We all have those moments when we react out of frustration. Then afterwards we say: That’s not who I want to be. Emotional intelligence can help you live a life of authentic connection, with others and with your bigger purpose, and be your best self more often.
That’s why at Six Seconds, our vision is one billion people practicing the skills of emotional intelligence by 2039. And to help with that, I asked our world-wide network of certified practitioners: What would you recommend for people to live a more purpose driven life with EQ?
How to Live Meaningfully with EQ: 10 Tips for a Purpose Driven Life
Some favorite practical tips from the global EQ community
The answers have been organized based on the Six Seconds Model of Emotional Intelligence, where the first step is to increase self-awareness, the second step is to be more intentional, and the last step is to be more purposeful. Below are tips related to this last step – connecting with your overarching purpose and using empathy to purposefully connect with people. We call this step Give Yourself because you are focused outwardly on how you contribute to people and the world around you. There are two skills that help you do so:
Pursue Noble Goals – Connecting your every day actions with your overall sense of purpose.
Increase Empathy – Using empathy to meaningfully connect with others.
1. Get to the heart of it!
At the end of the day, why are you here? How are you going to use your gifts and talents to make the world a better place?
This bigger purpose is what Six Seconds calls a noble goal. It’s what you work to bring in to the world, the change you want to see. And it starts with each of us, every day. Mine is to inspire people to see and appreciate the miracle of life. My friend’s is to inspire compassionate wisdom. What’s yours?
What do you want to contribute to the world?
If you are not sure, these next couple tips can help you narrow it down.
2. “Michael was a man known for…” Imagine yourself at your own funeral. Your loved ones are all gathered around, both to mourn and to celebrate your life. You influenced many of them in a great way, and they want to say thank you. As they are talking among themselves, what do they remember you for? How were their lives made richer by having known you?
I would want them to say that I lived every day as if it was a miracle, and I was quick to recognize the beauty of it all. That I helped them cherish the moments of their life.
This can provide an insight into your noble goal. How do you want to be remembered?
Write your own retirement or funeral speech. What is it that you want to be remembered for? What would really have meaning for you?
3. Articulate a clear, concise noble goal. It’s really helpful to condense your noble goal into a sentence. If it’s too vague it’s hard to refer to, but when it’s a short, clear sentence, it can really act as a North Star. Something you refer back to as you make decisions big and small. Does this bring me closer to my noble goal?
You normally start with a verb, “To blank…” and then a noun. Like, “To inspire compassionate wisdom,” or “To support myself and others to live in truth.” Then tweak it, change it a little, expand its vision, change a word or two.
To be a noble goal, make sure it checks off all 5 of these:
1. Not complete in your lifetime – It is enduring and inspiring, something beyond the daily struggle. This helps you maintain a long-term focus so you can avoid the confusion of short-term thinking.
2. Pointed outward – While you will benefit, the focus is on others. This helps you maintain an expansive vision.
3. Integrates different domains – It encompasses all dimensions of your life; serving your noble goal in one domain (such as work) supports you in all others (such as family).
4. Gets you out of bed – It motivates and inspires you at a deep level; this helps you to have the energy when the going gets tough.
5. No one made less – No one has to be “less than” or “wrong” for you to pursue your Noble Goal; this helps you stay out of ego and power struggle.
If you have a strong mission, but it’s a particular, accomplishable goal, read this article about how to find the greater truth beneath that – and that’s probably your noble goal.
4. Refer to your North Star. Once you have it, use it! It’s not something that you should only refer back to when making big decisions. Even the most mundane tasks are opportunities for bringing the future you want into the present.
When you sweep the floor or wash the dishes, how can you do it in a way that brings your noble goal into the present? For me, isn’t it a miracle that hot water comes through the tap? Or that I have a floor to sweep? Those thoughts alone make me more grateful, more aware of all my blessings.
Then apply it to, well, everything.
When you buy lunch, how can you do it in a way that supports your noble goal? Or when you are stuck in traffic, what can you think that helps bring your noble goal into reality?
For a look at how to leverage the power of a noble goal, check out this article, How to Be a Great Leader: Harnessing the Power of Noble Goals.
For me, it’s compelling to think about Noble Goals, the bedrock of what your life is about. Emotional intelligence is practicing an awareness of the choices we make and asking, “Is this aligned with my Noble Goal?” It’s a big, big question that calls us to break it down and be more aware, more sensitive. Simplistically, that’s emotional intelligence.
