It is an absolute human certainty that no one can appreciate his/her/its own beauty or perceive a sense of worth until it has been reflected back to him/her/it in the mirror of another caring human being.
Social maturity or ‘adulting’ rests heavily upon understanding the basis of forming high-quality relationships. David Brooks mused about this in his famed book on social psychology, “The Social Animal”. The capacity to develop vital connections starts with identifying one’s Signature Presence that communicates more than words themselves. Having said that, managing relationships is tough! They demand your attention, expose your incompetencies, and scratch your ego – sometimes, or (in some cases) all the time.
In this series of How to be an Adult we are on a journey to find out the elements that make up a high-performing adult. In Part1 I shared with you the steps to finding your signature presence, and in this part we will learn about inner workings of successful relationships, including one with self.
Step#1 : What supports your well-being?
Personal well-being is a state of mind where you become creative, joyful, giving and perceive yourself as satiated. This state of mind is a function of your answer to four key questions, or in the words of celebrated cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien – The Four Rivers of Life :
- River of Inspiration – Are you in touch with your creative fire?
- River of Challenge – Are you growing beyond the familiar?
- River of Surprise – Are you open to new possibilities?
- River of Love – Are you touched and moved by life’s experiences?
The lack of flow in any of these rivers can lead to an emptiness that can hinder prolonged personal well-being.
Step#2 : Do you acknowledge your 3 marriages?
According to poet and philosopher David Whyte the concept of mere work/life balance is inadequate and dishearteningly limiting at a closer inspection. It hints that we must counter downside – that which we must endure in order to make a living – with the upside – that which we long to do to make us feel alive. It implies allocating half of ourselves to doing something that we begrudge while anxiously awaiting the other half that gives us joy. What a woefully pathetic way to live! The 3 marriages is a concept of true balance that highlights 3 primary commitments in our lives –
- Marriage to Self
- Marriage to Work
- Marriage to the Other
The dynamics in each of these marriages is common – the sequence of pursuit, of recognition, disappointment and recommitment. Neglecting any of these internal marriage can lead to loss of well-being.
Work is not only a necessity; good work like a good marriage needs dedication to something larger than our own detailed, everyday needs; good work asks for a promise to something intuited or imaginedDavid WhyteTweet
Step#3 : How can you succeed in your 3 marriages?
Social interactions incite responses in the same area of our brain that governs response to our physical survival. These neural networks in our brain identify physical threat and rewards with similar intensity as they perceive social threats and rewards. The capacity to make decisions, solve problems and collaborate with others is generally reduced by a threat response and increased under a reward response. This important discovery about social interactions by psychologist David Rock has been summarised effectively in his creation of the SCARF model . The model gives insight into 5 domains of human social experiences, any of which when threatened, leads to a negative response in the brain –
- Status is about relative importance to others
- Certainty concerns with ability to predict
- Autonomy provides a sense of control
- Relatedness is a sense of safety with others
- Fairness is a perception of fair exchanges between people
These domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or the ‘primary threat’ circuitry in our brain. For example, a perceived threat to Status can activate similar brain networks to that of threat to one’e life, and a perceived increase in Fairness can activate the same brain networks as that of receiving a monetary reward. Understanding your (and other’s) primary domain of reward and threat can give you a significant upside in fostering quality relationship with self, work and others.
I invite you to reflect upon your recent social interactions, at home or at work, and to identify what triggers or upsets your well-being in the context of these concepts that we have learnt today. Let me know in the comments below on how you find it useful. (My secret : I operate out of the primary need of Autonomy! #controlfreakalert)
What lies ahead..
In the concepts that we have so far explored about becoming a high-performing adult we have focused primarily on ‘Thinking’ but a large part of our being human is about ‘Feeling’! In Part 3 of this series we will explore the psychology of emotions, followed by quick steps to developing high emotional intelligence.