Why Stress Damages Your Brain

Why is stress so detrimental for our brain? Learn why adrenalin and cortisol make your brain shrink and how you can stress less

You probably experienced how stress paralyzed you. "I can't think clearly."
Fear before a speech, you blanked out in a spelling contest…

Instead of finding solutions, you react irrationally.

However, the consequences of chronic stress are more severe. Constant overwhelm leads to brain shrinkage in certain areas.
Your brain produces stress hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol as well as a series of other steroids to prepare your body to fight or run.

The brain's activity shifts to an area where you're primarily focused and alert.

However, the brain isn't able to think logically and creative in this state.

Why Stress Damages Your Brain

What does chronic stress do to your brain?

If you're overworked or overwhelmed for a more extended period, your performance will decrease. Some people are more resilient than others; however, the brain needs phases of relaxation and rewards.
In these phases, the brain produces happy hormones.

Happy hormones can protect your nerves. If the brain continually produces stress hormones, certain areas can go into a decline.
Several studies attempt to make changes in the brain of chronically stressed people visible with different methods.

We can be sure of one thing: The brain matter suffers damage if an individual suffers from stress for an extended period.

We won't let that happen to you! Here are some simple, doable by you tips that help you to stress less (click the box on the right to enter full screen / exit to leave):

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8 Signs You Are Emotionally Mature

8 signs you're emotionally mature Emotional maturity and stability have nothing to do with your biological age. Some are emotionally mature at a very young age, others never are. The term describes people that are centered, not self-centered. Someone with a grounded character, emotional intelligence, self-confidence and often (but not necessarily) a fair share of life experience. The 8 signs of emotional maturity show you how far you have come and where you still have the potential for improvement.

You don't worry what others might think about you

In the past, you often worried about what others might say and think about you. Now you only care about the opinion of people who love, respect or support you and want to see you succeed. In other words: You're open to constructive feedback but have removed toxic people from your life.

You accept support

Nobody is an island and everyone needs help from time to time. You used to think asking for help means admitting weakness and should be avoided. However, over time you have learned that it's a sign of faith and trust. Nobody can do it all. Admitting to yourself and others that you need help and accepting that you can't do everything alone is not only a sign of emotional maturity but also helps you grow.

If you're emotionally mature, you know how to let go

Most of us are afraid of heights and the unknown. The idea of jumping into a dark hole without seeing the bottom is terrifying. It's difficult to let go and not knowing what to expect. To think that every moment of our past was better than the present hurts our soul, figuratively speaking. It makes it impossible to let go of what doesn't serve us anymore. We're panicking and the dark whole looks like the abyss that's going to swallow us. Emotionally mature people know that life is much better when you're free. Therefore, they let go what isn't part of them anymore, and what doesn't want to stay with them. They know that clinging to the past only prolongs our suffering and keeps our wounds from healing. They're not heroes but they don't wait until another door opens to close a door. aurorasa sima quote emotional maturity

The emotionally mature person understands that life is not a "make-a-wish" event

We have all been hurt in the past. Many of us spend a lot of time on regrets and wishing they could change the past. Like a time-traveler that takes a second shot with the learned knowledge. However, whether we like that some events are out of our control, or that we're unable to comprehend a few things doesn't change the fact that they are. A huge part of our suffering is not related to the present but fearful thoughts about the future and not letting go of our past. Emotionally mature people are able to accept that they cannot always control their surroundings. They're able to accept things they cannot change and focus their energy on changing those they can.

You have few or no difficult relationships

That doesn’t mean you have no conflicts in your relationships. What it means is that you argue when it’s necessary and helpful but you’re not looking for fights.  You don’t feel you have to “win” every argument and discourse is about winning and losing. Your ability to emphasize with other people and take into account where they’re coming from helps to minimize the number of unfruitful discussions.  Also, you have removed people who need drama and fighting from your life. That said, you are good at de-escalating and talking with impossible people. 

Accepting yourself is a sign of maturity

The paradox of change is that to change we first have to accept ourselves. People who understand this know that whining and staying in your comfort zone doesn’t get you places. 

More action and less whining is a sign of emotional maturity. 

Emotionally mature people do not shy away from brutally honest self-as they know it’s necessary to learn which areas of their lives they want to change. Also, they don’t beat themselves up for being imperfect or making mistakes.  We’re all a work in progress. Realizing and embracing this fact helps us to create positive change. 

You’re happy if others succeed

People who are emotionally mature are happy when they see someone else succeed. They don’t compare themselves to the successful person and they don’t envy them.  We understand that someone else worked hard to achieve the success, level of skills or what else we admire. 

You’re authentic

What you show on the outside is in line with how you feel inside. The times when you put on an iron vest and a mask are long gone. You’re natural without mistaking authenticity for rudeness or not following social etiquette.  You learned to trust the process and have faith in other people. Yes, you know that it’s possible you might get hurt. However, you also know you’re able to heal.  Because you’re self-aware and “happy in your skin,” you enjoy alone-time as much as being around people. You’re not afraid to be alone with yourself.  Your emotional maturity allows you to take control of your life and realize your visions. Your definition of success is your own and not someone else’s.  Being emotionally mature turns life from a chore into a pleasure!

