Even though most businesses and industries tend to prize analytical and problem-solving skills, there is an aptitude that also affects productivity and ultimately the bottom line: emotional intelligence. While scientists have focused on determining the factors that contribute to difficult emotions, such as anxiety, researchers at MIT recently conducted an innovative study on brain activity by surveying Buddhist monks, who for years have practiced meditation. They discovered that the frontal cortex of the brain, where emotions are regulated, is actually more developed in these Eastern meditators than most people’s, resulting in increased emotional and physical well-being.
But what if you don’t have time to undergo a personality overhaul that would leave you as calm as a Buddhist monk? Most of us are trying to make the best decisions we can often in the context of feeling rushed and worried about meeting deadlines and protecting our jobs. The good news is that even relatively small doses of meditation and other mindful techniques, can actually reprogram this region of the brain. In a collection of studies titled, Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them?, co-authors Daniel Goleman of Yale and the Dalai Lama suggest the following practices:
1. Introspection – the monitoring of one’s own mental states. This is said to be a derivative of intelligence and is related to their term prajua which is sometimes translated into “wisdom.”
2. Meditation – a window on subtle emotions. Taking time to notice and respond to a full range of emotions from the negative to the positive allows us to cultivate peace of mind, no matter what is happening around us. “The equanimity,” the Dalai Lama contends, “counters the strong feelings of attraction or attachment that create disequilibrium in the mind.”
3. Seeing things from another person’s point of view – A vantage point on what you are missing. We often don’t spend time considering the position of others, especially when embroiled in a conflict. This technique helps to show you how your own ego can be overly selfish or arrogant. When you can see from the standpoint of another, you are often able to develop solutions you would never dream of from staying in your own limited perspective.
4. Practicing compassion – opening the heart. Psychologist and emotions expert Paul Eckman observes: “I find that as soon as some kind of sense of caring or concern increases in my heart, this brings me more inner strength The result: I feel less fear and more happiness.” When we practice compassion and offer ourselves in service to others, we benefit 100%.
As workers and citizens, perhaps we can use some of these proven techniques from the East to bring more meaning-and contentment-to our Western world. As his Holiness, the Dalai Lama says, “Even though a society does not emphasize this, the most important use of knowledge and education is to help understand the importance of engaging in more wholesome actions and bring about discipline within our minds. The proper utilization of our intelligence and knowledge is to effect changes from within that develop a good heart.”