Smart and Present

A few years ago I was on a panel about emotional intelligence at an international conference on the subject. The moderator told the audience that he was going to use a question that he had heard me ask of several EQ experts in a program a year earlier.

I knew what it was before it even came out of his mouth. He asked– “If it is true that you teach what you most need to learn, what has emotional intelligence taught you and why are you teaching it?” I thought it was a great question even if it was mine, except now I had to answer it in front of nearly 400 people.

I told the audience that as a student in high school I got good grades and in college and my master’s program I did well too. I came to expect that I could use my brain to figure things out. Over time, as my intellect developed it became pretty easy to form an opinion, express a position or debate the benefits of this over that. I got the label of “being smart,” and I was happy to have it,

What I learned from emotional intelligence of course, was that there was another kind of smarts, the kind that comes from emotion, feelings and gut level reactions. Not the same kind of smarts which I already had at my command.  And as I began my work in the arena of emotional intelligence and leadership I soon discovered that it was easier to be smart than it was to be present. And that the real challenge of leadership was to stay in the moment and make decisions in real time.

Quite a number of people came up to me after that panel and said that they could really relate.

It really is easier to be smart than it is to be present.

So what does it mean to be present? You know, be in the moment, not be thinking about lunch or a clever come-back to a point that was being bantered about. But being here right now. It means listening with one’s full energy and attention, taking in the people, concerns and information as it is being presented without thinking, “this problem is like other problems I have solved and the answer to those dilemmas would be the right solutions to these dilemmas.” You can really make big mistakes with that.

I still rely heavily on my IQ and others still think I am smart. However, I’ve been working on being present for a long time and integrating these two parts of myself. So in the spirit of teaching what I most need to learn, I am dedicating my blog to this purpose with a name of the same lesson and learning.

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