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Dr. Robin Stern of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence: How To Live With Joy Even When It Feels Like The Whole World Is Pulling You Down

When we live ‘on purpose’ we live our values, and we live intentionally. Living on purpose, means knowing what is guiding us, what we are ‘meant’ to do … it means we have a choice not only every day, but, in every interaction about how we will ‘show up’ in that interaction — we will […]

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When we live ‘on purpose’ we live our values, and we live intentionally. Living on purpose, means knowing what is guiding us, what we are ‘meant’ to do … it means we have a choice not only every day, but, in every interaction about how we will ‘show up’ in that interaction — we will be empathic, compassionate, a good listener? We will be someone who lifts that spirits of the person you interact with. I think about that every day — I begin the day with a moment of gratitude — and, think about what is ahead of me for the day — and how I can be my ‘best self’ in every interaction…

Robin Stern, Ph.D., is the co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and an associate research scientist at the Child Study Center at Yale. She is a licensed psychoanalyst with 30 years of experience treating individuals, couples and families. Robin is the co-developer of RULER (an acronym for the five key emotion skills of recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing, and regulating emotions) an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that has been adopted by over 1,500 public, charter, and private pre-school to high schools across the United States and in other countries. Robin regularly consults with schools nationally and across the globe. She also consults with large companies, including Facebook and Google on best practices for integrating the principles of emotional intelligence into training and product design. With Facebook, she has co-developed a number of products, including a social resolution tools to help adults and youth resolve online conflict and the bullying prevention hub to support educators, families, and teens.

Robin is the co-founder of Star Factor Coaching, a model of leadership coaching anchored in the skills of emotional intelligence and was a founding member of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, where she spent 15 years creating and facilitating professional development programs for aspiring women leaders. In 2014–15 Robin was a fellow in the Yale Public Voices Fellowship, and her work is frequently published in popular media outlets, such as Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, Time.com, The Washington Post, The Hill, Harvard Business Review. She has been a guest on many local and national radio shows and has traveled widely to lecture on emotional intelligence, women in leadership and on relational bullying.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was a young girl, I spent weekends at home with my family — and most Saturday mornings I would watch Shirley Temple reruns — for those younger than I, you may be asking “who??” — Shirley Temple was a childhood movie star whose personality, warmth and kindness, brought a lot of joy into the hearts of many during the second world war — her movies were in reruns during the 50s and 60s and beyond. I watched, and was inspired by, the characters she played — in all roles, little Shirley repaired relationships between people, brought people together and resolved conflicts between leaders of countries in dispute– often ending wars and making peace (ok, they were movies!) But, I ‘bought’ it — the idea that kindness, love and respectful conversation was better than violence and anger really spoke to me — and, it still does!

And — Shirley Temple was my first role model — little did my mother know she was helping me develop vision and purpose in my life. And — now, the work we do at the Yale Center and with Oji is truly following the pathway I found in childhood, loving and skillful communication leads to better relationships and a more compassionate society.

What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?

When we live ‘on purpose’ we live our values, and we live intentionally. Living on purpose, means knowing what is guiding us, what we are ‘meant’ to do ……… it means we have a choice not only every day, but, in every interaction about how we will ‘show up’ in that interaction — we will be empathic, compassionate, a good listener? We will be someone who lifts that spirits of the person you interact with. I think about that every day — I begin the day with a moment of gratitude — and, think about what is ahead of me for the day — and how I can be my ‘best self’ in every interaction……….

Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?

My father’s brother was a beloved uncle when I was young — as I grew up, he got more and more lost in drinking…… ultimately, his drinking became a daily habit — his erratic and scary behavior was a constant source of stress for my father — and, my father’s stress, had a trickle down effect on all of us…….I remember talking to my uncle about why he was so unhappy — and, he told me that he could talk to me, better than anyone else…….. he used to come to my house, when he knew my parents were out, have a few drinks, get very intense about something, and demand that I be his captive audience — sitting at the kitchen table with him — and tell me stories of his childhood and of my dad and my grandparents. I remember at first I was scared, then I realized if I could just listen with caring and didn’t pay attention to my own feelings, he would eventually be less angry and would run out of steam, and we would both get up and take a walk. It was the beginning of my career.

The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?

There are several contributing factors — Digital tools that allow people to face tune their picture to ‘improve’ the way they look, social media, lack of education in emotional skills, isolation, increased anxiety and depression — caused by gaslighting and other uncertainties, unskilled leadership in key roles in national education and an archaic education system.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As co-founder and associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, I am proud to say that our extraordinary team of researchers and practitioners are working hard every day to bring emotional intelligence skill development to children and adults in all school communities — and, to shift the climate and culture of schools to enhance well-being for all — and, ultimately build a better world!

What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Give gratitude every day — — for the people I love, for the opportunity to work with amazing people towards making the world a better place, everyday, for my health.

Music — any music I love — -from Motown to Carole King to specific pieces from The Nutcracker…..

Read inspirational quotes

Have a cup of coffee and think through the day

Hula Hoop and get going……..

Connect with my partner and my kids and others I love

Smile at people — and make a point to say good morning to people I work with…….

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?

Movies and books — biographies and autobiographies — of women who were change agents — everyone from Amelia Earhart and Marie Curie to Helen Keller, Anne Frank, Eleanor Roosevelt to Michelle Obama to watching Sally Field in ‘Norma Rae”.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with the heart”.

Helen Keller

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes!

We are continuing to scale our efforts to bring emotional intelligence skills to every student in every school, in every community in the nation and around the globe — and the adults who touch their live. And launching Oji Life lab! We created Oji with Matt Kursch and Andrea Hoban to help people learn, and develop emotional intelligence skills to help them in every area of their lives. If you want to be a better parent, better manager, better team member, it makes sense to start by learning how to be a better human — that’s where emotional intelligence and Oji Life Lab come in.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger?

Marc Brackett and I — and, our team at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence have inspired a movement we call the Emotion Revolution — a movement that allows for primacy of emotions in our relationships, in our work life, in our everyday — a movement that asserts that the way we feel matters — and, that it matters for every part of life, everyday — for our overall well-being, and promoting compassion, equity and productivity for all.. The Emotion Revolution is about creating cultures where emotions matter and people skillfully work with their emotions in the service of their goals. A movement where each of us embrace our own feelings and others’ feelings too.

The creation of Oji with Matt Kursch and Andrea Hoban — gives the opportunity to anyone to develop the skills of emotional intelligence……and get better at being human….!

I am thrilled that Marc and I can expand our work beyond what we have been doing in education for decades, to reach even more people through the OJI Life Lab.

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