When we are young, you know, our parents try to educate us how we can be successful in this life because they want the best for us. Their knowledge on the subject raises several questions but, of course, we must appreciate their intentions. Through our own cravings for self-importance we are, also, looking around and either consciously or unconsciously try to see what the ones we admire did and follow their example. This is a natural tendency. Of course many arguments existed, exist and unfortunately will exist due to the divergence of the opinions between parents and children about how the descendants will do in their lives . In this process several problems emerge. For example, the mass media are presenting examples that if we make the mistake and follow them most chances are that we will not be rewarded with a succesful outcome. But people become too influenced. Of course we cannot blame the media, their job is to make money. The thing is what do we do to question what we see in order to make our own values and become as we conceptualize our best selves.
Furthermore, people sometimes don’t have a concrete understanding on what they mean when they say success. Money? Happiness? Both? What are also the ways of achieving them? Can money make happiness? Can happiness make money? As an example, if you have a high rewarding job is enough for your perception of success? Another example would be, if you make a happy family are you successful even though you may have a low-income? And the list goes on.
Moreover, children at school and students in the university are admired only if they take good grades. I, actually, haven’t met many people who don’t recognise the most potential for career development to students with high grades. I don’t blame this, of course, they gave too much commitment. But…Schools and Universities are Organizations that promote only cognitive abilities. The ones that do well are the ones that spend the most time studying (possibly learning the lesson by heart) or/and have very good logical intelligence. The majority of society identifies intelligence to IQ. But is this the complete story?
Back in 1970’s a scientist named David McClelland proposed the concept of competence modelling. He suggested to companies that when they want to hire someone, not to care about the personality tests, nor the IQ tests, nor the GPA. Instead they should look at the star members of their own companies, the top 10% and find out which specific abilities they have that average individuals don’t possess and to hire accordingly. This is called Competence Modelling. Nowadays, McClelland’s radical proposal is followed by many international companies and organizations.
Dr. Daniel Goleman with significant research on Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence and Leadership studied a couple of hundred of those models. His aim was to identify how many of them had to do with the field of cognition and how many with the emotional intelligence field. After reviewing the characteristics that were independently identified he defined 6 Distinguishing Competences (the most commonly found ones) that can predict who is going to reach high levels in a company, who is going to be an effective leader:
Singular Drive to Achieve: These people want to be great in whatever they do. They always want to find the best way to make the result more effective. These people have high internal standards. They are setting challenging goals. They are innovative, they focus mostly on what their own mind is saying and they are not too much influenced by the opinions of others. They know how good something should be and are not driven by the perception of others on their job. They like measures in order to know where they stand, where they are and where to go. They can work long hours for the shake of a powerful result.
Influence/Impact: These people are able to make persuasive arguments. They can tailor a presentation to keep the audience focused, they are good story-tellers. They can stand for their opinion in a debate on their own. Their words are being heard and are respected. They know how to control a conversation and change subjects when it’s needed.
Pattern Recognition/Conceptual Thinking: They are able to pick underlying problems and fix them. They can identify what to do to make a difference in an existing situation. They can see what matters when the other cannot see it. As the title says, they recognize patterns and provide explanations.
Analysis: These people like breaking problems down. They analyse every aspect of a situation and identify solutions. They can understand the implications and make the appropriate changes in a system.
Taking on Challenges without Being Told to: These people enjoy taking the initiative. They are persistent in tackling problems. They create ideas and take the responsibility to start putting them into practice.
Self Esteem: You clearly understand what this is. The people with high self-esteem believe in their abilities and trust their opinions. They aren’t easily moved by others. They aren’t reactive. Even though they may fail they have the strength to stand up and show the persistence needed in order to achieve their goal. They also like to have freedom and autonomy. They really want to operate independently.
Do you see IQ in any of them? In fact IQ turned out to be a threshold ability in the career development. As Goleman said, you need to be smart to get in the game but once you’re in you need to have other skills to develop further. From the above 6 Distinguishing Competences only the 3rd and 4th had to do with the cognitive domain, the rest had to do with the emotions. In fact 80%-90% of the attributes assigned to leaders belong to the field of emotional intelligence. I think makes sense that a cooperative, self-mastered employee with a moderate logical-mathematical intelligence is preferable than a genius one that has frequent aggressive outbursts.
The good news is that we aren’t studying these attributes just to understand why the succesful people have reached that point but to take the appropriate measures to make these skills our own acquaintances. All the above competences are trainable! You may have specific tendencies. Others are very optimistic and others less. Others like to lead, others are effective in executive roles. And all these characteristics are not only a product of our environmental influences but, as well, of our genes. However, it is literally true that you have the potential to cultivate skills independently of your age or your natural tendency. I have reasons to respect nature which means I believe it is usually unachievable to overcome all its tendencies but undoubtedly the belief that you cannot evolve in something because you never were good at is just an excuse to yourselves. Science has proven that in our whole lives new neural pathways (=new knowledge) can be created and “strengthened” in our brains. In other words you can train your brain to be effective in whichever sector you decide. For example, the great Positive Psychologist Tal Ben Shahar had mentioned in one of his lectures that, although he was very introvert and couldn’t speak even in front of a few people, through persistence had managed to be very competent in speaking to wide audiences.
And this goes together with the concept of comfort zone. Whenever you try to improve any skills you are not good at, you are instantly getting out of your comfort zone. For instance, boys like me that didn’t have experience with girls had our legs shaking like branches in the storm when we were approaching one. These things need time and full rational acceptance of the stress agents that are incurring in your whole body at that time. Stress is your rule of thumb that you are improving. Of course I am not talking about this overexaggerated stress that tends to ruin western societies but if you never feel stressed be sure that you are standing still. Time, repetitions, trial and errors and experience are the factors that not so much extinguish stress but make it more controlled. This is why it is much more important just to do something than to think so much if you will succeed in it. Achievements cannot come if you don’t do something anyway. And in this process you brain will be becoming more familiar with the activity and as a result the skill will be improving. Not to mention that the failures that will naturally come – because this is what happens when you make many attempts – will make the condition of failure less fearful. Your experience of several time overcoming it will make you practically accept it as part of the process.
So first of all has to be understood towards which characteristics should we turn our brain to. In which contexts should we put our brains in order to make them competent in these attributes? This is one of the roles of Life Coaches. These people with experience on themselves, on clients and after studying the literature can create efficient paths, understandable to the majority of people. At the same time their role is significant in keeping you on board when you feel that you are about to give up. The stress agents I mentioned act counter to your optimism and someone with a clearer mind at that time is needed.
As you see, the more findings are coming to light the more weapons we have in our inventory. The mentality is that everything depends on ourselves. You have the tools to be succesful, you have the paradigms and you have the pathways. Either you follow them and reap the fruits or you must be sincere to yourselves and accept that you don’t deserve them until you shift the pendulum of your lives and take the situation on your hands. Simple as that.