Wright Foundation | June 14, 2016

How to Strengthen
Your Social and Emotional Intelligence for
Career Satisfaction

There’s a lot of buzz these days about neuroscience and how it relates to learning and growth. You may have heard of “train your brain” apps, games and challenges designed to boost your social and emotional intelligence.

The idea is that by doing these brain exercises, your brain becomes “stronger” and thus, you become more satisfied and enriched overall. But does a stimulated brain really bring you more career satisfaction and happiness overall?

It’s no secret that social and emotional intelligence play an important role in transformational growth and living. As coaches, we see the way a positive, growth-focused mindset can enable a person to tackle life’s challenges. It can strengthen our relationships, drive us in our careers, and help us reach our leadership goals.

The best leaders are transformational leaders. They focus on growth and work toward a shared vision with their employees. They understand their employees from a social and emotional perspective. They display empathy and honesty, and they focus on a shared human connection. In short: they relate. They get it.

Transformational leaders also have high social emotional intelligence. They can work with and adapt to a variety of people and personality types at work. They don’t get bogged down in day-to-day drama and petty disagreements. They aren’t about their own egos and being right all the time. They are about fighting FOR a path that’s right for the company. They understand their own success is reflected in the success of their team and the group as a whole. They might not be the smartest person in the room, but they know how to bring out the best in those around them, so they have the smartest team.

These emotionally intelligent leaders also experience immense career satisfaction. It’s not because they make the most money or because they have the most power. (Although, they’re almost certainly the identifiable leaders in the office.) It’s because they’re continuously growing and learning new things. They seek new challenges and new experiences. They never stay static.

So how do we get there…?

Complacency Results in Dissatisfaction

As human beings, it’s very easy for us to become complacent and comfortable in our jobs, in our relationships, and in our lives in general. We engage in soft addictions: social media, “zoning out” in front of the television, going out and drinking, or spending money on things that bring us a quick, temporary high but then leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled. We look for fleeting entertainment and cheep satisfaction.

We’re comfortable, but we aren’t stimulated or engaged.

Even those of us in great roles in our jobs can find ourselves wondering, “Is that all there is?” We might get a high when we’re facing a deadline, pushing ourselves to set up a new sales system, or leading a meeting, but most of the time, after a few years of working the same job (even doing the things we do well), we feel like we’re simply phoning it in.

Think of it like training for a marathon. When you’re actively training for a marathon or race, you have to push yourself a little more each day. It’s exciting! You’re striving for your goals and you see results. You have to build new muscles, increase your stamina, and work hard on your speed and distance.

Conversely, if you simply go out your front door, lace up and run the same route every day, eventually you’ll hit a training plateau. You won’t stretch and grow those muscles and keep your body training. When it comes time to run your marathon, you’ll be slow and undertrained. You won’t reach your full potential.

How do we break out of these patterns and habits to achieve career satisfaction—and satisfaction in our lives as a whole?

The Lesson: We must challenge ourselves to grow!

Neuroplasticity: Behind the Scenes of Personal Growth & Satisfaction

The concept of neuroplasticity is one of the most widely accepted theories on social and emotional intelligence, learning and growth. Our brains, just like our bodies, must be continuously stimulated in different and new ways. We have to constantly grow and learn to form new neuropathways and keep our brain functioning at peak condition.

In a comparative study of London cabdrivers vs. London bus drivers, the cab drivers were found to have greater grey matter in the hippocampus of their brain. Why? Because they were constantly learning new routes and responding to new stimuli. Bus drivers, on the other hand, were routinely going through the same experience and thus, showed less activity.

Similarly, when Dr. Itzhak Fried at the University of California, LA replayed a video clip for patients, their neural networks showed the same activity as when they first viewed the clip. Patients also began firing the same neurons when showed associated clips, such as a person along with a landmark. As we form memories and repeat similar experiences, our brains use the same neural pathways. So, to form new neuropaths, we must discover and seek new experiences.

We are designed to transform. We have the amazing gift of neuroplasticity—the ability to build new neural circuitry, new selves and new lives. We can literally change our brains and our minds and what we believe, who we are, and how we live. We can transform.

Our brains are never “happier” than when we are learning new things, stretching, just beyond our current capacities. This is where we build new circuitry and develop mastery.

  Transformed!: The Science of Spectacular Living

Staying Engaged: The Key to Immense Satisfaction

The real secret to staying engaged, stimulated, and emotionally and socially growing is to continuously seek new experiences. We must stretch ourselves and push ourselves outside our comfort zone. Sure, there are apps, games and other “brain training” you can do to work out your brain, but true growth comes from fully engaging and constantly challenging ourselves.

When you walk into a room, do you find ways to listen to everyone there? Do you try to understand their vision and relate? Are you pushing yourself to grow and work on shared benchmarks and milestones?

Find ways to up your social and emotional ante by rolling up your sleeves and jumping in. Embrace new experiences and push yourself beyond your boundaries.

To continue the conversation on engaging with others and to discover ways to bring out your best self, click here to learn more about our next More Life Training. You’ll learn skills to become more alive, more connected, and fully engaged in your life and your career.

Want to boost your career? If you’d like to learn more about what the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential has to offer check out:

Want to improve your sales? The Wright Sales Program is a hands-on, experiential program that provides sales professionals with an opportunity to boost their sales performance through the application of social and emotional intelligence to their selling techniques. [Learn more!]

Dr. Bob Wright

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.