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September 2019

The 4 Stages of Life

The 4 Stages of Life 2401 1850 Manolis Stratakis

(Based on the work of Carl Jung)

Carl Jung identified four distinct stages in all people’s lives. These stages have nothing to do with what we do for living, how old we are, what we have achieved or how much money we make. Also, these stages are not necessarily linear. We do not have to complete one of them so we can move to the next. We can step in or out of different stages, at different phases of our life.

The Athlete Stage – The period of Mimicry

At this stage, we are primarily concerned with our body and how we look to others. We can look at our mirror image for hours observing our external appearance.

We try things out and develop our first insecurities. We begin to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. We come into contact with our emotions and try to understand how they affect us. We feel a constant need for acceptance and validation, and there is a complete absence of personal values ​​and independent thinking. Mainly, we imitate others (parents, teachers, friends), having very little room for autonomy.

The purpose of this stage is to teach us how the world works.

The Warrior Stage: The phase of Self-discovery

Here we begin to identify where we differ from others and find our first place in society. We understand we are unique. We begin to make our own decisions and try our limits. We cautiously move out of our safety zone and experiment with new places, people and things. Progressively, we find out what works for us and what doesn’t, we keep the first and drop the second. This is how we move forward and evolve.

Here, we also strive to be better than others. We want to conquer the world. We like to accumulate things. We always want to have more. We are going through a phase of comparison and competition.

At this stage it is very important to learn our limits and limitations, to understand at what we are good and what we can do well. Life gives us endless choices, and since we cannot have them all, it is wise to stick to the ones that suit us best.

The Stage of Declaration: The age of Commitment

Here we consolidate all the knowledge and experience we have gained in the two previous stages. We now know what works for us and what doesn’t, we understand where we excel and where we suck. We know what inspires us and what holds us back. Which of our activities lead us somewhere and which take us nowhere. Which of our friends and acquaintances fill us with energy and which leave us empty.

At the same time, we realize that despite what we have achieved or acquired, we do not feel fulfilled or happy. We are looking for ways to make a difference in the world. We want to make a clear statement of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish. We feel the need to offer to others.

What we have hunted so far (money, power or material goods) will continue to appear in our lives, but are no longer as valuable to us as before. We now know that there is more to life than these. We receive them, we accept them and we are grateful for them, but we are ready to leave them anytime.

The Stage of the Spirit: The Time of Heritage

Now, we have realized what is meaningful to us and what it is important. We have worked through all of our life, we had various accomplishments and we earned all we have today. From now on, we are not interested in achieving more, since our age and energy levels do not allow it, but in ensuring that what we have gained will continue to exist and be valued after we have left.

At this stage we realize that in none of the preceding stages we got to know our true selves. We understand that we are much more than our possessions, friends, family and our entire environment.

We also understand that we are not going to linger on this planet for long. We come closer to spiritual and “divine” pursuits. We become the observers of our lives. And we are interested in the legacy we will leave.

 

Which of the above stages have you experienced?

In which do you live today?

 

How emotionally intelligent are you?

How emotionally intelligent are you? 1587 1116 Manolis Stratakis

Emotional Intelligence

According to the latest studies (mainly through the work of Daniel Goleman), the – until recently underrated – Emotional Intelligence (EQ) contributes an 80% to success in life, while IQ supplies the rest 20%. On top of that, although none of them is considered fixed and permanent, Emotional Intelligence is the one with greater margins for development and growth. Let’s check the degree of our own EQ and see how we can improve it!

Below you will find a checklist with the most important characteristics of High Emotional Intelligence. Check which of those you possess and mark them from 1-10, with as much accuracy as possible.