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30 Benefits of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence is my favorite topic because it's the set of skills and traits that helps anyone to get better results in their professional and personal lives. I love to speak about and teach skills that help people to more business success and life satisfaction! You can increase your emotional intelligence Emotional intelligence (EQ) is inherently different from intellect. You IQ (intellectual quotient) is the ability to learn, and it never changes throughout your life span. EQ is a flexible set of skills that can be learned, acquired, honed and improved. While some people naturally have a high level of emotional intelligence, it can be developed in anyone. Book smarts and street smarts can only take you so far, emotional smarts are often overlooked while being a critical aspect of the overall health and wellness of every individual. Everyone can benefit from a high level of Emotional Intelligence, from CEO’s of top companies, to the homemaker down the street, it is the key to professional, social and personal success and your overall wellbeing and contentment in life. 30 benefits of emotional intelligence

The science behind Emotional Intelligence

There are a vast amount of studies showing the many great benefits of high emotional intelligence, here are some notable entries. “Studies show that people with higher emotional intelligence testing scores are more socially competent and enjoy higher quality relationships” (Brackett, Warner, &Bosco, 2005; Brackett et al., 2006a; Lopes, Salovey, Cote, & Beers, 2005; Lopes et al., 2003, 2004) One study found a positive relationship between self-esteem and emotional intelligence. (Relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Self Esteem among Pakistani University Students, Bibi, et al., 2016) TalentSmart tested emotional intelligence in the workplace alongside 33 other critical skills needed at work, and they found that emotional intelligence to be "the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs." The international search firm Egon Zehnder International studied 515 senior executives and found those who had the highest emotional intelligence levels were more likely to succeed as compared to those with very high IQs or even those with a lot of job experience. According to a report published by Yale University researchers, "the most common complaints that lead people to psychotherapy are anxiety and depression. The skills associated with emotional intelligence, therefore, should help individuals to deal effectively with unpleasant emotions and to promote pleasant emotions in order to promote both personal growth and wellbeing.” A study by KRW International, found that “CEOs whose employees gave them high marks for character had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period.” This rating is five times higher than those who were marked with low character ratings. (https://hbr.org/2015/04/measuring-the-return-on-character)

