, “In a leader, an amygdala hijack is never helpful. The mind state during a hijack, as shown by the research of Joseph LeDoux at New York University, tends to be very childish. The logic of the amygdala is that of a child, that of poetry, art, myth. Anything is possible. It’s a very fuzzy logic. It’s not the logic of the prefrontal cortex.

Attention also fixates on the threat. That was great in evolution because we needed to see what was rustling in the bushes. But, today the amygdala responds to complex social realities, symbolic realities. Feelings such as ‘I’m not being treated fairly’ can cascade in the body a whole flood of reactions. Also, memory reshuffles so what is salient to what we think the perceived threat is, is what we most easily remember. This leads us to rely on over-learned response. During an amygdala hijack, our responses are rigid. We do what comes to us most easily, which is what we’ve practiced the most. It might be something very immature such as ‘I’d like to hit this guy.’”

Managing an Amygdala Hijack

Dr. Goleman offered tips on how to manage a hijack.

“There are many ways to manage a hijack, but here’s one approach. First, pause whenever you sense it’s coming on or are in the midst of it. You may not realize because it can happen so suddenly. We need to collect ourselves, pause. Mindfulness is very helpful here. Dan also mentioned something in another webcast that’s really helpful here. ‘Name it to tame it.’ If you can say, ‘Oh, I’m having that reaction,’ you already are doing something neutrally with your mind. You are deactivating the amygdala and energizing the prefrontal cortex. It shifts the ratio of power.

A third thing you can do is calm down. Focus on your breath. Or, if it’s possible, take a break. John Gottman at University of Washington, who studies marital arguments, which are really mutual emotional hijacks, recommends that a couple take 20 minutes out. He says it takes about that long to calm down from the hijack. Then you can come back and talk things over.

The fourth step is repeat as needed. This takes advantage of the neuroplasticity that Dan is talking about. What we’re trying to do is develop a new way of reacting to those triggers.”

How to Help Others Build Their Brainpower

Dr. Siegel described concrete ways to help others build their brains. He said,

“These are ways as a leader you can help promote neuroplasticity. You can have relationships that build trust. You can create a culture with a lot of strength and integrity and intention that encourages the people working in your organization to get good sleep. Sleep is the greatest thing for neuroplasticity. We’re now beginning to understand that sleep helps clean away the toxins that are inevitably produced during the waking state. So, people who are sleep deprived are accumulating toxins. They don’t pay attention as well, they can’t remember as much, they’re irritable. The brain does not consolidate learning when it is sleep deprived. Nutrition. People need to be eating well. Aerobic exercise, keeping active, humor. Some studies suggest that humor actually helps promote brain growth. Novelty, having new things go on and the close paying of attention. All of these things help promote building a connected brain.”

“At drdansiegel.com, we’ve had a lot of people download a simple practice called ‘The Wheel of Awareness.’ It takes about 25 minutes. The results have been absolutely fascinating. I’ve collected and recorded responses from over 10,000 people who I’ve given this to in person. You can actually integrate consciousness to promote self-monitoring and self-modulation. That is, you can modulate your internal state through this very simple practice. What you’re doing basically is distinguishing the knowing from the known of consciousness and in doing that, you’re giving a huge amount of power for choice and change. This is exactly what we as leaders want to do is to provide the people we work with the opportunity to actually create more integration in their life.”

leadership development

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership is a collection of four streaming videos with Daniel Goleman and Daniel Siegel. This series provides leaders, executive coaches, management consultants, and HR professionals with a science basis for their leadership development work. The video content is a recording of Dr. Goleman and Dr. Siegel’s live webcast series broadcast in February 2016.