Whether we recognize it or not, everyone in the world is in the same business. Our life’s work is managing our energy: becoming wiser and clearer about how we spend our most precious resource. Why? Because when we are more efficient energetically, we feel more alive, happy and successful.
The issue is we rarely slow down long enough to do an honest inventory of where we are investing our energy and whether that correlates to the outcomes we really want.
As we discussed last month, human beings have an energy system made up of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy that gets invested into all sorts of things on a daily basis. The biggest drain on our energy system, where we tend to spend unwisely most of the time, is in the area of emotional energy.
Throughout our school-age years, our physical and mental growth gets center stage, but we are rarely taught skills in how to work with and manage emotional energy. As we grow into adulthood this deficiency can become a huge barrier to success and happiness.
Becoming an emotional grownup involves being more conscious about managing your emotional energy—your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that are driven by your emotional center. That means learning how to get yourself out of reactions and into more intelligent and resilient ways of responding and relating to others. Relationships at work and in life can only take so much emotional immaturity before trust is eroded and people are exhausted by poor self-regulation and communication skills.
Here are three unmistakable signs you are emotional adulting like a superstar.
1. You Know, You Don’t Know
Emotional adults understand that they have a limited world view—we all do. Perception is limited because the brain is incapable of taking in and integrating all of the information available. We simply can’t ever have anything but a partial view. It’s one of the reasons why we need each other so much… to gain the most accurate perspective possible. Emotional adults get this and it shows in their attitudes and behaviors. They enter the room with curiosity rather than knowing. They don’t waste energy on the belief that their views are correct and complete. They go into situations knowing they can’t see the situation or problem in its entirety. When you’re in this zone, you create space for others so that the highest intelligence can emerge. You know that no one can judge properly on partial evidence, so you focus on listening more and jumping to conclusions less. You are open and receptive to others, to their ideas and new ways of thinking. As a result, you get the energy in the room going, leaving yourself and others feeling empowered and productive.
2. You Take Feedback & Action
Individuals and organizations with emotional maturity place a huge value on receiving course-corrective feedback well and following through with action. On an individual level, emotional adults are grateful for feedback because they know it’s essential for learning. In addition, they acknowledge that giving feedback isn’t always easy, so receiving it means someone was willing to be brave. It takes courage to offer a suggestion or request a change. Emotional adults recognize this and put their energy into seeking feedback and taking action toward desired outcomes every day. On an organizational level, emotionally intelligent companies know that if problems go unresolved year after year, eventually employees will fall into one of two camps: they will stop caring or resign. The torment of seeing missed opportunities, unrealized potential, wasted resources, and simply what could have been takes its toll. People will stop investing their energy into jobs, marriages and friendships when we don’t take responsibility for our own growth. The ticket out is to take the feedback—and then do something with it!
3. You Are Over the Blame Game
Emotional adults see blame for what it is: the inefficient use of precious resources with little to no return at best, and highly toxic to every single relationship at worst. After initially letting off some steam when a problem arises (which is very important), emotional grownups take ownership of what they could have done better and then apologize, without justification or self-protection maneuvers. Leading with “I’m sorry, but I only did that because…” feels good to colleagues, family and friends roughly zero percent of the time. Emotional grownups see finger-pointing, accusing and prolonged complaining as emotional immaturity that drains energy and cheats relationships out of opportunities for problem-solving, trust-building and connection.
Knowing where your energy is being spent wisely and unwisely is a mark of emotional adulthood. Calling back your energy from places where you were leaking and losing it is living like a pro. Take this free quiz to find out how you’re doing and reclaim your emotional energy from the inside out.