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Do yourself a favour – look up and pay attention

Paying attention gives you the space to be the real you. It gives you the openness to make the right choices about the right habits for you.

I live in South London. I regularly catch South West Trains into Waterloo station. It’s throbbing with people all the time. One morning around half nine, I was listening to my favourite meditation app whilst looking out the window at the London skyline. I prefer looking up to looking down. I take in more this way.

I was meditating on what it is to be emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence, emotional leadership, emotional quotient and emotional intelligence quotient, is the capability of individuals to recognise their own emotions and those of others. And the ability to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately. Finally, it is the capacity to use emotional information to guide our thinking and behaviour, and manage and/or adjust our emotions to adapt to environments or achieve our goal(s).

So there I was on the train, it pulled into the platform. Everybody started to pile out of the eleven-coach train. Hundreds of people. It’s quite peculiar watching people in everyday, run-of-the-mill circumstances. There we all were walking towards the turnstiles at the end of the platform. Imagine a sea of people gushing towards the turnstiles. A wall of people moving towards the end of the platform.

I noticed most people were congregating in a bunch, all huddled together like a swarm of bees with their heads down looking at their phones. All bunching behind a collection of turnstiles. But just to their right were half a dozen empty ones. No one noticed them.

The tension and frustration started to build. You could taste annoyance in the air. Look up for a moment, I thought to myself. When we do, we see opportunities and give ourselves permission to feel the freedom of taking an alternative route. We are able to manage our emotional responses. I find it amusing. When will we recognise our own emotions and feelings? What does it take to use our emotional information as a guide?

Emotional intelligence is driven by paying attention

Running a business for some 15 years has been one of the best adventures of my life. Not only has it been fun because I have been living my truth, but it has also taught me a very valuable lesson; my conscious journey into awareness. Mindfulness. Being observant. Forming the right habits for me. And the simple but certainly most tricky habit of paying attention.

When we pay attention, we notice what we are experiencing. We notice what is happening around us – the external stimuli: the tone of voice, body language, actions, words and emotions of others – and recognise what is happening inside of us – our response to external stimuli. 

We develop a capability to live intuitively. We become emotionally intelligent.

Mindfulness doesn’t ask you to stop doing

Mindfulness asks you, is this what you intend to do? Mindful speaking and living asks you, is this what you intended? If not, choose an alternative. From a leadership perspective, this is extremely powerful. Imagine for a moment you are talking to your team in a meeting. Imagine being able to choose how to be moment to moment. Not how to think; you do this automatically – you’ve spent your whole life building your capacity to assess, analyse, judge, and make assumptions. 

Imagine being able to choose alternatives to what is expected of you (from yourself and from others) in each moment. Paying attention gives you the space to be the real you. It gives you the openness to make the right choices about the right habits for you.

When we are here and now, when we become fully present, we possess a clarity of mind – an awareness – that knows no bounds. Creativity flourishes, decision-making speeds up, and you become super, highly effective human beings. To me, we become real, purpose-driven leaders.

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