Friday 13 November 2015

Emotions, Thoughts and Meditation

I am a fan of Goleman's work on Emotional Intelligence, and particularly as applied to Leadership (see The New Leaders).

One of the many reasons it appeals to me, is that it starts with the self. Rather than describe what a leader should do or say to others, in order to lead, it starts with the leader increasing his or her self-awareness: noticing, and then learning to regulate, what is going on for oneself emotionally.

However, recently I was talking with a leader I know. He is, I think, a good leader and manages his emotions effectively most of the time, which also enables him to lead others well, in the way Goleman et al suggest. However, he was telling me of a recent occasion when he 'lost his rag' in a senior meeting.  

The occasion was relatively trivial: and indeed that was what infuriated him. Senior people seemed to him to be squabbling about something of little or no consequence. It was silly and it was a waste of time, in a meeting when there was much serious work to be done.

All of which prompted me to think that it is not sufficient to notice and regulate one's emotional responses, important though that may be. Under pressure (or for other less obvious reasons, in this case probably a combination of overwork, exhaustion and exasperation) the emotions may leak out and one may lose one's rag.

So there is a prior discipline: of considering how we are making sense of the world, and doing so in a way that does not lead to us having to manage sudden emotional responses. There are many approaches to this, including CBT based approaches, for example, and my work on Story (did I mention, I have finished the book - there is just a little editing to be done now...?). So as well as the emotional component, we have to attend to the rational. But the other component, I think, is the spiritual: the cultivation of serenity, through a spiritual discipline to match the intellectual and emotional disciplines. 

That, I think, is what meditation has to offer, and why it is being rediscovered as an important part of the repertoire for those seeking to be truly effective. I have blogged before about my own developing discipline, here. I was reminded of the impact that this practice is having once again, when a couple of fairly major issues popped out of the woodwork, and I found that I was not only able to cope with them calmly, but also to feel calm throughout - which meant there was no danger of inadvertent leakage of inner turmoil.

Meditation is one of those things for which we feel we never have time: after all, it feels as though we are doing nothing - a terrible waste of time! But increasingly, I am convinced that investing time in meditating (a little, regularly) is saving me huge amounts of both time and energy.

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