“I just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you.”
Those words are a reminder that empathy and kindness are two of the greatest gifts we will receive in life. I’ve had the good fortune of receiving these gifts for a long time now. The kindness has rubbed off on me in many ways, filtering down to the way I treat my clients, my family and friends. Those words above were from the woman that raised me — my mother.
When I was growing up, my mom taught me how to treat myself and others with respect. She let me know that I’d need to adapt to the changing world around me, and encouraged me to think introspectively and learn about myself. It was crazy to think it possible that life could be any other way. I had a role model that lived her life with love, class and grace.
My mother is also an author, of sorts. Oh yeah — she’s the Maya Angelou of greeting cards. You pick a holiday — even ones that are a bit silly — and she’s got you covered.
St. Patrick’s Day ✔️
Valentine’s Day ✔️
Easter — you betcha ✔️
Labor Day… all right, let’s not get crazy. But you get the point!
Her handwritten cards were — and still are — a reminder to enjoy each moment — to make each occasion special. It’s helped me commit these times to memory and cherish the kindness and love that makes the “little things” in life such a huge part of living.
My mom has shown me time and again what it means to live an emotionally intelligent life, and most importantly how to live one. I wanted to share the many lessons I’ve learned from her, as well as some of my own along the way. They’re the habits of emotionally intelligent people. They’ve helped me to live a fulfilling, productive and happy life — on my terms.
1. They personalize communications with kindness.
Take a page out of my mother’s greeting card collection. Let someone else know that you care. Be kind — not because it’s the contemporary buzzword or thing to do. Because it’s the right thing to do. Kindness and empathy are the habits of beautiful people. They are relationship multipliers. They show tremendous self-awareness and genuine care for others.
It takes thought to do this — be willing to go the extra mile and put yourself in the position of someone else. It’s an amazing feeling to be treated with kindness.
2. They devote time each day to self-care.
I used to look at certain things like massage, chiropractic care and coaching as premium services that weren’t at all necessary. It wasn’t until I started investing more in myself that I learned these were things that are essential to maintaining my equilibrium. What I mean is — these are game-changers for me that add value to my life and improve my well-being.
Emotionally intelligent people understand this and commit select items to habit that will work for them. Start with having a meditation practice, even if it’s five minutes per day. Look at the four dimensions of wellness:
What can you do each day and week to nourish yourself and help your personal development? Focus on the emotional side. Seek things that will help you feel fulfilled, motivated and energized.
3. They use motivation and passion to power their day.
Living with passion and purpose motivate you to live the life you’ve always wanted. I’m very big on self-motivation. My top love language is words of affirmation, so I thrive on hearing these from people I love and trust. I also feed motivational and inspirational words of encouragement to myself subconsciously. Napoleon Hill was fond of using the term, “autosuggestion.”
I think of it as a pep talk from the heart. Think about how you feel when you think of the things that light the fire inside of you. Remind yourself of reaching your goals and doing so for the people you love.
4. They forge authentic connections with people.
This one for me is really simple. They invest their time and energy in people. They tell the people closest to them, “I love you.” They lead with a smile, their spirit is true and they genuinely have no airs about them. They’re real. Everyone knows it.
I think of my wife — an emotionally intelligent woman that has always told me the truth and showed me from day one that she wanted me to be happy. Every conversation with her has always been so real. This connection led to love. 7.5 years of marriage and two children later, this authentic connection has sparked a lifetime of happiness.
5. They know themselves in a deep, intimate way.
This begins with the foundational piece of emotional intelligence: self-awareness. Emotionally intelligent people know who they are — and just as important, who they are not. They understand what makes them happy, sad, angry, scared, thankful, in awe, and everythiing in between. They have a sense of purpose and do things with meaningful intention.
They invest time in personal development to become better wives, sisters, husbands, brothers, sons and daughters. They know that life isn’t a game — it’s a journey. What better journey than to know what makes you who you truly are, and then to share that gift with the world?
A great example of this is Ellen DeGeneres. Extraordinarily comfortable in her own skin, she has transformed the lives of millions of people for the better because she refused to become some other version of herself. She stayed true, worked hard in her career and had the courage to come out at a time where it wasn’t well accepted. But she wanted to live life on her terms, and she wouldn’t be denied.
6. They view adversity as a growth opportunity.
From the ashes of every disappointment can rise an amazing blessing. This isn’t just some self-help gobbledygook. It’s the way I live my life. It’s the way I’ve seen emotionally intelligent people that I respect live their lives. When I’ve had my heart broken, when I’ve been let go from jobs, when I’ve dealt with bad injuries, I’ve always come back stronger and wiser.
My good friend, Bill, has dealt with many setbacks for his young son. Diagnosed with neuroblastoma, his now 3-year old has been fighting for his life from the time he entered this world. He’s survived cancer several times, beating it and moving forward with courage and confidence. This has led to a rebirth in faith for my friend and his wife.
Their lives have been defined by the incredible power of love.
They’re warriors that can successfully adjust to any challenge life throws at them. That’s called adaptability. It’s called resilience. It begins with a positive attitude and a belief powered by self-motivation that things are always going to get better. When you live your life like this, you grow and become even stronger for the next challenge.
7. They are intellectually curious and love helping others develop.
Last and certainly not least, emotionally intelligent people have an insatiable appetite for learning new things and helping others to develop and learn new things. The common theme you’ve surely seen is, emotionally intelligent people aren’t just in it for themselves. They want mutually beneficial outcomes that lead to true growth.
They love to help people become the best version of themselves because their actions are outward, while their thoughts are inward. In other words — they spend time thinking about creating the kind of world they want themselves and others to live in. One with wonder, love, joy and happiness. They then commit their actions to create that world and do so with passion.
Becoming an emotionally intelligent person is something every one of us can do. We all have the power to love, learn deeper about ourselves and do kind things for others. We can all learn to take better care of ourselves, adapt to difficult circumstances and motivate ourselves to reach our peak potential. It begins with habits — the secret sauce that puts a life of fulfillment well within our grasp.
Christopher D. Connors is the bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence for the Modern Leader and The Value of You. He is a keynote speaker, executive coach and business consultant that works with leaders at Fortune 500 companies, sports organizations, schools and universities. His writing has appeared in CNBC, Quartz, World Economic Forum, Virgin Media, Thrive Global and Medium. Christopher is happily married to his beautiful wife and is the proud father of three amazing, rambunctious baseball-loving boys. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Visit him: http://chrisdconnors.com