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Overcoming Mind Blindness with Emotional Intelligence

By Dr. Travis Bradberry

When was the last time you were able to fully exhale and enjoy what’s truly important in life? I’m talking about the kind of deep reflection that sends tingles down your spine, deflating the size of your daily hassles. For me, it’s the feeling I get when I arrive home after a long day of work and gaze into the innocent eyes of my newborn son. Whatever your moments are, they are rare spots of time that leave you thinking, “This is what it’s all about.”

These days, the work-life balance scale is tilting heavily towards “work.” More than 80% of Americans average 40+ hours on the job, and half of those put in 50+ hours each week. Summer, though on its way, doesn’t look like it will be providing much relief this year. A national poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media shows that one third of Americans have already canceled at least one summer trip due to financial concerns. People still holding jobs want to keep them, and they’re spending more time at the office to make sure their presence is felt.

Running Blind

We all know that time spent at work is rife with stress and challenge, but few realize that blindly diving into your work actually reduces your job performance. Why?

Consider how Steve Whitley spends his workday. Steve is a seasoned project manager who starts each morning with a 10-minute cup of coffee. Actually, he spends just 30 seconds of it drinking. He squeezes massive gulps in between clicking through emails, jotting down voicemails, and rummaging through a mile-high stack of documents. Some mornings, Steve doesn’t even glance out at the panoramic view through his fourteenth story window.

Downing coffee is not a sign of mind blindness, but powering through your day without stopping to contemplate your behavior is. Steve invests little time in self-reflection and often finds himself denying his fatigue, chasing lofty goals at the expense of his health, and failing to fulfill the needs of his employees. Steve takes obsessive precautions to ensure her team doesn’t make any mistakes. At a meeting, he details tasks for each team member to accomplish the following week, and then decides to take care of half of them himself without telling a soul.

Why would Steve create this kind of stress for his team? The short answer is he’s wired to. Biologically speaking, we’re built to do one of two things in the face of a threat or danger: run really fast in the opposite direction, or stand our ground and fight like a champ. Deciding on a rational action during a heightened state of emotion is secondary to our survival instinct. In Steve’s case, he’s fighting like a champ. Any manager is going to respond to a project deadline with at least mild anxiety. Even if he isn’t completely aware of it, Steve is likely to feel that his job is threatened by the chance of failure. To make things worse, he doesn’t have control over how and when all tasks are completed.

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