30 reasons to invest in Emotional Intelligence Training

While there are tests available, it’s difficult to truly measure emotional intelligence. However, you don’t need to measure it with a score to see the benefits of having a high level of emotional intelligence. So, you don’t need to take a test to determine whether you display the typical behaviors of someone who has a high EQ. There are a variety of benefits that are associated with high EQ. You may find that some of these are present in your life, and it could be because you have a high EQ. We all have some level of emotional intelligence, it’s just that some of us have a higher level of it. According to a report published by Yale University researchers, "the most common complaints that lead people to psychotherapy are anxiety and depression. The skills associated with emotional intelligence, therefore, should help individuals to deal effectively with unpleasant emotions and to promote pleasant emotions in order to promote both personal growth and well being." Yale University reports that “Indeed, people with higher MSCEIT scores tend to be more socially competent, to have better quality relationships, and to be viewed as more interpersonally sensitive than those with lower MSCEIT scores (Brackett, Warner, &Bosco, 2005; Brackett et al., 2006a; Lopes, Salovey, Cote, & Beers, 2005; Lopes et al.,2003, 2004).” Another study found that EI influences how well employees interact with their colleagues, how they manage stress, conflict and their general job performance (Ashkanasy & Daus, 2005; Lopes, Cote, & Salovey, 2006a). Your EQ influences how you socialize, network, and how you manage your behavior. It’s what helps you make the decisions that will bring the best results. Besides the very impressive benefit of improved job performance, there are many other very real benefits. Let’s take a look at the biggest benefits of having high emotional intelligence.
  1. You Can Learn It
Before we can go any further, we have to talk about the most important thing about emotional intelligence. While some people may seem more naturally emotionally intelligent, it’s something that you can learn. That is absolutely a benefit, as other traits are genetic. This isn’t. You can develop it with practice.
  1. Reduction In Bullying
It makes sense that when someone is able to understand their emotions and those of others, there is a reduction in bullying. We are able to control emotions and react appropriately to the emotions of others. This helps us prevent harm against others as a result of how we feel internally. The natural result of this is that we have a more compassionate environment.
  1. A Better Social Life
People can be thoroughly exhausting, but for people with a high EQ, it’s easier to relate to others. This ability allows them to build closer relationships, as well as attracting people to their social circle. It helps create a deeper level of perception, which benefits everyone around you.
  1.  No Self-Sabotage
Unfortunately, many of us are guilty of acting against our best interests. Luckily, a high level of emotional intelligence is one of the best ways to overcome this behavior. You’re less likely to engage in behaviors believed to be self-destructive. When compared to the general population, high EQ people are less likely to binge drink, smoke, take drugs, and commit violent acts. This, according to the University of California, Berkeley (http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/281019).
  1. Decisiveness
It’s much easier to make decisions based on emotions. A series of logical decisions requires an evaluation of each scenario. However, emotions always play a role. When you have a high EQ, it’s much easier to analyze situations to come to a clear decision quickly.
  1. Transcendent
There is a lot of talk about transferable skills. For example, if you have a skill for typing that isn’t going to translate into every industry. However, a high level of emotional intelligence is applicable to every industry. It’s truly transcendent, as you can apply it in any and every situation.
  1. No Perfectionism
People often speak of perfectionism as though it’s a good thing. It isn’t, it can be debilitating. It causes procrastination and makes progress almost impossible. Luckily, high EQ people don’t need to worry about falling into the trap of perfectionism. They know that there is no such thing, which means they can easily push forward. A mistake isn’t the worst thing that can happen, it’s simply something that requires adjustment.
  1. A Healthy Balance
One of the most important aspects of life and self-care is striking a healthy balance between work and play. If you spend all of your time at work, eat junk food, fuel your life with caffeine and ignore your health… well, that’s just no use to anyone. High EQ people understand that work and play are required for a full and healthy life. For example, you may turn off your electronics and take a weekend out. Or, it might just be a few hours of stress-free relaxation. Whatever helps them manage stress.
  1. Change Is Good
A lot of people struggle with change. It can be terrifying. However, high EQ people welcome change because they understand that it’s a natural part of life. Change doesn’t mean a hindrance to success. It just means adapting to those changes and creating a plan that will help them succeed. So, with great EQ comes adaptability.
  1. No Distractions
We mentioned how perfectionism can lead to perfectionism. Well, a lack of EQ can lead to someone being easily distracted. You know that one person in your office who is impossible to distract? They are super focused and able to resist their phone, random thoughts, and surroundings as they work? That’s the person with high EQ.
  1. Empathy
According to psychologist Daniel Goleman, there are five main components to EQ. One of those is empathy (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/are-you-emotionally-intel_n_4371920.html). The ability to show compassion, to show empathy to others, and to relate to and be curious about strangers are all key. They are the people at your party who ask questions when they sit down with someone they never met. They’re naturally curious about others.
  1. Weaknesses & Strengths
High EQ people don’t just know what they’re great at. They are equally as aware of what they’re not good at. It isn’t just about accepting that your weaknesses exist. It’s accepting those weaknesses and learning how to make the most of your strengths to strike a healthy balance. This is also something that helps leaders determine what they should delegate. They know they are better at certain things, thus having others pick up the slack. It isn’t just good for them, it’s good for others, and for business.
  1. Motivated
People with a high EQ don’t need a reward to motivate themselves to achieve their goals. They are naturally goal oriented and will go out and make it happen.
  1. Living in the Present
We all have regrets, well… except for high EQ individuals. Why? They’re far too busy living in the present and working to the future to worry about what happened in the past. They understand that their past mistakes will consume them. This will just result in additional stress and it will impact your mental health.
  1. Optimists
High EQ people don’t get caught up in the negatives of life. Instead, they are devoted to putting their energy into solutions. They can find the positive in any situation and will always be the ones coming up with new ideas. If you know someone who constantly complains, well, they’re the low EQ individual in your life. High EQ people seek out other positive people and surround themselves with positivity.
  1. Healthy Boundaries
The picture we are painting may suggest to you that high EQ people are pushovers. The truth is, they’re not. Their compassion and positivity don’t make them a target. Instead, they are able to set healthy boundaries. They aren’t afraid to say no because they are invested in their self-care.
  1. A Strong Emotional Vocabulary
We know that everyone experiences emotions. However, only some of us can identify them accurately when we experience them. Naturally, this is problematic. How can you process emotions if you are incapable of labeling them? It’s this misunderstanding of our emotions that results in counterproductive behavior and an inability to make sound decisions. Luckily, high EQ people are able to label and process their emotions. They’re aware of when they feel frustrated or irritable, they can tell the difference between those emotions and anxiety. This means they can determine what is causing it and what action they should take to deal with it.
  1. A Curiosity About Others
You may be reading many of these points thinking you will never attain this as you’re an introvert. Introverts can be emotionally intelligent, as anyone can be empathetic. With empathy comes curiosity. So, if you care about others and you are interested in what they are going through then you are curious about others.
  1. Character Recognition
A high EQ supports social awareness. It’s an ability to read others, understand who they are, what they’re about, and what they’re going through. All of this improves your ability to judge character. While some people see others as a mystery, high EQ people really get people. They see through the act.
  1. A Thick Skin
People with a high EQ are confident in who they are, which means they are unflappable. It doesn’t matter how hard someone tries, it’s difficult to penetrate that thick skin. They’re fine with others poking fun at them and they can make a joke about themselves, too. They are adept at drawing a line in the mental sand between humiliation and laughs.
  1. No
People with a high EQ don’t behave impulsively. They can delay gratification and display self-control. According to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, people who struggle to say no are more likely to burn out (https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2013/03/11/the-art-of-saying-no/#19d78bca4ca8). Not just burn out, they are also more prone to depression. So, the ability to say no is bigger than just getting stuck with someone else’s shift or, staying late at work. It’s cumulative and it’s stressing you out. Luckily, a high EQ means that you can say no, whether it’s to others or yourself.
  1. Let It Go
There is something to be said for the ability to put distance between you and your failures. You don’t need to forget they ever happened. In fact, what high EQ individuals are able to do is refer to those failures as a learning curve and move forward with that. There’s a difference between remembering mistakes and dwelling on them. Dwelling results in anxiety, while remembering allows you to avoid repetition.
  1. You Can Give Without Receiving
The ability to present someone with a gift and not expect anything in return speaks to your compassion for others. High EQ people think about others often. So, when someone has a conversation on a particular subject and then follows up by providing them with a book on the topic, it shows they have a high EQ. It isn’t about giving a gift, it’s not about giving something to get something back. Instead, it’s indicative of their ability to build strong and healthy relationships.
  1. No Grudges
Some people pride themselves on their ability to hold onto a grudge. However, the negative emotions that are connected to that grudge cause you stress. It constantly invites your body into a fight or flight state. Stress can wreak serious havoc on your overall health and wellness. It can result in high blood pressure and lead to heart disease (https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health). High EQ people understand the importance of stress management and letting go of grudges is a big part of that.
  1. Toxic Waste Management
In terms of managing people, the most exasperating part is handling difficult people. High EQ people, though, manage toxic people by managing their own emotions. They take a rational approach to confrontations and they don’t allow their own emotions to fuel the situation. Another key component to managing toxic people is the ability to see things from their perspective. This facilitates the conversation and helps find solutions.
  1. Gratitude
According to the University of California, Davis people who show gratitude experience a higher level of well-being (https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2015-2016/11/20151125_gratitude.html). It improves your mood and increases your energy levels. This is something high EQ people are on board with. They take time out to consider what they are grateful for.
  1. No Stimulants
This isn’t the same as self-sabotage. So many of us fuel our lives with caffeine. We are exhausted and always in need of a pick me up. The problem is that it keeps us in a constant state of hyper-awareness. This can allow your emotions to run rampant. High EQ people don’t chase caffeine to fuel them because they know how detrimental it can be. That doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy a cup, it means they don’t drink five of them before most people are awake.
  1. Sleep
Sleep is the key to managing stress and increasing EQ. it’s your brain’s chance to download memories and recharge your batteries. High EQ people understand that without sleep, their memory, focus, and self-control will suffer.
  1. Positive Affirmations
When you allow negative self-talk to continue you are giving it power and control over you. High EQ individuals deal with negative self-talk as soon as it appears. They do this by replacing these negative thoughts with positive affirmations. It’s natural for negative thoughts to crop up. It’s how your brain deals with a perceived threat. A high EQ person can sift through those negative thoughts and move them toward positivity.
  1. Joy
If you derive your joy from others, then you are not the master of your happiness. That’s something that low EQ people do. When high EQ people feel great about an achievement they don’t let anyone get them down. You can’t turn off your natural reaction, but you can stop yourself from making comparisons. You can also learn to take opinions and reactions from others with a grain of salt. They don’t define your self-worth. You do. Free for a limited time: Some of my group exercises. Fix disintegrated teams and get better results! Click here to order [tcb-script src="//beacon.by/assets/modal/datacapture.js"][/tcb-script]

