SELF-MANAGEMENT (self ˈmanəjmənt/) noun Management of or by oneself; the taking of responsibility for one’s own behavior
What Is it?
Self-management is the next building block toward Emotional Intelligence (EQ) after we lay the foundation of Self-awareness. Self-management is what I do with my awareness in order to be intentional about what I say and do, rather than automatically reacting to a situation or person. “On the surface, it may seem that self-management is simply a matter of … keeping myself in check when emotions come on strong.” This would be like putting a cork on a volcano in order to control or restrict our emotional eruptions, but not addressing the rumbling that continues beneath the surface (Bradberry, p.96). Self-management is about the rumbling beneath the surface: addressing the very formation of our emotions and opening the door to being intentional about our emotional expressions and patterns.
Why does It Matter?
Let’s be honest. Self-management takes a lot of intentionality. What can I expect to see from the effort I put toward this?
First, I’ll see an increase in my own experience of peace and lowered stress. As Christ is being formed in me, and I learn to decide who I am in him, responding to his shaping presence, I become more confident in the inner knowledge that I am in control of my own emotional expressions rather than being at the mercy of unpredictable circumstances or other people.
In addition, self-management will help to ensure that I don’t get in my own way; that my emotional processes and expressions don’t undermine my own values and goals. I’ll be more successful at reaching my goals and aligning my values with my behavior. I’ll make better decisions as I increase my ability to rightly interpret my emotions and avoid emotional hijacking
Self-management will dramatically improve my relationships, preventing me from unnecessarily frustrating other people; I’ll encounter less resentment and resistance. It will be less likely that I am misunderstood or misinterpreted.
What can we do about it?
Romans 12:2 indicates that a renewal of the mind is possible and leads to transformation. That sounds like good news to me! Research has shown that intentional steps can be taken to increase our emotional self-awareness, resulting in a greater capacity for Self-management. Here are some strategies for increasing Self-management. Which of these might we be willing to try for 30 days? (Bradberry, Emotional Intelligence 2.0)
- Take a deep breath. This is actually one of the most immediately effective ways to reduce anxiety and gain control of our emotions. When we notice ourselves taking short and shallow breaths and become aware of heightened emotion within ourselves, and we take time to breathe deeply, filling our lungs to full capacity until our abdomen swells, and then release the breath slowly and completely, this will engage our rational brain and we’ll experience a calming effect. This can create the space to make a more intentional decision about our reactions in a difficult interaction.
- Sleep on it. Many times, we just need a good night’s sleep to allow the emotions and brain chemicals to settle down, resulting in clearer thinking and greater emotional management. Adequate sleep is required for us to function with an alert, focused and balanced mind. Research indicates that most of us are not getting enough sleep. See this article from July 2016 for more on the importance of sleep and how to make sure we get enough. This is especially important in situations where important decisions are being made in the context of high demand schedules – a big part of our lives that we need to take special notice of and manage with intentionality.
- Learn from someone. This is something I’ve benefitted from: Think of someone you know that demonstrates great Self-management skills. Have some transparent conversations with them about their journey to Self-awareness and Self-management. Consider what you can apply to your own life.
- Get a coach. A professional coach who is trained in CliftonStrengths ®, or Emotional Intelligence can be a great partner toward increased Self-awareness and Self-management. Research indicates that professional coaching is one of the most effective and efficient ways to progress in Self-management. (Get a coach)
- Take control of our self-talk. Our emotions are most often a by-product of our thoughts. So, what we think about shapes the emotions that are formed. This isn’t naïve positive thinking that denies the real challenges we face but instead an intentional approach that focuses on truth, desired outcome and self-efficacy – what we have within our ability to effect. Negative self-talk that invalidates our ability to positively affect our circumstances or our emotional state leaves us feeling out of control and insecure. An intentional implementation of Philippians 4:8 will go a long way toward Self-management as we think about what is true, honest, just, pure, beautiful, good, virtuous and worthy of gratitude and praise.
- Pay attention to my” Ladder of Inference”: This concept describes the process whereby we select information from all the data available to us, make interpretations about that information, and then draw conclusions. This creates a cycle of influence where we end up reinforcing our own conclusions over and over again…. And sometimes we can make significant mistakes in this process. Knowing and sometimes challenging my assumptions and conclusions can open the door for broader observation and better conclusions that lead to more intentional emotional and behavioral patterns. Here’s a great article that further describes this concept and how we can benefit from a clear understanding of it: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_91.htm
- Exercise and Relax… intentionally. Regular exercise and intentional rest time are critical to the healthy mind, releasing serotonin and endorphins that recharge and keep us resilient: an absolute requirement for self-management.
- Manage Stress. Stress triggers hormones that get in the way of clear thinking, self-awareness, and self-management. See this article and this one from last year for strategies to manage stress.
If we can purpose to follow these strategies, we will be able to make better choices, control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage our emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances. That sounds really good to me!
Written by: Cindy Schmelzenbach
Bradberry, Travis. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: Talent Smart https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002U3CBUW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
TalentSmart newsletter on Emotional Intelligence and Employee Engagement: http://www.talentsmart.com