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Editor’s note: This is part four of a six part Emotional Intelligence Series. Please find Part 1: It’s Never too Late to Create a Bold Self-help Plan & Execute It  , Part 2: Addressing Emotional Career Challenges When So Much Is at Stake and Part 3: Integrating Emotional Intelligence & Stoicism for Professional Growth [Video]

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

The courage to change the things I can.

And wisdom to know the difference.

If these words sound familiar, they were written by the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and commonly called “The Serenity Prayer.” Although it is often preceded by “God”, this invocation seeks to activate the speaker’s mindset to recognize what is and is not in your control. Whether you are speaking to a deity, an audience, or yourself, this mantra helps you develop a philosophy to effectively guide your behavior, especially when under the weight of pressure and great expectations.

What many people don’t know is that there is a second, equally powerful verse:

Living life one day at a time

Enjoying one moment at a time

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace

Taking this world as it is, not as I would like it.

These two stanzas are the ideal introduction to the fourth segment of this six-part series on Emotional Intelligence. The Serenity Prayer also shines a light on the world’s great thinkers as it underpins the teachings of Epictetus, a Greek Stoic philosopher. His lessons and insights were published in his works called Discourses and Enchiridion (translates to handbook).

Epictetus is famous for fully developing the Stoic philosophies of earlier Greek practitioners such as Heraclitus and Zeno of Citium. He pronounced their vision and subsequently established Stoicism in Rome. He taught that it was critical to know yourself and to learn how to maintain control over your thoughts and emotions. Epictetus believed that mastering the power over yourself allows you to think more clearly to make better and healthier choices. One of the most fundamental lessons in his Stoic philosophy is the proposition that you have control only over your judgements, thoughts, actions, and pursuits. Everything else is uncontrollable and to treat them with indifference.

Hence, in my latest book The MOMENT THAT DEFINES YOUR LIFE, I assert that the

practice of Stoicism, when integrated with Emotional Intelligence, is a compelling force to navigate your life. It underscores the foundation that Epictetus practiced and preached,” The real test of personal excellence lies in the attention we give to the often-neglected small details of our conduct.” This belief helps us stay grounded and maintain a mindset of how to act, react, and cultivate important relationships critical to find happiness and success.

I recognize that time is precious, and you don’t have enough hours in a day to absorb all the lessons Epictetus articulates. Consequently, I thought it best to express ten guiding principles learned from the master Stoic on my journey of self-discovery. Integrating emotional intelligence and Stoicism helped me develop a mindset of continual practices that I live by each day. Below are the first five. In next week’s article I’ll complete the list.

Your Call to Action: As you review all five, choose two that resonate most:

  1. You can do anything. But not everything. Resist the impulse to do too much and focus only on the things in your control. This sounds easy but can be incredibly difficult.
  2. You are defined by what you repeatedly do. Your habits create your character and are on continual display to everyone in your orbit.
  3. Seek fist to understand, then to be understood. One of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People promoted by Stepen Covey, it is a reminder to be more self-aware when engaging with others. Take your time to listen, be present, and recognize that people want to be seen, heard, and most important…understood.
  4. We overestimate the value of planning and underestimate the importance of temperament. We all know that few plans go as expected. There are always barriers and challenges getting in the way. How do you behave when feeling trapped under pressure despite the obstacles? Learning to become more emotionally intelligent, combined with a Stoic attitude, helps you stay calm and clear headed. How? Start to practice Stoicism. Treat it with the same rigor and discipline as you do when engaged in sport.
  5. When you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change yourself.

Pick one. Then, try another. Take notes. Summarize your learning outcomes. Write them down. Commit them to memory. Read books on Emotional Intelligence and Stoic Philosophy. Finally, heed the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world’s most compelling philosophers.

“Our greatness lies not such much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – but in being able to remake ourselves.”


Related content:

It’s Never too Late to Create a Bold Self-help Plan & Execute It

Addressing Emotional Career Challenges When So Much Is at Stake

Integrating Emotional Intelligence & Stoicism for Professional Growth [Video]

Execution Quotient (XQ): Your Most Valued Career Currency [Video]


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