Imagine if there were skills you could impart during childhood that would virtually guarantee your adulthood success. A way to make sure your future would be filled with health, wealth, and happiness.
Imagine a world where the ‘bottom line’ would become a socially and emotionally responsible high bar and the world would no longer be seen as ‘just business’.
This is not so hard to imagine because we already have the tools and the path laid out for us – Social and Emotional Learning and Leadership is the key to making these futures a reality.
Just before the turn of the century, an insightful brain scientist, Daniel Goleman, popularized the concept of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is simply the ability to identify and manage your emotions as well as to identify the emotions of others so you can respond appropriately. These skills empower you to communicate, connect, collaborate, and create in the best way possible. Goleman’s big ideas have evolved into a process for building life skills called social and emotional learning (SEL), which has been refined into an academic curriculum by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL. CASEL has made social and emotional learning skill building into a straightforward process readily adaptable to an academic environment. CASEL’s path to becoming socially and emotionally intelligent has five easy steps, each building from the foundation of the last: Identifying your emotions, controlling them, identifying other people’s emotions, cultivating relationships, and making informed choices. The Avielle Foundation has transformed CASEL’s SEL to SELL, social and emotional learning and leadership, because we believe those who have mastered social and emotional learning make ideal leaders in our homes, communities, businesses, political arenas, and the world at large. We believe these leaders will understand before demanding to be understood and will inspire, create, and connect to build a better world.
NAMING YOUR EMOTION: The first step is to recognize when you’re feeling an emotion, followed by appropriately naming it. While this sounds simple, this is an undervalued skill. As these self-awareness skills mature you’ll become more adept in differentiating similar emotions. “Am I angry or am I frustrated, disappointed, or hurt?” “Am I scared or am I excited, nervous, or curious?” Once you can name your feelings you can begin to explore how they influence your behavior, which leads to the next step.
MASTERING YOUR EMOTIONS: Controlling your emotions and behaviors is as simple as identifying why you’re feeling and behaving a certain way and responding with a strategy that shapes your behavior to be appropriate to the situation. You can learn different strategies for different feelings and scenarios. Sometimes you’ll want to overcome an emotion so you can take care of the business at hand. An example of this is having a fear of public speaking, a not uncommon and potentially appropriate feeling, but one that may hinder the delivery of a good talk. Strategies to overcome or control your fear that allow you to talk most effectively may include imagining the audience in their underwear, meditating or focusing on slow breathing, etc. Other times your strategy may be to recognize your emotion and put it away until you’re in a better setting to work through it. For example, when you’re in a classroom setting, dwelling on emotions that arose from a hallway conflict distract you from the task at hand – learning. Setting these feelings aside for the time being is important because although these feelings need to be dealt with, it should be in a different setting where you don’t have other obligations. Sometimes you should let your emotions take charge of your behavior because they’re perfectly appropriate for the situation. For example, it’s normal to feel sad while watching a sad movie and it’s normal to feel scared while on a rollercoaster. In this scenario, despite the fact that we may not be regulating our emotions, identifying how you’re feeling and why can help prevent the emotions from being overpowering.
IDENTIFYING OTHER’S EMOTIONS: Once you’ve climbed these steps, the next stop on our path is identifying how others are feeling. This leads to becoming empathetic. Being empathetic goes beyond feeling sympathetic. It means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling what they’re feeling rather than feeling sorry for their situation. It is essentially applying the two previous skills to those around you.
CULTIVATING RELATIONSHIPS: Empathizing with someone and imagining why they’re feeling that way allows you to make an action plan to regulate your behaviors in an appropriate fashion, be it selfless or mutually beneficial. This might mean calming, encouraging, engaging, making amends with, giving space to, or simply listening to the other person. This will help you cultivate healthy and rewarding relationships. People in emotionally and socially intelligent relationships care for and understand each other in a deeper way.
MAKING INFORMED CHOICES: Accumulating all these skills empowers you to make informed choices in your home, workplace, and ‘out and about.’ “Should we have a kid?” “Should I take this job?” “Where should I get lunch?” This encompasses all four of the previous steps, not only considering how your decisions will affect you in an independent sense, but how they will affect others in an interdependent sense; thinking of those who will be directly and indirectly involved, and considering how people who you know and don’t know personally may be influenced by your decisions.
WHERE THIS TAKES US: In and of itself, building the human spirit is an extraordinarily rewarding endeavor. But the value of social and emotional intelligence does not just stop there, it ensures a bright future. It is scientifically proven that a person’s perception of their childhood capacity for self-control and goal achievement (self-mastery) predicts their success in adulthood. The relative degree of their childhood self-mastery is directly proportional to their adulthood success, whether it is measured by health, wealth, or overall happiness. And believe it or not, it gets even better than this. People that have started down the path of self-mastery are the people that make ideal leaders. A leader is a person who creates innovative and visionary goals, motivates and engages others to help attain and expand those goals, and cultivates connections on personal and interpersonal levels.
TO LEARN MORE: This initiative to develop social and emotional learning and leadership, and compassion skills on community-wide basis and beyond is what the Spark Project is striving to accomplish. Click here learn about our Spark Project and check back here at The Avielle Foundation website to follow what we’re doing. Make sure to keep an eye out for our PSA on social and emotional learning and leadership coming soon!
— Sophie Cox