How to master the art of self-management – and overcome challenges
“Anyone can become angry – that’s easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way –this is not easy.” – Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
That is the opening quote in Daniel Goleman’s international number one best seller, Emotional Intelligence, a book that teaches us how we can understand and manage our emotions by developing skills such as self-awareness, impulse control, persistence, zeal, motivation, empathy and social deftness.
The Harvard Business Review called Emotional Intelligence “a revolutionary, paradigm-shattering idea” as it shares robust science and in depth studies showing that IQ is no longer a definer of our destiny, but emotional intelligence plays a much more significant role in an individual’s success and overall wel being.
One skill of the emotional intelligence faculties is Self-Management, defined by Goleman – a science journalist who teaches psychology at Harvard University – as the ability to manage your internal states, impulses, and resources. This is a fundamental capacity as, if we are expected to manage relationships or manage other people (parenting or at work), we must first master how to manage ourselves.
What is Self-Management?
Self-Management is broken down into six competencies:
- Emotional Self-Control: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses in check.
- Transparency: Maintaining integrity, acting congruently with one’s values.
- Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change.
- Achievement: Striving to improve or meeting a standard of excellence.
- Initiative: Readiness to act on opportunities.
- Optimism: Persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.
When it comes to Self-Management, we are all different and some of the competences listed above will come more naturally to us than others. The good news is that, given the correct stimulus and training, we can all improve these essential competencies that are fundamental for us to lead our lives in a more authentic, meaningful and joyful way.
In addition, in the context of leadership, they are the soft skills that make all the difference in creating a culture of collaboration and an environment that fosters the innovation needed to create, develop and grow disruptive businesses that are bringing positive change in the world.
Strategies for Self-Management
In order to manage our emotions more skillfully, we need space to move from reacting to responding. Here are three straightforward self-management strategies to make it happen:
1. The STOP Technique:
Stopping before reacting is wise advice that is so simple that we tend to not give the value it deserves. The acronym STOP reminds us to –
Take a breath: prolong the pause and allow your nervous system to get out of a fight-flight-freeze response.
Observe: sensations in the body, thoughts, feelings, emotions.
Proceed: from a calmer, collected and more considerate place
2. The Three Breaths Practice:
In the heat of the moment you might not have much time to do a great amount of rational and analytical thinking, but you do have time to take three breaths and incorporate this micropractice into your argument. It heightens your emotional awareness and elevates your response in a matter of seconds:
1st Breath: Notice your body – try to relax if you can!
2nd Breath: Notice your feelings – check in with yourself
3rd Breath: Notice your thoughts – and work with emotions with greater confidence
3. Journaling Prompts:
If you are already adept at free-writing and enjoy using a pen and paper to express your emotions without the need to edit yourself, using journaling questions can prompt you to find insightful answers. Here as some good questions to ask yourself:
Prompt 1: When I stop, breathe and observe I notice (write down sensations, emotions, thoughts)
Prompt 2: What I truly care about this situation is…
Prompt 3: One way I can proceed is…
Natalia Bojanic is a former PR director who left the corporate world to follow her passion for self-improvement and wellness. The Co-Founder of Form and Founder of Switch-OM, she is also a qualified meditation teacher who has studied with Buddhist monks and nuns, and been certified by the Google-developed Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.