  1. [    ] ​Self-control and self-discipline
  2. [    ] Impulse control
  3. [    ] Openness, adaptation and embracing change
  4. [    ] Ability to perform under conditions of pressure
  5. [    ] Good understanding of our own emotions
  6. [    ] Good understanding of the emotions of others
  7. [    ] Awareness of our strengths and weaknesses
  8. [    ] Optimism
  9. [    ] Self-confidence
  10. [    ] Good communication skills
  11. [    ] Acceptance of criticism by other people
  12. [    ] Ability to disagree without causing tension
  13. [    ] Ability to offer constructive criticism
  14. [    ] Initiative taking
  15. [    ] Cultivating trust in relationships
  16. [    ] Ability to self-motivate in order to reach our goals
  17. [    ] Ability to lead and influence
  18. [    ] Resistance to prejudice
  19. [    ] Decisiveness
  20. [    ] Persuasion
  21. [    ] Patience
  22. [    ] Persistence
  23. [    ] Curiosity
  24. [    ] Ability to inspire others
  25. [    ] Cooperate without competing
  26. [    ] Ability to teamwork
  27. [    ] Maintaining control in crisis situations
  28. [    ] Control impatience
  29. [    ] Ability to focus
  30. [    ] Acceptance of defeat and failure
  31. [    ] Ability to listen before talking
  32. [    ] Acceptance of our weaknesses
  33. [    ] Personal and work ethics
  34. [    ] Ability to neutralize toxic people
  35. [    ] Giving without expecting
  36. [    ] Knowing when and feeling comfortable saying no
  37. [    ] Ability to slow down, disconnect and relax
  38. [    ] Ability of quick recovery after a mistake or failure
  39. [    ] Robust emotional vocabulary
  40. [    ] Resistance to perfectionism

 

Now check at which of them you score high and which you score low and write them on the table:

 

I score high

I want to improve

 

Finally, just make a note of those which seem especially important to you and you would like to improve. Let this new realization linger in your mind for the days to come.

 

 

The road to self-esteem

The road to self-esteem 3033 2147 Manolis Stratakis

The image of our self and our capabilities are going through a daily trial: by others and by ourselves. It is this image which will determine where the road to our self-esteem will take us.

All the people who know us, have formed an opinion about us. Depending on how long or how well they know us, this opinion can be rough and trivial or polished and solid. Of course, an opinion is always subjective and it can be more positive or negative depending on the person’s predisposition to us. It is also dynamic, which means it is subject to change.

It’s interesting however, that not only the others have an opinion about us, but we also have an opinion about ourselves. Everyone has an opinion about themselves. Therefore, for the overall image of our self, both our own opinion and the opinion of others matters.

Let’s take the simplified case shown in the diagram, where we have 4 variations: on the vertical axis the opinion of others, which can be positive or negative and respectively on the horizontal our own opinion, which can also be positive or negative:

  • When both parties (we and the others) see us positively, then we have confidence and our self-esteem is heading north.
  • When the others have a positive opinion about us but our view is different, we feel insecure. As the others believe in us, they accordingly have high expectations. On the contrary, we do not believe in our self and so we are afraid we will let them down. Hence, we lose steam and start to have emotions of sadness, stress and remorse.
  • In the case when the others see us negatively while we see our self positively, we can become aggressive. We try to prove what we worth (often in vain) and this causes us annoyance and anxiety.
  • Finally, when both we and the others have a negative opinion about us, we become cynical. We may feel disappointment or even hopelessness. We usually adopt a style of contempt and arrogance.

When we experience low confidence, we do not believe in our capabilities and – for exactly this reason – we do not take advantage of them. Then we produce poor results. But there is always this part of our mind which knows that we can do better and judges us for these poor results. Our poor performance is taken as proof that we do not have capabilities or we do not try enough, which lowers further our self-confidence.

A paradox which comes with low self-esteem is that the more other people praise our capabilities the more our self-esteem lowers (we go from cynical to insecure). This happens because of the increased differentiation between our opinion and the opinion of others.

However, as we travel into the road of our personal development, the opinion we have about our self obtains a positive sign. Eventually, we will enter the area of confidence and our self-esteem will keep increasing slowly but steadily.

 

See also our article on: An introduction to our emotions

 

Mind relaxation exercises

Mind relaxation exercises 150 150 Manolis Stratakis

The following exercises will help you sharpen your observation and augment your cognizance. They will help you kick away the tension of the day and relax your body and mind. Select those that suit you and perform them a few times a day.

Relaxation

I. Sit in a comfortable position, simply with your eyes closed for 5’

II. If there are any external sounds, just focus on them without doing anything else

III. If there are no external sounds, just focus on your breath

Stretching

I. Bend and touch your toes with your fingers. If you find it difficult, just bend a little and touch your knees. Repeat after a few minutes. Was it a bit easier this time? Repeat again. Do you see how your flexibility is improved after some consecutive attempts?

