No matter which successful person I have the honor of learning from, they all mention the same thing--emotional intelligence.
Everyone knows that emotional intelligence is important. Thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk and Tim Ferris both acknowledge the importance of being self-aware, but few people tend to know what self-awareness is or how to improve it.
The conversation in entrepreneur culture needs to shift from talking with buzzwords like emotional intelligence to listening to experts who work with clients to improve their self-awareness each day.
Let me spend a quick second dispelling some myths and providing information.
Myth: We don't know what self-awareness is.
Fact: Self-awareness is insight into one's thoughts, feelings, and ways of relating to themselves, others, and the word.
Myth: We don't know how to improve self-awareness.
Fact: There is one scientifically proven way to increase self-awareness--and it doesn't involve merely using an app or reading self-help books.
Truth: Everyone can improve their self-awareness by engaging in long-term therapy or coaching with an expert.
As a licensed therapist and life coach, I work with motivated clients to improve their self-awareness and deepen their ability to be in tune with their moment-to-moment mental and physical experience.
I know for a fact that the clients I work with deepen their understanding of themselves in a way that boosts their emotional intelligence.
Because results speak for themselves.
Some clients learn to treat themselves more compassionately, to be more responsive and supportive of their emotional needs. Others challenge their negative self-criticism and tendency to ruminate on past events and start living more fully in the present moment.
Other clients start listening to their intuition and engaging in regular journaling, exercise, yoga, and mediation.
Some clients--the type who are unfamiliar with their own feelings--develop the ability to identify, acknowledge, and express their emotions in healthier ways.
And almost all clients improve the ways that they relate to others.
Because when you spend time focusing on yourself--your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of continued growth--and you combine that with accountability and a process that encourages vulnerability and trust, the result is a radical shift in mindset.
That shift in mentality--or insight--coincides with greater opportunity to take action. And taking new actions leads to new patterns and healthier relationships.
Let me give you a very simple example.
A man spends long hours each day working a difficult and demanding job. He makes great money, feels engaged and passionate about his work, but the stress is starting to add up.
As demands on his time increase, he finds less time to spend with his wife. He finds himself getting angry when she asks him to spend more quality time together. And then, after a major fight, he kicks his dog.
In our work together--so long as the client is committed to the process--the client will deepen his ability to notice his stress levels. He will have insight into what his body is communicating to him, and therefore have opportunities to either take more breaks or add more adaptive coping strategies.
He will recognize the impact that his overworking is having on his relationship. He will gradually discover why he feels the need to work so much.
He will learn the reasons behind why he reacts so strongly to his wife's feedback. And he will understand why he kicked the dog.
All of this self-awareness and understanding, combined with the relationship we create in which he feels like he can openly share and express these feelings, enables him to make different life choices.
At the end of our work, this same client who called me feeling irritable, overwhelmed, and stressed is leaving with higher self-awareness and the ability to do something with that insight--make better choices.
So when the entrepreneur and leadership space discusses self-awareness and emotional intelligence as if they either don't know what those things are or aren't sure how to improve them--they're either uninformed or defensive.
My guess is the latter.
I think that the entire mentality associated with entrepreneurship and leadership is self-involved--focused more on the glory of success than the enjoying the road to it. I think many individuals are uncomfortable with the idea of seeking additional emotional support.
The hyper-masculine "do it yourself" mentality of entrepreneurship results in fear of being perceived as weak for talking about one's feelings. Business itself tends to revolve around emotional suppression, so I'm not at all surprised that people claim that they aren't sure how to improve emotional intelligence.
Of course you don't know--you're afraid to engage in the very process that improves self-awareness!
And that fear should tell you something.
Your aversion to my advocacy of therapy and coaching should send a loud and clear message to yourself that you have things you need to address.
I hope that you have the courage to listen to your feelings. Because I think that everyone deserves an opportunity to live a happier and more fulfilling life. And I think that improving yourself awareness is the fastest way to do that.
Stop refusing to justify taking one hour out of your week to devote to your growth. It's one hour out of 168.
And I promise that one hour--over time--will make a bigger difference than any single book, application, or motivational talk.