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Beyond Emotional Intelligence: Achieving Spiritual Intelligence

U-wun-ge-lay-ma Book CoverToday’s post is by Dr. Andrew Thorn, author of U-wun-ge-lay-ma: A Guide to Next-level Living (CLICK HERE to get your copy).  Here’s Dr. Thorn…

Charles P. Steinmetz, (1865 – 1923) a German-American mathematician and electrical engineer, whose work as a scientist significantly influenced the expansion of the electrical power industry in the United States, was once asked, by the founder of Babson College in Massachusetts, what line of research he thought would see the greatest development during the course of the next 100 years.

Here is what Mr. Steinmetz is reported to have said:

“I think the greatest discovery will be made along spiritual lines. Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of men. Yet we have merely been playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have the physical forces. Someday, people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in the making men and women creative and powerful. Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of God and prayer and the spiritual forces, which as of yet have hardly been scratched. When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has seen in the past four.”

Unfortunately, as a society, instead of moving toward spiritual topics, we have moved away from them. Sadly, the major pursuits of the last 30 years have been largely focused on the acquisition of material wealth. We are now feeling the pain of those pursuits. As predicted we are discovering that the material conquests of life do not bring us much happiness.

Yet for some reason, the topic of spirituality is often considered taboo. It is now a divisive topic and extreme measures are often taken to avoid it.

Spiritual Intelligence

I want to break that taboo and speak openly about spirituality. Because it can be a very intangible topic, it is difficult to define what it really is. That is why we need to study it more. Spirituality is an enlightened focus on who we really are. It helps us understand the purpose of our existence and to see things as they really are. When we develop spiritual intelligence we enjoy an increased ability to pick out the actions, experiences, beliefs, and values that create greater meaning and purpose in our individual lives. This power of discernment expands our ability to understand our eternal natures. As we come to know who we really are, the great questions of life come into focus and we find ourselves aligned with divine purpose and legacy.

There Is Something More Than Achievement

The shiny prizes of the world, including its pleasures, power, praise, money, and fame, have always been and always will be attractive, but they are not enough. Those that reach the top of Mount Achievement, often find a dull world devoid of meaning. The sacrifice to gain what the material world has to offer, proves time and time again to be too steep a price to pay. Most of us now realize that the pursuit of doing at the expense of being does not deliver happiness.

The question of what is this human life experience really all about is answered best, by and through the development of spiritual intelligence. The pursuit of Spiritual Intelligence focuses us on personal meaning making experiences. It ensures that individuals know what they want, and more importantly, that they know who they are. This enables the spiritually intelligent individual to clearly express what his or her impact will be in the world.

A person who possesses high levels of spiritual intelligence easily identifies with his or her Higher Self or Spirit rather than with the ego. They have less need to seek after their own interests. This fosters the capacity to serve and develop others.

Nearly every organization I work with is concerned about developing higher levels of accountability. A spiritually intelligent person is empowered with a greater capacity for problem solving. It is natural for them to cope better with stressful situations because they know that what they are doing is only what they do and not who they are. As a result they are freer to act and to be, which results in greater productivity and engagement.

Thinking, Feeling, Being

We cannot solely rely on the development of cognitive and emotional intelligence to make us whole. By themselves, they are not enough. As long as the development of spiritual intelligence is considered unimportant or old-fashioned, we will continue to feel like we are missing something. We cannot be complete without developing greater levels of individual and collective spiritual intelligence.

It is worth noting that the words “health,” “wholeness,” “holiness” and “healing” all come from the same root. All of these come about because of who we are and not because of what we do.

The French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” This quote inspires me. It gives me great hope and purpose. It generates meaning in a world where meaning is sometimes difficult to make.

To be spiritually intelligent is to be fully engaged in becoming the best you – because it facilitates your ability to know exactly who the best you is.

What does the idea of Spiritual Intelligence mean to you? Why do you think that as a society we are so afraid to discuss it? What do you think must happen before we can become comfortable with this topic? How much time do you spend making quality spiritual discoveries? I hope you will spend some time pondering these questions. I look forward to your thoughts.

- Dr. Andrew Thorn is the founder of Telios Corporation and creator of The Telios Experience™.  He holds a PhD in Consulting Psychology, a Masters in Personal and Executive Coaching, and a Masters in Business Administration from Pepperdine University.  Dr. Thorn is also the author of U-wun-ge-lay-ma: A Guide to Next-level Living and the upcoming book Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Whole? The Future of Meaning and Purpose.

11 Responses to “Beyond Emotional Intelligence: Achieving Spiritual Intelligence”

  1. Terry says:

    Very thought provoking! If we first think of ourselves as Spiritual beings rather than human beings, it’s easier to place greater importance on Spiriitual development. In a secular world we are cautioned to be “politically correct” and avoid bringing God into the business world; however, as a leader when I am faced with supporting an employee in crisis, often what they are reaching out for is reassurance of the intangible. They are seeking hope and comfort and the knowledge that something greater or higher than them will see them through. It is a challenge to incorporate spiritual intellengence in today’s world but in doing so the rewards are great. Thank you for defining what I am striving for. My efforts are not always fruitful, but I receive great satisfaction in the striving and knowing my creator is pleased that I am trying.

  2. Holly says:

    Very interesting questions! I have always kept my spirituality private mostly because not everyone shares the same views. In the business world, possibly we don’t share Spiritual intelligence because listening with an open mind and respecting other point of views isn’t possible for some people. Arguing and defending my beliefs isn’t something I care do in the workplace. I only hope my spiritual intelligence helps me to be a better person and reflects in my daily life as a leader, or any other role; wife, friend etc.