II. Stretch any of the muscles in your body for 1-2 minutes. Think how you felt before and after.

Observation

I. Scan your body from head to toes for a couple of minutes. Try to identify points of interest like:

  • Pain
  • Tension
  • Relaxation

II. As you drive your car, feel your weight on the seat, your hands on the steering wheel, the position of your hands and legs.

III. Consciously observe the texture of the objects you touch with your hands

  • Hardness
  • Temperature
  • Moisture

Awareness sharpening games

Awareness sharpening games 150 150 Manolis Stratakis

Play as many of the games described below as you can. They will sharpen your awareness. They will help you gain a better perception of your body and of the environment, which is very important for a calm and pleasant life.

When brushing your teeth

Try it with your eyes closed for 1-2 minutes. Feel the contact and the overall sense of the toothbrush hair on your teeth and gums. Feel the toothpaste foam bubbles that burst in your mouth. Focus just on a single sense at a time.

In the shower

Allow your mind to have a short break by focusing on one sense at a time. Pay attention to the water drops which fall on your head and your skin, or to the sound of the water which falls on the shower floor.

On the treadmill

Switch off the iPod and close your eyes (hold the side handles if possible) and listen to the sound of the machine, your breath or the other sounds around you. Try to focus on the feeling of the particular muscles which are exercised. Let time pass without thinking anything. Just feel how your body responds.

When eating

Chew slowly your food, for at least 30-40 times each mouthful. The first times you may need to count but after a while it becomes a habit. Try to feel the taste and the texture of the food as it changes. Switch off the TV and your mobile phone, avoid to do anything else in parallel. Just focus in all the details you can detect about your food. Try it for at least a few times so you can enjoy the experience and then you decide whether you continue.

When you touch an object or a person

Try to do it in an active manner, with cognizance. Feel the sensation of the touch. The pressure on your fingers or your body. The temperature (heat or coolness) that emits, the hardness, the moisture, the energy. Sense the feelings this touch generates.

When seated

Feel your weight on the chair. Recognize the contact points. Scan your body. What are the angles of your arms, legs and pelvis? At which points do you detect some tension? What points feel totally relaxed? Lean forward or shift your body slightly at some direction. Is it better now or worse? Do some tests and gain as much awareness as you can.

When you wait

Look around you. Observe the people and the objects you see. Pay attention to all the details you can identify. If there no other objects to observe, turn your attention to yourself. Focus on your breath. How does it feel? Shallow and short? Deep and relaxed? What feelings can you detect? Anxiety and impatience? Peacefulness and boredom? Remember that whatever you feel is temporary and is ok. You gain control this way.

When in pain

Locate the pain point. Its size. What “color” is it? How much space does it take? What is its exact shape and intensity? What is its composition and temperature? Is it stable? Does it move, throb or thump? Is it acute and piercing? Is it sharp? Recognize, embrace and approve the pain!

 

SMART goal setting: do you set goals or just exercise your wishful thinking?

SMART goal setting: do you set goals or just exercise your wishful thinking? 3408 2381 Manolis Stratakis

Sometimes we believe we have placed some goals in our life, while we are just doing some wishful thinking.

The SMART goal setting methodology can help ensure that our goals are actually… goals! It states that every goal should have all the following characteristics:

  • Specific (also simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (also meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (also agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (also reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time bound (also time-based, time limited, timely, time-sensitive)

It’s even better when they are SMARTER:

  • Evaluated
  • Reviewed

Our place in life changes daily, the same is true with our needs and wishes. Consequently, every so often it is good to evaluate and review our goals.

If we think we have set some goals without having applied the SMART filter, most probably they are not goals. They are simply wishes!

 See also our article on: Learn about how.. you learn!

Gratitude Jar: Empower your gratitude muscles!

Gratitude Jar: Empower your gratitude muscles! 640 426 Manolis Stratakis

Things you will need

– A large jar

– Small-size papers or post-it notes

Exercise

Perform one of the drills below on a daily basis:

  1. Think of a person to whom you would like to express your gratitude for something good he did for you, or for any other reason. He might have helped you at some point of your life or gave you inspiration through their paradigm. Perhaps they contributed indirectly by helping a person close to you or even contributed to a common cause you cared about.

