In part 1 we discussed the importance of regular self-assessment and looked at Defining Emotions. In part 2, we will look at two more elements of self-assessment.
Taking Time to Reflect
Author Peter Scazzero shares a modern day way to practice St. Loyola’s prayer of examen. The goal of this practice is simply “increased awareness and attentiveness to the presence of God in your daily life.” The discipline is simple. At any time, usually at the end of the day, make yourself comfortable and become still. Next, mentally review the day just lived as if watching a DVD on fast-forward, allowing Jesus to stop or slow down any moment for reflection. Scazzero gives ideas of what to look for, such as moments in which you felt the presence of God, or felt you were moving away from God.
I have seen personally that this practice, when followed even a few times a week or month, has a profound effect on one’s emotional maturity. A small amount of time spent reflecting on a recent day’s events equip one with the ability to learn from reactions or strong feelings. This ability, when coupled with the skills of identifying emotions felt, allows leaders to become more deeply self-aware.
Bob Pierce and Amanda Berry Smith are historical figures that illustrate two ends of this spectrum. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, lived a life of influence most young men only dream of. Pierce was undoubtedly a man of passion, charisma, and, sadly, narcissism.While his passion and ministry grew to unforeseen heights, he lost his family and eventually his own mental health. Not willing to slow down his schedule, he worked himself to exhaustion and even in the midst of success, it is said that he became increasingly isolated and insecure and allowed no one into his emotional space.
I would assert that had Pierce given himself space for personal reflection it may well have saved him a sad departure from his own organization at the age of 49, shamed and living alone in Asia for nine months. Pierce’s story does not get much better, instead descending to greater depths. Time spent in reflection on decisions made, and on the deep-seated insecurity that plagued Pierce, may have saved him a lot of hurt in the long run. Even though this is an extreme example, my point is that even an occasional time of self-assessment will do any leader a great deal of good.
Amanda Berry Smith, on the other hand, has a very different story. She is a shining example of a person who can remain emotionally mature despite low emotional health. These are two different issues, well illustrated in Smith’s story. She endured repeated tragedy in the form of several miscarriages and the deaths of her young children. Such events will tear any mother apart emotionally, yet Smith remained strong and purposeful, holding on to a hope that extended beyond the limits of her own self. Smith met tragedy and hardship from every angle, yet through living a resilient life she serves as an inspiring example to emotional strength and maturity.
Admiral Stockdale was in captivity held by the Vietcong for 8 years. When asked about who “made it out,” and who did not, he replied that “the optimists” did not make it. Those who refused to confront the true reality of their situation, in all its difficulty, were less likely to endure the experience. In the same way, although it is sometimes “emotionally wrenching”, we must at some point confront reality. Leaders need to have a healthy outlook on not only their ethics and integrity, but also their decisions and the emotions they experience every day.
Bennis & Thomas, authors of the article “Crucibles of Leadership,” would agree. As they state, “The crucible required [a leader] to examine their values, question their assumptions, hone their judgment. And, invariably they emerged from the crucible stronger and more sure of themselves and their purpose – changed in some fundamental way.” The growth they mention here does not come by constantly rushing to the next event or task but, instead, making time for clear reflection and self-assessment.
Defining emotions, personal reflection, and confronting reality are three skills which enable us as leaders to develop better self-assessment. The resulting emotional maturity makes us better leaders – better people all over. Passing these skills on to the youth we work with will also help them to grow. This is especially valid for TCKs; so often their emotional deficits are not recognized behind their many competencies.
Have you learned/do you practice these skills?
How would you go about teaching them to teens?