You’ve probably all seen the Daniel Goleman Emotional intelligence grid. This trusty management 2×2 is deceptively simple. For a start, as it’s usually drawn, there is just a thin black line between the sections labelled ‘self-awareness’ and ‘self-management’. In my world, this looks more like a colossal wall, with very few toe-holds. Who doesn’t like wallowing in it a bit when the car won’t start and it’s raining and someone cuts you up and you’re late and the first person you meet on the way in is somebody ghastly…? So if we’re in the market for some New Year Resolutioneering, here is my contribution to help you scale that wall.
First, list all your Dementors – those things that are absolutely guaranteed to drain your battery. IT breakdowns, call centre staff, being nagged, being fat, stupid meetings, stupid people, criticism, well-meaning advice….anything at all that you know renders you incoherent with rage or that irrevocably punctures your mood. Lots of these are not in your gift, but many of them appear predictably throughout the day, week in, week out.
Next, list all of those things that are your equivalent of Julie Andrews’ whiskers on kittens – anything that makes you smile, restores your balance, cheers you up, or calms you down. Music, doughnuts, your best friend, candle-lit baths, giggling children or a favourite pint. These again may not always be in your gift, but many of them can be contrived, and they will act as an immediate antidote to your Dementors.
Finally, look at your diary and be realistic about which days in the weeks to come are most likely to feature high levels of Dementor activity and, rather than giving into fate, plan now which items from your whiskers on kittens list you’ll mobilise in your own defence. A draining day of sales calls? Book in a call to your mate half-way through, or reward yourself at the end with a takeaway and a good film. It’s only human nature to relish digging the pit even deeper – “I’ve had such an awful day I might as well punish myself further by staying up late finishing off DIY projects” – but life needn’t be so gloomy if you’re prepared to be a bit more mechanical about rescuing yourself.