We all recognize when we are acting from our best self. These are the times when we turn the other cheek, ignore an insult, let someone in front of us in the checkout line, or reach out to someone in need. At these times, we are more courageous, more giving, more kind. We feel creative and inspired. We know in those moments that we bring a reservoir of energy to bear on whatever problems we face. We have hope.
We also recognize that we don’t act from our best self all of the time. We are embarrassed to acknowledge the times when we gossip about someone, tell a white lie, take an unwarranted tax deduction, lash out in anger, or say something we later regret. In fact, when we are truthful with ourselves, we know that there are large portions of our lives when we do not live up to what we know is our best. When we look back on our actions in those moments, we seem petty, jealous, shallow, even mean-spirited. Instead of feeling hope, we feel shame.
Everyone recognizes these two aspects of ourselves. And everyone would like to spend more time with first one and less time with the second one.
That is what Spiritual Intelligence is all about. Let me explain.
First, let’s look at the word intelligence. Acting with more intelligence means being able to apply more effective capacities to cause a desired result. This includes the typical way we think of intelligence, as in being “smart,” and using our reasoning ability to solve a difficult problem. But there are many other ways to think about our natural intelligences. For example, a good listener is using emotional intelligence to relate better to another person. A top athlete or dancer is using kinesthetic intelligence to win a competition or create a mesmerizing performance.
But what is Spiritual Intelligence? Like the three intelligences described above (cognitive, emotional and kinesthetic), Spiritual Intelligence is an innate capacity in everyone that can increase our effectiveness to cause a desired result. Acting with greater Spiritual Intelligence means increasing our ability to keep our higher self in charge more and more of the time. It means feeling connected to our deepest sense of who we truly are at the core and being able to let that authentic self be the source of our behavior and our interactions with others.
And just like those other three intelligences, Spiritual Intelligence can be developed over time by practice. There are countless ways to develop your Spiritual Intelligence, as demonstrated by the world’s religions and wisdom traditions. Here are three brief ideas for a short term, medium term and long term practice.
Short Term SQ Practice – Stop in the Moment
When you feel triggered, pause before you act. This is a simple concept but can be maddeningly hard to do in the moment. But if you can stop and take a breath the next time you feel like taking someone’s head off, you will be miles ahead in keeping your higher self in charge. The instant between the triggering event and your normal reaction happens in a flash, but in that flash rests enormous power to bring about a better outcome, even if all you can do in the moment is say, “I’m not at my best right now and I don’t want to say something I will regret.”
Medium Term SQ Practice – Gratitude
It is easy for those of us living in the developed world to forget how much we have to be grateful for. Research shows expressing gratitude makes people healthier, more productive at work, more resilient to stressful situations, more successful in relationships and happier in life generally. One suggested practice is to keep a gratitude journal. To try this out, spend one minute writing about something you feel grateful for. It can be something simple, like the sunshine or a delicious breakfast, or something profound like your life partner or a recent recovery from surgery. Do this for seven days and see if you feel a positive difference in your life.
Long Term SQ Practice – Meditation
Committing to a long term mindfulness, body awareness or devotional practice is a well established path to building Spiritual Intelligence. One such practice is meditation. Similar to the studies on gratitude, research on meditation demonstrate significant benefits to one’s health, career and relationships. There are many books, teachers, classes and other resources to help you begin a daily meditation practice. Find one that appeals to you and consider making meditation a part of your daily practice.
Become a Certified Spiritual Intelligence Coach
If you want to learn more about how to develop your Spiritual Intelligence, consider registering for the Coaches Certification class in the SQ21 to be held October 6 - 8, 2016, in Dana Point, California. Sign up now, register HERE
About the Author
Steve Sphar is a seasoned leadership consultant with over 25 years experience partnering with executives and managers to create sustained positive change. He was a practicing attorney for 12 years before turning his law and business experience to the field of leadership consulting. He helps managers and executives develop their leadership potential though one-on-one coaching, leadership training and facilitation of executive retreats.
Read more about Steve here.