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This week, I attended the last in a series of classes on leadership. As much as I’ve enjoyed the other sessions, this was the one I anticipated the most. It dealt with emotional intelligence. More and more companies are coming to understand both the importance and the benefit of emotional intelligence, our ability to connect at the most basic level with others.

Emotional intelligence is really about relationships. It is the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. If you think about life as a boat, Emotional Intelligence is the sail.

Relationships are key. For lack of some better way to say it, without relationships we are totally dependent on ourselves for our successes, our joys, our accomplishments.  As humans, we are bound one to another.  It is our blessing.

I love the way we started the session. Each of us wrote on a piece of paper the name of one person who had a positive impact on our life. My immediate thought was ‘all of them’……but knew that would take a lot more explaining than my teacher was up for, and that it would likely derail the planned curriculum. And so, I wrote a single name. I felt compelled to not write the name of anyone in my immediate family, and so I chose my Aunt Lillian. Beyond the name, we were asked to write a few things (on separate notes) that endeared us to that person (what made them the person you chose).

We proceeded with the class, but in the end, we circled back to the name. Our teacher placed charts around the room – one for IQ, one for technical abilities, and another for emotional intelligence. We then took our pieces of paper (the ones with the traits) and placed them on the appropriate chart. The purpose of this exercise was to show us clearly that those we hold closest to our hearts aren’t the ones who are most intelligent or most proficient. However, in some ways, perhaps they are the most wise.

‘People will forget what you said and forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel.’

As with most things, I held our discussions a little longer, turning them over and over in my head. Allowing (perhaps) a more thorough understanding, and relating what I’ve learned back to what I know, what I believe. And, in doing so, I reflect on my students, my friends, my family. I want for them all that they need to be happy, content, at peace. And yet I know that is not within my power to give. Perhaps all I can do is help them to see that they are the ones with the real power. Whatever we want for our lives, we can only achieve it by realizing our abilities to make it happen, and disregarding our own inner voices that tell us it can’t.

il_fullxfull_629143088_e8uzWhile behavior is harder to change, emotional intelligence is generally learned. And it is learned by stretching, by making it a habit, by being aware not only of who we are and what we feel, but also what others feel – about themselves, about us.

Yes, I know I make it sound easy. The truth is, it’s not……..but it is.

I ask my students, ‘what would you do if you weren’t afraid’. What if you weren’t afraid of succeeding, of falling, of being alone, of being responsible, vulnerable, broken? What would you do if you weren’t afraid of letting go, of being happy? Fear keeps us safe, and reminds us to hold onto all the things that we’ve used to define our lives – every hurt, every wrong, every failure, every fault. Funny, but we hold on to the things that make us sad, to the things that cripple us. The hurts become lasting ones; the failures, barbed wire keeping us from a different future.

It breaks my heart.

‘Years ago, a friend of mine and a passenger were in Europe driving on the Autobahn, the superhighway across Germany. Unlike American freeways, the Autobahn has no speed limits. You can travel as fast as you want to drive.

My friend was so excited as he pressed down on the accelerator and took the car up to 80 miles an hour, then 90, 100, 110. He felt like the king of the road, zooming past people left and right.

A few minutes later, another car streaked down the freeway. This car was the exact same model as my friend’s car, but it blew by him like he was standing still. That second automobile must have been going 170 per hour.

The passenger traveling with my friend laughed and said, ‘See; you’re not going as fast as you can. You’re just going as fast as you will.’

I love that story. Our power is to choose. We always choose. Even when we don’t choose, we’ve chosen. The incredible thing about life is that every single day, we get the chance to start over – to step out beyond the things that keep us from living the life God intended us to have.

I am
the child of a living God
the essence of a garden
I am the blood
of ten thousand tribes
made to one
I am the breath of heaven
a river rush with tears
a light denied
the limits
of the sun

I am
willing to be broken
so that I might rise again
deciding as I will
my destiny
I am not afraid
of falling
mine are wings
of love divine
I will lean into
and wait
a certain wind

. . .