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Why manipulation is better than its reputation

We want to be in control and make free, independent decisions - guided by rationality and with a clear mind. It's not surprising that manipulation has a bad reputation. It calls on emotions and clouds the senses. 

But sometimes manipulation can seduce us to a better life.


I recently came across a Pinterest account that specializes in old advertisements. Coca-Cola makes you strong like a horse, the right sewing machine makes your family love you more and cocaine... well, cocaine makes your migraine disappear in no time. Might involve jail time but that's a different topic. The level of sincerity in the presentation of their goods amazed me. 

We all know how advertising works: It catches us beyond rational thinking. It's a success if we stand in the shop and buy the product steered by emotion; without knowing why and how. 

A goal has been injected into our brain. We have been manipulated to feel a need we didn't have before and we acted on it. We were not even fully aware that we have been manipulated. 

Marketers use a lot of techniques to manipulate our buying behavior. The kind of trickery you will never find on my page, offers and seminars. 

Scarcity, for instance. Seth Godin (who's teachings I very much and regularly appreciate) masterfully presents an offer as rare and exclusive. ""Only a few handpicked students." We want rare and exclusive things. It's worth more in our perception if it's rare.

If we would think about it, we would know that we will end up in a group of as many students as buy the offer. But we don't have a chance to think if the manipulation is good. 

manipulation old ad picture credit factmyth

Picture Credit: factsmyth.com

How does manipulation work?

It's not as obvious as the presenter on the home shopping network (even though these shopping channels move incredible amounts of product.) Shopping networks are "trying too hard" and that someone wants to persuade us to buy a product is painfully transparent. 

The woman with the big white smile who tells us we are better mothers if we buy that overpriced, obscenely unhealthy desert for our children is more like a caricature than an influencer. 

But it allows us to look at the mechanics of manipulation through a burning lens. 

The scene portrays harmony, happiness, and recognition for the mother who serves the grossly red looking artificial desert. The product is connected to feel-well emotions. We want to feel acknowledged. We want to feel happy and, for once, have harmony at the dinner table. 

That makes a buying decision much more likely and the product seems more attractive. You're not buying a nasty red desert - you're buying the feel-well emotion a marketer connected to it. You have been manipulated. 

What's happening when someone manipulates us

If we analyze the manipulation, the emotional level is most interesting. Someone reminds us in a subtle way and suggestive how often we fight at the dinner table and how exhausting and frustrating it feels. Or how tired we are at work and how tasty a sugary mass melts on our tongues. 

