Would you like to see less drama in your home, your workplace, or your relationships? When asked this question, no one says, "Stop! I love the rollercoaster of people's stuff. Give me more drama!" Most people just roll their eyes and say, "Oh my goodness, yes! I am so tired of it." That's why I think of "less drama" as my short answer when people ask me: "Why do we need spiritual intelligence?"
Have you found that there is a part of you that you are not so proud of -- that can be immature, defensive, and suspicious? I call this part our ego self. And have you observed that there is another part of you that may surprise you at times with its wisdom, compassion and centeredness? I call this the Higher Self. You might prefer to call it your spirit or soul or any of a hundred other synonyms. If you can just relate to this simple distinction of ego self and Higher Self, then you have taken the first step on the road to high SQ.
Our ego self is a crucial part of us. But until we learn to help it grow up it does tend to exaggerate all the daily threats of life. Think of it as a volatile 13-year-old, prone to slamming doors, getting into fights and gossiping. Spiritual intelligence, or SQ, allows us to shift from being driven by our fear-activated high-drama ego to being driven by our calmer, wiser Higher Self.
The complex question "What is ego?" will be explored and explained more in future posts. But this simple way of looking at our two selves can be extremely helpful in building SQ. At the heart of my approach to this process is one essential question: Who is driving my life? Who is in charge of my decisions? Am I letting my immature ego desires tell me who I should be, how I should act, and what I should strive for? Or is there a deeper, calmer Higher Self voice guiding my choices?
We can learn to observe when our inner voice is small, scared or defensive. This ego-self identifies with making us the victim of all those heartless bad people out there and makes itself the hero. "I had pure intentions but just LOOK at what that other person did to me!" When I engage in a blame-game I know I am coming from a frightened ego perspective.
The ego leaps to assumptions about other people's motives and tends to assume the worst. On the contrary, the Higher Self is more humble, honest, and objective. It acknowledges that it never (yes, never) has all the information. The Higher Self would say, "I really don't know WHY the other person just did that behavior... But I can imagine the pain or circumstances that might cause someone to do that." Higher Self remains open and curious, and from this place come better decisions.
Why does it matter if my immature ego self is driving my life? Won't I just be getting what I want out of life? My answer: I doubt it. At best, you will get short-term gratification. But in the long run, immature ego-behaviors leave you empty, unfulfilled.
Think about people you know. You may know someone who seems so wound up and easily triggered that everyone tiptoes around her. Or you may know someone who is always arguing with or attacking someone. It is as if she or he is only "happy" when outraged and full of adrenaline. Or you may know someone who just seems to go out of his or her way to be helpless and get rescued. And whether we like to admit it or not, in our most honest moments we know that there's a part of ourselves that sometimes is easily triggered, enjoys feeling self-righteous, or likes others to fix our problems. And coming back to drama -- where there is drama, you can be sure there are two or more triggered or immature egos interacting.
Why does this matter? In the workplace, egos can create tremendous loss of morale and productivity. The follow-on costs show up in poor employee retention, low customer service numbers, higher recruiting costs, and higher production costs. In our own lives, drama can steal our joy.
Fortunately we have another part of ourselves -- a "Higher Self" or most authentic self. It's the part of us that is unselfish, loving, and wise. I like to say that when I'm operating from my Higher Self, nothing I do would embarrass me if it were printed on the front page of the newspaper, because I would be operating, to the best of my understanding, from the intention to be a loving person in the world.
Once we can acknowledge, with compassion, that there are these different drives within each of us -- some that are more noble, kind and inspired, and others that tend toward pettiness, selfishness, and limitation -- then we can understand the basic practice of developing spiritual intelligence. The bottom line is that if you're going to be more spiritually intelligent, you need to act less from your ego and more from your Higher Self.
Here is the essence of what spiritual intelligence allows us to do: We can mature the ego, gently shift it out of the driver's seat, and allow our Higher Self to drive the car of our life. That's when the destination suddenly becomes clear, the process speeds up, and we develop at maximum pace. All the while, we are also at peace in the moment, knowing and trusting that the best part of ourselves is in charge, and therefore we are in the best place we could possibly be, right now.
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