5. Step back 5, 10 years. If you check in with your noble goal and you still feel stuck, here’s another tip: focus on a longer timeline. In a year, or 5 years or even 10 years, how will you look back on the decision you’re making? Or the stress you feel now?
Here’s a recent example from my life. My partner was about to have surgery, and I felt overwhelmed at times by the thought of the recovery to come. Then I asked myself: how will I look back on this in a year? Well, she will be fully recovered by then, and happy to be totally healthy. Even thinking about a year later helped give me some refreshing perspective. It reminded me that it was temporary, which is an essential component of exercising optimism.
So next time you feel stuck, try taking a big step back.
When stressed or making difficult decisions, focus on a longer timeline. What will matter in a year? Five years? 20?
6. Keep asking, “Why?” I ask myself what and how questions a lot. What do I want? How can I get that? What should I do this weekend? How can I maximize my time off? But I ask a lot fewer why questions, and they are probably the most essential ones of all. Because when you ask yourself why, you naturally connect your current decision to the bigger picture. You connect it to your goal, what you really want.
Check out this TED talk from motivational speaker Simon Sinek on the power of asking why.
Keep asking, “Why?” and look more deeply at the underlying intention. “Why is this important?” and “Why are we prioritizing this?” are two good questions. For example, in a meeting, a proposal will come up, and often discussions focus on practicalities, “when can we do this,” or “who will lead this.” The first question should be, “Why are we doing this?” When people are aligned on the purpose, creativity and energy come easily.
Give Yourself is all about connecting. All the tips until now have been about connecting with your why, your bigger purpose. But there’s another part of connection, and it’s your ability to connect with others. These tips are all about this other component.
7. More question marks, less periods. To connect with others, empathy is indispensable. The ability to imaginatively put yourself in someone else’s shoes is the heart of connecting with them. But is empathy something you can get better at?
According to researchers, the answer is a resounding yes. Empathy can be increased with practice; it’s a skill. Here’s an amazing article with tips on how to increase empathy, but there’s one I want to focus on here: engaging your curiosity. Replacing statements with questions naturally opens us up to empathy.
Here’s a classic example. I went to the doctor the other day with my partner. It was her first follow up visit, a week after her ACL reconstruction. The surgeon was out of town, so it was another doctor from the office. To make a long story short, he was extremely rude. But I want to focus on my own reaction.
My first response was, “What a jerk.”
But then I asked myself, “What’s going on for him?”
The first is a wall, a settled declaration. The second is a vulnerable willingness to go a little deeper. It’s a two-way street, of course. Asking myself that didn’t make him any less rude, but it made me less likely to escalate, and more likely to connect with him if he was open to that.
Minimize assumptions about others; these preconceptions often lead to misconceptions.
8. Become a master listener. A prerequisite for empathy is listening. Listening to the words someone says is a good first step, but master listeners involve more senses than that: deep listening is about paying attention to nonverbal cues: a person’s posture, body language, tone, inflection. Because it turns out we transmit emotional messages through all of these methods. So if you want to truly hear what the other person is saying and know what they’re feeling, you need to look for all these verbal and nonverbal cues.
Empathy begins with being a good and genuinely interested listener. Develop deep listening skills. Seek to sense underlying feelings rather than the words being spoken.
9. Go deeper and deeper. Do you want deeper connections? I know I do. Sometimes small talk is great, but often I want to go deeper, and really get to know someone.
I love this story from Josh Freedman about talking to his dad about Vietnam. It highlights some really important keys to connecting deeply with someone – you have to choose the right time and place to broach deeper topics, and go deeper incrementally. Check it out!
Let yourself get closer to others. Share a little more of yourself, and ask questions that are a little more personal. Listen without judging and see what you discover.
10. Practice loving kindness meditation. Meditation has been to shown to increase empathy, especially a type known as loving kindness meditation. I highly recommend it.
If you want a beautiful description of loving kindness meditation and how to practice it yourself, check out Maria Jackson’s 12 Days of Wellbeing, specifically Day 2: Empathy.
My current step for practicing EQ: I am exercising gratitude; each day I am focusing people for whom I am grateful, and thinking about some things they have done.
Authentic appreciation. Give feedback to those in your world based on what it took of them to do something versus the result itself.
When a person starts venting to you about another person, focus not only on the words, but the feelings behind the words and gently ask about these.
Leaders remember: Empathy is the difference between compliance and commitment.
Notice the layers of empathy and how you empathize differently with different people.
Practice thinking about the context from which other people are experiencing this moment.
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