We can nearly feel how we relax at a harmonious dinner while everyone acknowledges our hard work and we can nearly smell the delicious desert and feel its consistency on our tongue. 

From thinking, we're pushed into feeling and all of our cool and calculating rationality fades away. 

Many people were shocked when they learned how others persuade and manipulate them during my emotional training. Manipulation confronts us with a loss of control by working outside of the spectrum of rationality. 

Is manipulation always bad?

For centuries, the ability to make rational decisions was a metaphor for freedom and dignity. A large part of our society, the way we conduct business and our lives have been rationalized. They taught us to push our emotions back as if they make us unfree and animalistic. 

Operating the emotional level of someone became a despicable action - everyone agreed on that.

That did not change that everyone and everything triggers our emotions in multiple ways. We constantly feel something. We react emotionally to sounds or a touch; to smell and when we see something that pleases our eye. 

Storytelling is a form of influencing. Since ancient times we learn from stories. We like if someone makes it easy and interesting for us. 

Manipulation also is a form of influence you find in sales, politics, and economy and interpersonal relationships. 

The question if manipulation is good or bad cannot be answered with a yes or no. The answer and ethical diagnosis are: It depends.  

Obviously, manipulating the young couple to buy a house they cannot afford is reprehensible. Here, the seller selfishly persuaded the young couple to an action that causes them harm.  He used his expertise on the matter and persuasion skills to render the young couple a play ball, helping him to a big commission check.

When manipulation is good

If you are worried for your kid because it does not stop texting while driving and you use the power of story to paint a picture in its head that creates fears - is that a bad thing?

If you use emotion to capture someone's attention so you can teach them something important - is that bad?

When you're in love and you're trying to win the heart of your crush, you will not use rational arguments to convince your crush you're a great partner. Is that the same? Are we lost, powerless and unfree?

Manipulation can be positive if someone makes a suggestion, but they leave us with options and we have the free choice.

What if I could see you are in pain and I am able to show you how you can help yourself but I know you will not listen to scientific presentations about frontal and parietal lobes? What if I painted a picture instead of how you would feel if you went through that training?

Manipulation is not bad per se, it has a bad reputation because many misuse it. 

What is better? Rational or emotional level?

If someone uses the emotional level to suggest something but we are still free to choose, the purpose of the manipulation is not negative and our psychic ecology stays in balance. 

Rational control is not always better. When following the rules of ethics, manipulation can help us to a better life. It makes many things easier for us by showing us subconscious paths that simplify decision making. 

Yes, we are vulnerable. Someone can use manipulation to seduce us to buy something we do not need or to do something that is harmful. 

How to tell good from bad manipulation

The key is to understand that someone tries to manipulate us and why. As long as we can read their intentions and emotions, we're good. 

Emotional intelligence allows us to understand someone's motives and their agenda.

With a high EQ, you cannot be rushed or pushed into making a decision you later regret. Because your rational and emotional levels are in balance and harmony. 

You understand that it's the picture someone painted in your head that you desire. You know why he painted it and you can consider with your rational brain if the product can re-paint the picture in your life. 

It all comes down to trust. Can I trust the person who is trying to manipulate me? People love to be careless, relax and connect on an emotional level. 

As there are also a few abusive manipulators out there, raising your EQ is your best bet - whether you check how you will feel once you're able to tell one from the other or if you think about it rationally.

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Ode to an underrated trait: Self-Will

self-will the underrated trait

On self-will, stubbornness and being opinionated

Self-will and being opinionated are brothers in a way. Recently, I saw a post by a thought leader I respect very much. It spoke against being opinionated and implied that opinionated people might be inflexible and closed-minded. Unable to listen. Unwilling to change. It was the first time I did not fully agree with something written by this incredible leader I hold in the highest regards. If you know me, you know I am opinionated and have a strong sense of self-will. Therefore, I belong to the group targeted by this post and that’s not something you can just ignore. Because I value this person and his teachings a lot, I sat back and reflected long and hard on his arguments and statements. Should I change? Should I change my training material?
  • Does having an opinion make me unable to listen?
  • Is my self-will egoistic?
  • Is my mind closed when I formed an opinion about something?
  • Is having a point of view a sign of ignorance?
Being agreeable is an instinct. Therefore, I wondered for a minute if I should share my conclusion. Then again, if you are a regular visitor to my article section or even a subscriber to my newsletter or client, you are here because you know who I am. You know what I stand for and what makes me tick.

Self-will and other virtues

There are a lot of virtues people aim to possess. But first: Let me give you the translation of the German word for stubbornness: (Eigensinn) “own sense.” Something that has its own sense. Someone stubborn follows their own sense. As opposed to what? Here are a few virtues I found listed on a homepage about good parenting:
  • Being on time
  • Humbleness
  • Honour
  • Excellence
These are not bad traits per se. What they do have in common, though, is that they have been invented to make us followers. Easy to control. Follow the laws, the rules of society and other people (for instance, a manager.) Self-will is the only virtue that is about following ourselves. “Own sense.” I know that own sense is not a word and I hope you’ll forgive me for using it. This article is not a call for a revolution or becoming anti-social. Revolution is war and I stand for happiness. A society can only work if everyone accepts and fulfills their role. But that does not mean thinking for yourself and being aware that you accept a role is a bad thing. Every virtue turns into a negative in an extreme. The person who is good with money vs the cheap person, for instance.
The world is not a talking shop. Decisions have to be made.
Alfred Herrhausen

Why do stubbornness, self-will, and opinion have a bad reputation?

