I Went on Vacation, My Luggage Did Not
--A test for my Emotional Intelligence--
Last month, I was on a two week trip to Italy; a week in Sardinia and a week in Rome. After several flight cancellations due to a fire at the Rome airport, I arrived 9 hours late but safely at my first destination in Cagliari Sardinia. My suitcase did not.
I now faced the prospect of traveling for at least the first of the two weeks in the clothes I arrived in--a pair of pants, tank top, black sweater, and sandals. (Lesson learned for future: take their advice—find room to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on.)
In the big scheme of things, losing luggage is a very minor inconvenience. And it can easily suck the enjoyment out of the trip when dealing with an airline system seemingly designed to be as customer-unfriendly as possible, in another language, in another culture.
In my 'old' self, I would want action and decisiveness and try to regain as much control as I could. I would have been anxious, frustrated, and angry. And I know it would have been hard for me to put those feelings aside to do what I really came to Italy for--enjoying the food and the friends I was there to meet.
Now was a good time to kick in all the EQ I preach about to others and see if it makes a difference. Here are the five EQ competencies I called on to help me manage this situation:
1. Emotional Self-Awareness. Yea, losing my luggage sucked. Acknowledged. AND I was in Italy and how fantastic is that? I didn't deny the frustration; I just made sure it wasn't front and center of every day. I gave it a few minutes thought when I checked in at the front desk for any status, and then focused on enjoying the rest of the day.
2. Interpersonal Relationships. To keep my mind off the challenge of living in the same clothes day after day, I turned my attention to the others in my group engaging them in stories about their life. I focused on deeply listening and enjoying their company. I had nothing to worry about except what was right there right now.
3. Reality Testing. What is irreplaceable? The time I am spending with this group of new friends. Clothes and shoes can be replaced. And in reality, what can I do about it? Choosing to give up control gave me the space to immerse myself in each experience.
4. Stress Tolerance. This was a big one. 15 minutes of clearing my mind with meditation in the morning calmed the underlying anxiety and helped me set an intention to focus on what was in each day not what I was missing.
You can't go more than a few steps in Italy without tripping over a church and I used that as an opportunity to pop my head in and offer up control to a greater being.
And a prayer to St. Anthony of Padua, patron saint of lost things, maybe helped too :-)
The lighter version:
Something's lost and
Must be found.
5. Optimism. Several times each day I reminded myself: "Whatever works out is going to be absolutely fantastic." By focusing on the enjoyment of each activity I had little room left for negative thoughts. Another traveler commented, "For losing all your luggage you are amazingly joyful. I would be worried and a wreck."
St. Anthony must have been listening…At midnight of the 4th day in Italy, my suitcase found its way to me in the tiny seaside village of Cabras.
I was happy to avoid the hassle of filing a claim...and also a bit disappointed. I relished the challenge of traveling in one set of clothes and finding out how little I really needed to be truly happy.
To your best potential,
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