EQ Workout #7: “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Action!”

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My dear friend Maria is an engineer but if you talk to her about drama, her eyes will automatically light up. Her body will move towards you with a passion and enthusiasm that’s hard to miss. Maria spends most of her free time volunteering with her local amateur theater company. She has acted in countless plays from musicals like Billy Elliot to Shakespearian drama such as King Lear.

I find it fascinating just listening to her dedication whenever she gets a new role. It’s not just about learning her lines – Maria goes the extra mile and does research on the person, the playwright, and the historical context of the play. The pinnacle of this preparation is the live performance which normally runs over a 1–2-week period. Bear in mind that Maria also has a full-time job. I asked her how she can do a full day’s work and then go on stage in the evening?

Maria then listed a number of rituals she uses to help her get into character and dismiss the distractions of the day. She first has a physical warmup which includes some stretching and dancing to upbeat music – she has a specific playlist for this. Next, she spends some time warming up her voice and doing a set of vocal exercises. Finally, she takes 20-30 minutes to get into the right space. For Maria, this entails bringing to mind the character she is plying. She hears her voice, feel her clothes, imagines where the character is coming from before they enter the stage.

I marvel at such dedication. I also think there are lots of lessons for us here. Each day we also make important transitions between places and actions. Most of us do this without thinking about them or taking time to pause and consider it.

An important facet of emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of the presence you are bringing to any setting and how it might impact others. Emotions are contagious and are easily caught by others. It’s vital therefore as we make transitions throughout our day to be very deliberate about what emotions and moods we might be bringing to our new situation and if it is serving us and others around us and, if we might need to make any adjustments.

Probably the most significant transition we make each day is from home to work and vice versa. This still holds true in our virtual world. It’s important to take a few minutes to make these transitions very deliberate. Maria had her rituals before a performance so she could best embody the character she was playing. What rituals might we have as we move from home to work and from work to home? What happens if you get annoyed by something your spouse said over breakfast and you have to jump on a work Zoom call? If we don’t take a few moments to recognize and manage our emotions, we risk bringing that energy to the call.

For this week’s EQ workout, I developed two rituals for you to try out. One is for the movement from home to work and the other us from work to home. Although it talks about moving from one physical location to another it still works just as well if our office is at home.

You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores how to find work-life balance in the new virtual reality we find ourselves in.