If you look at the history of the world, all impactful change-makers (for the better or worse) were stubborn (self-willed) and opinionated. Just think of Mandela, Socrates – or if you are religious Jesus Christ. Once someone achieved success, we’re willing to call it "visionary", “charismatic”, “a lot of personality”, “individualist.” But until then, we consider self-will a character flaw. We group people into followers and leaders. Followers do not follow their “own sense”, they fulfill someone else’s vision. Our economic system would crash if everyone would think for themselves, ask questions and only do what made sense to them and served their growth. It can only work because most people follow orders. Explaining, influencing is much more exhausting than just giving orders. It’s understandable that the very teachers who tell us about the heroes, the self-willed people of ancient times, teach us to be compliant.

Self-will and egoism

Self-will, following your own sense, is egoistic. (It's a word now, I said it five times!) Egoistic in the good sense, not in the greedy or ruthless way. Every creature (besides humans and the pets they tame) follows their growth instinct to become the best version of themselves. They follow an inner law. Or we could say: calling. Every creature, every thing follows its calling. The inner voice that leads them to do what’s the best growth strategy for them. People and many other creatures also have the need for closeness, ergo the herd instinct. It’s also shared protection. While the compromises one must make to be a part of a herd are not endangering our health and happiness, the sacrifices, for instance, a fabric worker in the assembly line at Apple’s partner in China has to make are endangering his health and limit his growth. Can you imagine a herd of 100 animals where 2 animals get 90% of the food and all others have to chew on a few leftovers? Perhaps even toxic? But that is how our trickle down economy works. It cannot work if everyone follows their growth instinct. Our current model is based on exploitation and can only work if the vast majority of people are obedient. The more unnatural we live, the higher the suicide, depression, drug abuse rates. Not everyone who gives you orders has your best interest in mind. Without self-will, you will neither become the best version of yourself nor have a lot of success and happiness in your life. Everyone has an agenda. I repeat. Every. One. Has an agenda. And the agenda is always selfish. Not just people who want to exploit you for their personal gain wrongfully advice you to let go of your own self. We assess situations coming from what we know. People share advice from their biased point of view. Biased by their upbringing, intellectual capabilities, learned skills, what they expect from us. Everyone's ability to predict is compromised by the pain they suffered and by what we observed. We're not aware of it, but it's all parked in the long-term storage of our mirror neurons. People have more or less selfish agendas. Everyone has one. The point is:
  • You have to think for yourself to make educated decisions
  • To become your best/happiest, you have to have self-will
  • Emotional intelligence helps you to understand someone’s agenda
  • Following your own sense is your very responsibility and protects your core

Last words

  • Every virtue turns into a negative in the extreme
  • Having an opinion means you thought about something. It does not imply you’re not open to listen and change your opinion
  • The world needs more people who think for themselves and who stand for something
  • Opinionated people with self-will are harder to manipulate
  • The biggest change-makers in the history of the world were stubborn
  • People with emotional intelligence have a strong self-will
  • We have to understand someone’s agenda to decide if they will harm us or support our growth
  • Dr. Mark Goulston and I can help you to understand everyone's agenda and achieve your full growth potential. We help individuals and teams to become more influential.

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Emotional Intelligence: Understanding Emotions

Understanding emotions and everything related to emotion is often confused for "overly emotional" or even weakness. I invite you to learn why knowledge of emotions is a powerful success- and happiness skill.


emotional intelligence understanding emotions

Understanding Emotions

People with a high EQ can understand their emotions, the sources of their emotions (and those of others) and they are in control of their actions and reactions.

Let's look at the fascinating topic "emotions" a little closer.

Many people find it hard to share their emotions with others, express or even feel them.

Most of us still have the idea that emotions are hindering an effective decision-making process and rational thinking. If rational thinking is even possible could be an interesting topic for a separate article.

It is changing but as of today women and children are still seen as more emotional creatures than men. Men stand for rationality. Both genders share this bias.

Fact is: People make emotional decisions for rational reasons. All people.

Three unique components involved in the complex psychological states (emotions) are:

  • subjective experience
  • behavioral (expressive) response
  • physiological response

Additional complication

Besides bias that still exists, the amount of information we exchange and have to process is thriving. Our ability to feel, experience and exchange emotions (emotional competence) cannot cope with that.

The typical social media user might "like" and "share" information about a mass shooting, funny joke, a dead dog, and animal cruelty during two minutes.

We get sick if we do not pay enough attention to the emotional aspects of our existence. That's simple to understand if you consider the tight relation between emotions and the 4 proven basic needs:

Or ... I should say psychological needs as I am not talking about air, food, shelter, and water.

The need for

  • love and belonging
  • freedom and autonomy
  • power
  • fun (well-being)

Every psychosomatic problem can be interpreted as an emotional problem.

Examples are depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, addiction ...