  3. Anne Van Abel says:

    Never enough said appropriately on this subject. It’s our culture that is overly sensitive to this subject. Truly agree with the quote that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. How do we remember?

  4. Tobias says:

    This is a really important topic. I don’t know if it was because of a spiritual awareness, but I’ve been fortunate to work for people who valued life outside work as much as the job being done at work.

    This has enabled me to be “at work” and “not at work” which is important for a vital life. It also means being able to show my kids that life is more than work and to get involved with things I’m interested in and give bac. I see this as a valuable part of being.

    I think the biggest challenge is to separate spirituality from religion. When we can achieve that things will really shift.

  5. Janet Werner says:

    Thank you for bringing this message to light at this time. As a consultant since 1988 I have been bringing the words of spirit into the workplace and actually find it is easier & easier the more comfortable & whole I have become. Spiritual intelligence now is a routine part of my coaching conversations…I usually ask folks if they have a spiritual perspective on the issue & most are very open to acknowledge spiritual with a yes…many distinguish spiritual from religious…and we move on from there very naturally. I do believe the time has come where a critical mass is open to engaging in spiritually intelligent conversations. I believe first as professionals we engage in the inner work & then it becomes very easy & natural to include spiritual intelligence in business conversations. I look forward to continuing this conversation. The website I posted is not up to date for 2013 but it shows the early messages we introduced on Spirit in Business from 2000 – 2003.

    • Thank you so much for addressing this subject matter. I do leadership training and individual executive and life coaching, and topic is coming up more and more in my work.
      There is not a prezo or workshop I do, that I do not include this topic, and I do it, because I really believe, as all of you do, that it is critical. First, as mentioned above, the inner work must be done. I chose the path of a three year internship program in the ” Art of Spiritual Guidance”. It has helped me enormously in having a honest dialog on this subject.
      I have also found it helpful to move into the subject matter slowly, separating Religion from Spiritually, and discussing the concepts of spiritual intelligence in our work place. I have also brought the concept of ‘ wholeness” into this discussion, meaning, we are not one type of person at work and one type at home. I am finding the awareness around striving to live a a integrated life, critical to finding over all meaning in ones life.

  6. Kirana says:

    Yep, that’s probably one of my main performance differentiators (and actually that of not a few truly outstanding colleagues of diverse beliefs) but one which I cannot cite in my performance review as there’s no acceptable ‘corporate language’ with which to describe its effect.

    But, I might venture to speculate though, that while not necessarily incompatible with capitalism, spiritual awareness is usually incompatible with most capitalist cultures (actually, most socialist ones too), which is extremely and sometimes exclusively materialist. Note: I have used this word not in the limited “stuff” sense, but in a more general “of this physical world” sense.

    Also, humans have a long and dishonoured history of faking spirituality where it may bring material gain, plus many have difficulty according absolute respect to another person’s freedom to hold an independent and different spiritual position, making it pretty difficult to embed spirituality into an organisation – particularly a multi-cultural global one. So… I don’t see this changing soon, certainly not in my lifetime. at least in my company it is possible to describe the *effects* of it on particular aspects of leadership, though silent as to how they were acquired in the first place, or vague (“can be learned through ‘life experiences’…”).

  7. Mike says:

    This is a very constructive post and I thank you for it. I spent a large proportion of my working life in the spiritual wilderness which was not helped by having my business destroyed by two individuals who claimed to be strongly spiritual people who each failed to pay large debts they owed my company. Subsequently I was fortunate to meet a truly spiritual person, then another, then another, which ultimately led to me being able to forgive. I found it truly challenging when I was asked to search deep inside myself and answer the question “What is your purpose in life – what is it that you really meant to achieve?” And then, “What is your dream?”

    I now see adversity as character building. I am in no doubt that that spirituality enables us to cope with, and overcome, adversity. Spirituality alone has helped me answer those two questions. When the answers dawned on me, the effect of the revelation has not only inspired me, it has given me an inner peace and focus that is so good I wish I could share it with everyone.

    I believe it is very important to separate religion from spirituality – they are two different things. If a person wants to do business with you based on their being a religious person, I would ask for ‘cash up front’. A spiritual person does not make overt claims about their spirituality, nor do they need to. They live it out and those whose lives they touch are blessed for the experience.

  8. I am interested in the topic of spirituality. The question that I ask myself is this: what’s the purpose of my life? Is it just to be born, go to good school, get a good job, make a progress in corporate world, have a good family, accumulate wealth and before long, lose all these in the form of death?

    I learn gradually that life is more than that. There has to be a spiritual element to it, that we have a higher Self as supposed to our mundane self. I have been interested in spirituality through my practice of meditation and my Buddhist practice. I slowly come to learn that life is too meaningless and futile if it is lived solely for material gratification.

  9. Thank you for bringing this topic forward. As some of the comments have suggested, there is movement in this area. I am in one of the largest communities of Leadership Coaches (Georgetown) and this topic is not only part of the curriculum but also a frequent discussion topic in the alumni group. I have also experienced this in my own practice with leaders.

    I do think that it is more often brought in through coaching, discussion of values, mindfulness, neuroscience of the brain – these are ways that we help leaders and employees first live from a balanced perspective in the four domains (reason, emotion, physical and spiritual). Books like “Search Inside Yourself” would have been an underground cult book years ago, and today it is embraced by many. And yet, we still deal with environments that are adamant about “leaving your emotions at the door” much less spirituality.

    And yes, I believe spirituality is different than religion. I think of it more like a Venn diagram. There can be some overlap that is helpful to work with, sometimes they need to be kept separate because of the beliefs and past experience of the person.

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