Write a few words expressing your gratitude to this person!

  1. Think of something for which you are grateful. It can be anything, small or large. Something you may have considered given, but with a closer look you realize it isn’t. Something which you possess and you don’t want to lose. Or something bad which you managed to avoid, or it happened without affecting you. Or even something bad which just never happened!

Write just a few words expressing your gratitude about this!

Drop all your notes into your gratitude jar. In some time you will have a jar full with plenty of reasons to be grateful for what life has given you so far.

Gratitude’s effect on your brain

According to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, regularly expressing gratitude literally changes the structure of the brain. Recently, fMRI has been used to study gratitude. The brain activity of participants was measured when experiencing different emotions, and found that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and activates the brain’s reward pathways. In short, just like anti-depressant drugs, gratitude provides your brain with precious neurotransmitters like Serotonin (the happiness and satisfaction hormone) and Dopamine (the pleasure and motivation hormone).

 

Learn about how.. you learn!

Learn about how.. you learn! 3408 2381 Manolis Stratakis

The Four Stages of Learning

Our learning process goes through four stages. In the initial stage, the Unconscious Ignorance, something is completely unknown to us. We are not even aware of its existence. For example, you do not know that there exists a particular type of insect deep in the Amazon Forest. Then a friend mentions about this insect and tells you its name. It’s called examplinsect.

You just entered the next learning stage which is that of Conscious Ignorance. You know this insect exists, you know its name, but still you have no idea about it. Here you have some awareness. You know that you don’t know anything about it. A few weeks later, you happen to watch a documentary about wildlife and you learn a lot of things about the examplinsect, its colors, what it eats, where it lives, how it mates, etc.

You have just moved into the third stage, that of Conscious Knowledge, in which you will remain for a while. If you find all this stuff interesting you may seek more information resources about the examplinsect in the web, in books, etc. This will reinforce your knowledge and let you move to the final stage, that of Unconscious Knowledge. In that stage you no longer put any effort to refresh your memory. All – or most – information is retrieved easily when required.

The same goes with competence and skill. There was a time when you were very young, when you first saw a bicycle. Before that moment you were in the stage of Unconscious Ignorance or Unconscious Incompetence (you didn’t know there were bicycles and even more you didn’t know how to ride one). At the very moment you saw your first bicycle, you entered the stage of Conscious Incompetence. You learned that there is this magical toy called a bicycle and some people actually know how to play with it. But you were not one of those people.

Months went by, your birthday comes and your father walks in carrying a big box. Guess what? A little bicycle! Wait, you need to be careful! Remember you are still in Stage 2. You unbox the bicycle and you find that you can sit on it with no prior knowledge. Well done, you are getting there! Then you try to push the pedals but that’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? You press with both feet and nothing happens. Progressively you figure it out. Practice makes perfect! In a few days you are unstoppable. You can move around the furniture of the house with remarkable agility. Congratulations, you have entered into the third stage, that of Conscious Competence.

While in this stage, you know you can ride a bicycle but still you need to think before you perform certain actions like turning, braking or balancing. And then when you go out in the street or in the park, there are new challenges to face like uphills and downhills, pedestrians, mud puddles, other bicycles, cats and dogs, or even cars and lorries.

But if you keep riding your bicycle and get out of your comfort zone often, it is a matter of time to master it. At that point you don’t have to think before braking or turning. It just happens automatically and effortlessly. Balancing on the bike has become your second nature. You are now into the last step of the competence ladder, you are equipped with the superpowers of Unconscious Knowledge and Unconscious Competence.

 

Summary

Stage 1: We are Unconsciously Unskilled – we don’t know that we don’t have this skill, or that we need to learn it. We don’t know that we don’t know.

Stage 2: We are Consciously Unskilled – we know that we don’t have this skill. We know that we don’t know.

Stage 3: We are Consciously Skilled – we know that we have this skill. We know that we know.

Stage 4: We are Unconsciously Skilled – we don’t know that we have this skill (it just seems easy). We don’t know that we know.

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