If we want to satisfy our need for love and closeness - or isolate ourselves and deny the need - this is accompanied by emotions.

We experience emotional reactions when others are interested in us or aggressive towards us.

When we are self-aware and assess our strengths and weaknesses it triggers emotions.

Various types of Emotions

Psychologist Paul Ekman suggested in 1972 that there are 6 universal basic emotions. In 1999, he expanded the list (after happiness):

  • anger
  • fear
  • disgust
  • surprise
  • sadness
  • happiness (my favorite one)
  • excitement
  • embarrassment
  • contempt
  • pride
  • shame
  • amusement
  • satisfaction

Robert Plutchik introduced another kind of classification system, the wheel emotions. This model shows how various emotions can be combined or mixed. Example: anticipation and happiness combined = excitement.

plutchik wheel of emotions


"Emotion" (as opposed to feeling) includes a blueprint for action (i.e. "I won't put up with that). Experience, evaluation, and readiness for action are one.

Experiencing emotions consciously

If we experience emotions consciously we lessen it. That means that the duration of emotions is limited. Strong emotions decrease faster.

Self-awareness (and feeling alive) requires that you allow emotions and experience them consciously.

We must accept that we cannot conserve positive emotions and can at the same time hope we will overcome negative emotions:

  • anger fades
  • fear vanishes
  • emotional pain lessens

Suppressing emotions "conserves" them. Even centuries later, they can break out with unabated force.

Past emotions leave marks (what I refer to as "brain scars"). They leave engrams in our brain. The younger we were when we experienced a situation that triggered a strong emotional reaction the less we remember the precise content.

We will remember the affective part of the situation.

Emotional Intelligence and your emotions

When we suffer painful experiences and hurtful emotions, the brain will try to make sure that a similar situation cannot repeat itself. The goal of our brain is to make sure of our survival. It is not essential to our survival that we have a flourishing career or a luxurious life.

It will form a neural pathway to the so-called lizard brain, the part that controls the "fight or flight" reaction. In consequence, we cannot make an intellectual decision as soon as something reminds our brain of a past situation.

Imagine you are looking at a cage with a tiger and the tiger jumps towards you. You would back off and you would not have the chance to decide how you want to react.

If you could think about it you would stay still as you know the cage holds the tiger or you would be yogurt already.

This fabulous survival instinct and the brain's ability to form neural pathways that allow us to flee (or fight) a dangerous situation without wasting time is at the same time what makes our lives most difficult.

Because it is not limited to physical danger. A tiger who jumps you because he wants to eat you will probably make for a bad day every time.

That one of your projects failed, the person you had to fire created a horrible scene (or you've been fired or cheated on) will not necessarily repeat itself. Each situation is new and individual.

By reacting to past negative events, our behavior will subconsciously change and in consequence likely lead to the same negative outcome as before. We create self-fulfilling prophecies.

Intellectual decisions (higher thinking) take place in the rational brain (creative brain.)

three brains neocortex reptilian mammalian

You might know of people who repeat painful experiences several times. Whenever someone says "I didn't mean it", you know what happened. Or when you hear: "Why does this or that always happen to me?"

The only way to gain back control over your actions once the brain has formed a neural pathway to the lizard brain is to retrain it. It's a process that takes a few months but comes with a lifelong reward.

Just imagine: The old saying we are our biggest problem will not apply to you any longer.

Emotion and communication

By expressing our emotions we send communicative signals to our surroundings. Our emotional expression is the basis for the perception of our conversation partners and the surrounding people.

They form their beliefs about us not just based on our spoken words.

We express our emotion by the tone of our voice, facial expression, body language, and gestures.

Those signals will inform others about our intentions and desires.

Effective communication of emotions is the prerequisite for being able to understand and be understood.

To do that, we have to understand and be in control of them and have the ability to understand those of others (empathy.)

If we are not, it will lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, lack of ability to persuade and ultimately stress and self-limiting behavior.

In social contacts, business meetings and relationships we constantly navigate the right amount of closeness and distance. Activity and passivity. This happens on a subconscious level in which "mini signals" play a huge part.

We subconsciously pick up "mini signals". If we sense, for instance, anger from the ancient past about something that went wrong back then, we will react to it.

It could look like that: You propose a project. Something your prospect says or does reminds you of that time when you've been rejected. Without being aware of it, for the instance of a second, you send mini-signals that your prospect picks up.

Based on the old emotion your conversation partner picks up he turns you down. He will argue his emotional decision with rational arguments.

Perhaps you will think that once more your instinct was right.

People should never listen to what they believe to be their instinct unless they have had emotional intelligence training. It is hard to tell instinct from protective signals the brain sends.

Allowing emotions

If we allow ourselves to feel emotions, it provides a certain feeling of liveliness that enables us to enjoy positive emotions to their fullest and endure negative ones.

As you have learned before, we cannot run away from negative emotions. They will hunt us down at some point and potentially limit our success and level of happiness.

For some reason (and I could not scientifically explain that) it seems possible to avoid positive emotions - but not negative ones.

Suppressing emotions takes away from the feeling of liveliness and will lead to compensatory or extreme behavior in some form. Or depression.

We also cannot suppress our basic needs. If we deny them, it will lead to problems.

