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Over the last several weeks, I’ve shared with you a brief introduction to each principle of my C.O.R.E. formula for success. The last letter in my acronym is E, which stands for emotional intelligence (EQ). This principle is near to my heart because it is one that my father instilled in me since I was very young. He used to say that EQ was even more important than IQ and he’d often remind me I had very high emotional intelligence. Funny, he never seemed to comment on my IQ. 🤔🤣
Regardless, emotional intelligence is a skill I’ve been studying for a long time. The story I’m sharing today is a powerful example of the importance of delaying gratification (a major component in improving our EQ).
It was a Wednesday around noon. My boys ate their lunch outdoors by their play-yard. I sat under the shade of our mango tree to keep them company. Orlando was in the middle of his workout and joined us to do pullups on the monkey bars. The weather was perfectly warm and sunny with a hint of breeze. It was a perfect but surreal moment. Surreal because it was noon on a Wednesday and our entire family was home due to a global pandemic. But also uncanny was that my husband, who had been overweight and sedentary for most of our marriage, was knocking out pull-ups like a boss.
My little one stepped up on one stair of the play yard and looked up. “Dad, you look like that fighter!”
A year and two months prior, we had stopped for a quick bite to eat at a sports bar before catching the Broadway play, Dear Evan Hansen, to celebrate Orlando’s birthday. There was an MMA fight being aired on the gigantic screen in front of us. “You see that guy.” Orlando pointed to one fighter and said, “One day I will look like that.”
We all chuckled. None of us took him seriously, except for Justin. “You’ll see,” he glanced at the TV screen and then at me, “I’m going to surprise you.”
Orlando struggled to get that last pull up in, and then his feet dropped to the floor. As he caught his breath, he smiled and patted the top of his son’s head. “Thanks, buddy.”
“See, mom” Justin smiled proudly, “I told you he could do it.”
“You really did it, Orlando.” I stared at him in awe as he recovered his breath. “I can’t believe how you’ve transformed your body.”
Orlando looked over at his boys. “This is an important lesson for you three. There are a lot of things in life you can pay for, but there are things you can’t buy or pay someone else to do for you.”
He continued, “I can’t buy your love. I can’t buy my health. I can’t pay someone to be a great father to my kids. I can’t pay someone to exercise or eat healthy for me. You could have all the money in the world, but the only way to earn a healthy life is to put in the time and work yourself.”
I often wonder who the real motivational speaker in our family is!
But Orlando was right. His bold statement that he’d get fit like the MMA fighter would have been nothing more than empty words if he wasn’t willing to do the work. He had to be the one to eat (or not eat) certain foods. He had to be the one to go to the gym. Moreover, he couldn’t just do it once or twice and get results. It took him months to get fit. It’ll take him a lifetime to stay fit.
In that split second, I looked around and realized that very perfect and surreal moment resulted from all the choices we’d been making for the last 15 years: The choice to stick together, the choice not to live beyond our means, the choice to be present in the lives of our children, the choice to eat well and exercise. A good life has a price — but you’re the only one who can pay it. You can’t pay anyone else to do it for you.
And that, my friends, is why emotional intelligence is the key to success. We need the self-awareness to define what success means to us, the empathy to understand what the most important people in our lives need from us, the motivation to want to be better, and the self-regulation to do the work.
Delaying gratification (a.k.a self-regulation) is doing the work today that only you can do to be a better you tomorrow.
And yet we often fail to do the things that we can’t pay anyone else to do (the important stuff) because we’re doing the things that we could pay someone else to do. This is usually the case when we utter the famous line: “I don’t have time.”
So I ask you today, do you want to enjoy meaningful relationships? Do you want to be healthy and fit? Do you want to learn a new skill or build a new business?
Identify the things that only you could do to achieve the results you want… and then do those things. It might be hard, but it’s worth it.
If you want to achieve a goal, focus on doing the things that only you can do to accomplish those goals. Minimize, delegate, or avoid everything else. Before you know it, you’ll be reaping the benefits of the life you dreamed of.