Slowing Down For What Matters!

In our daily lives we are often bombarded with multiple and competing demands, especially during the holiday season. On top of an already hectic schedule, add holiday parties, holiday shopping, and family gatherings; throw in some unrealistic expectations, and perhaps an over indulgence in food and drink! All of this seasonal chaos can leave us feeling exhausted and harried. During a time when a healthy response would be to ‘slow down’, we often pick up the pace in order to keep up with the demands. Yes, much to our demise, we move through our days faster! How often do we get to the end of the year and say “where did the last few months of the year go?”

We know that the idea of ‘slowing down’ is good for many aspects of our health and our life, right? It’s good for our digestive system to eat and chew our food thoroughly, which requires ‘slowing down’. Effective learning and communication requires that we ‘slow down’, focus and pay attention. A good meal takes time to prepare. Many adults would also say that good sex takes time. It takes time to tell a good story. Learning how to deliberately ‘slow down’ our heart rate is important in managing stress and anxiety. ‘Slowing down’ reduces the number of automobile accidents, especially in bad weather; it has also contributed to a decrease in the rate of medical errors ( e.g., following the steps for proper patient and surgical site identification). The biggest benefit of ‘slowing down’ is that it increases our self-awareness! Self-awareness is not only central to personal and professional effectiveness, it is also a cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence.

The term Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been a topic of discussion in many professional settings, including healthcare and medicine. Researchers, educators, and those in the field of psychology and mental health can readily define and describe what emotional intelligence is, how it works, and the benefits of having ‘good enough’ EQ. In fact, a respectable amount of research has been done on the topic, and the evidence is clear that high EQ seems to be a significant factor in a person’s capacity to excel in both their personal and professional lives. There are plenty of examples of people who seem to have high IQ’s and good educations, but are unable to reach their full potential due to a variety of interpersonal and behavioral problems (e.g., the disruptive physician). Sometimes those problems are emotional and/or characterological in nature, but often times they are a lack of emotional intelligence.

We are all familiar with the brilliant MD or surgeon who seems to have the communication and social skills of an irrational, hormone-surging adolescent. What is sometimes thought of as arrogance or simple ‘social skills’ is really EQ , a lack of self-confidence, and poor leadership skills. The good news about EQ is that it consists of skills that can be learned! Unlike IQ, EQ can be increased. But guess where the starting block is? In the domain of self-awareness! It is simply not possible to improve one’s EQ without first increasing one’s self-awareness. Thus, and most importantly, increasing self-awareness begins with ‘slowing down’.

Slow down and take the time to notice the people around you, especially those that matter most to you or your business. Take the time to communicate with them about issues that are important to them. Take the time to pay a compliment, to notice their improvements, or applaud their efforts. Take the time to say ‘thank you’ and ask how they are doing. Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings, and see if you can ‘slow down’ enough to notice how others might be feeling. Take the time to check in with yourself and ask: how am I doing and what do I need? You can’t pay attention to others if you don’t first pay attention to yourself.

Pearl of Wisdom: Rather than moving mindlessly, like the harried doers we can easily become, slow down for what matters most in life—-yourself! It will increase your self-awareness and your EQ. Your health and your relationships will also benefit.

As you move into a new year, in addition to ‘slowing down’, what other steps could you take to increase your self-awareness?

Wishing you Happy Holidays and Blessings in 2009!

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