And that also applies to the inability of self-reflection. We lose ourselves a bit if we cannot understand ourselves.

The ability to express yourself emotionally is the prerequisite for positive social contacts. When you lack the ability, you will have less constructive arguments and less positive relationships.

You will also get less of what you want because you will not send a congruent message of what it is you want.

Positive social interaction

If you cannot express your emotions effectively, the other person will not share theirs - robbing you of the ability to understand them.

You are less likely to create trust and and connection and the other person might even keep their distance and decide that they don't like you.

One way emotional intelligence training can support you is helping you to

  • understand your own emotions
  • be in control of your emotions and therefore actions and reactions
  • effectively communicate your emotions
  • understand the emotions and agenda of others
  • be able to influence others

Isn't that fabulous? With a little bit of effort, we can learn how to deal more effectively with all of the tigers we meet in business and in life.


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Interview with Chris Shea LifesJourney

aurorasa sima interview chris shea   Recently, Chris Shea, founder of Lifesjourney, invited me for an interview. Chris was interested in learning more about my Emotional Intelligence Training and during our pleasant conversation, we realized that we share a common interest: Helping people to implement mindfulness into their lives. You can listen to the podcast here:

Libsyn:  Anchor.fm
I also recommend that you check out Lifesjourney's offering.

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6 Signs You Have A Low EQ

  When artificial intelligence and automation are on the rise, social competence is more important than ever. Cognitive flexibility and a high EQ are competitive advantages - not only for managers and sales people. Emotional intelligence is the set of skills and character traits that most successful people have in common. 6 signs you have a low eq I'm sure you know of a few very successful people who don't have extensive technical skills. And I'm sure you also know many people who have incredible technical skills but they are unsuccessful. Many experts say a high EQ is more important for your career than a high IQ. I think a healthy combination of both is desirable. To support the well-being and success of their employees, companies invest more and more in topics such as emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and meditation. If your career is at a standstill, you have more conflicts than your colleagues, or you do not receive a fair amount of recognition for your achievements, you could check if a low EQ could be the reason. The following characteristics are typical for people with potential for increasing their EQ:

6 signs you have a low EQ

    • It is difficult for you to control your emotions. You might say things you later regret or you overreact. Establishing and nurturing positive relationships is difficult for you.
    • People with a low EQ have a lot of conflicts. Often disputes are not constructive and end in deadlocks. The inability to understand the emotions and motivation of the conversation partner and to adapt to the situation leads to misunderstandings.
    • Not being aware of the impact of their own words is another sign of people with a low EQ. They are regularly surprised by the strong reactions of the other person who perceives that as insensitive. "I didn't mean it that way" is a sign of a lack of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people know the impact of their words.
    • People with low emotional intelligence rarely know why they are sad or angry. They don't understand the trigger for their negative emotions. In business and in life, they often have to repeat unpleasant experiences. "This always happens to me..."
    • They have less influence. It's harder for them to persuade others. Influencing change is difficult when you don't understand the motivation and emotions of someone else.
    • In consequence, they are not good at stress management. They feel stressed easily and the lack of success and problematic relationships further add to the problem.
If you show one or more signs: no worries. It is possible to increase your EQ. The training itself isn't even difficult. Truth be told, to form new habits and for lasting change, you will have to repeat and train for a duration of about nine weeks. The reason for that is that EQ training, in fact, is brain training. Neuronal connections that do not serve us have to be replaced with new ones. While you do not have to invest hours of your time each day, you will have to repeat exercises until information turns to knowledge, knowledge turns to skills and skills turn to habits.
But what are a few weeks if you can wreak in the rewards for the rest of your life? In business and in life. Would you like to learn more about my personal coaching or digital emotional intelligence training? Just click on the call button to request a callback, or drop me an email (EQ at aurorasa dot com). Once a month, I host a free webinar. Just sign up to my newsletter to learn about upcoming webinars.
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Guided Breath Meditation for Stress Management

Meditation for Stress Management


5 Minute Stress-Management Meditation

The paradox about stress and stress-management is: The more you feel under pressure the less likely that you feel like taking out an hour of your day for self-care (even though you know you should).

Not only are we endangering our mental and physical health and put ourselves at the risk of burnout – our productivity is decreasing drastically when we are stressed.

Just think about it: How much can you achieve in one hour of work at “full speed” and how often do you work long hours under pressure and don’t produce impressive results?I get it. When you have to meet deadlines or juggle a ton of responsibilities, you might not be open to learning/practicing mindfulness or meditation.

Did you know that you can reduce your stress level in just five minutes?

Meditation is one of the most effective tools for managing stress. Many of us believe that meditation comes with a lot of rules.

The right form of meditation, the right place, the right length, that candle…Buddhism refers to “dukkha” (pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness) as stress and identifies attachment (“acquisition”) as the source of all suffering. Forget everything you have ever heard about “rules” in meditation.

For some people, their idea of meditation creates more stress and that is certainly not the intended use of this brain-changing self-care “tool”. Meditation should be without attachment.

Yes, you can achieve more for yourself if you decide to take out 20 minutes or an hour of your day. But you don’t have to. If I had to define a single rule it would be: Do as much as you can of what is good for you.

Taking a small break for a 5-minute meditation will do you good too.

Guided Breath Meditation

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