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The path to mastery, with emotional intelligence

 The studies in the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance  describe  the path to mastery as:

(1) Deliberative Practice 

(2) Time spent at Deliberative Practice 

(3) Assistance from a mentor. 

Deliberative practice can be broken down to:

(1) Identifying a long-term outcome 

(2) Breaking down the skills that lead to that outcome into its component parts. 

(3) Engaging in practice sessions that: 

     (a) Have their own predefined goals 

     (b) Have benchmarks to measure progress and 

     (c) Have immediate feedback. 


 Discover (November 2008 )  has an excellent interview with Antonio D’Amasio,  a neurologist who asserts that robust decision-making involves our emotions as much as our reasoning capacity. His thesis can be found in the quote from the interview: “It’s not that I am saying the emotions decide things for you. ..It’s that the emotions help you concentrate on the right decision. You (your cortex) still have to do some of the work, but the emotions give you a head start.”

D’Amasio says our reasoning depends on a supply of ’somatic markers’ to make a decision. ‘Somatic markers’ are past emotional experiences that serve as a guide. He believes that his studies of brain-damaged patients demonstrated that:  “where emotional experiences are not present, then there are no somatic markers i.e. no foundations for the decision-making process. This process includes what shame, stress etc feels like.”

His work contradicts the idea we make our best decisions as emotionless robots. Hethinks not only is emotionless decision-making not possible, it would not even be desirable. Somatics have an essential role to play in the decision-making process.  Emotions warn us long before reason when danger lurks. Sometimes however, they may react to ‘danger’ not present in reality but rather in our imagination. To employ our emotions emotions, the keys are when feeling strong emotion:

(1) to become aware of them. 

(2) to question whether their source is valid i.e. is it a real and present danger or an imaginary one; and 

(3) to act in accordance with (2). 

It may be that the best way to manage our emotions productively is with thorough preparation which includes visualization. Since our mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and imagined, a mental rehearsal will blunt a possible traumatic event so that we can deal with it effectively should it occur.

Finally in the interview,  D’Amasio suggests that because somatics take time to form,  the speed of 21st century life blunts our conscience. And, when that happens, – when our reason is cast adrift from our emotions – we are left free to justify any act.

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