I’m taking this week’s column almost wholesale from Louis Cozolino’s newest book, Why Therapy Works. What he argues for and offers in that book is a collection of strategies for becoming an alpha member of the human tribe. Interestingly, these strategies map almost exactly onto the goals of most forms of psychotherapy, executive coaching or parental training programs. Here are ten alpha qualities that seem to be where human development is headed. Some of us might want to find ways to practice and creatively apply them as we move into the Third Acts of our lives. Even more interesting is that many of them correlate with … Impeccability Practice. And it’s important to remember that these are not assessments or evaluations – they are aspirations – capacities it is possible to grow into.
Alphas are confident.
Alphas’ security in their own abilities is their best ally. They are willing to take risks based upon their own discernment and are open to correction and modification to improve personal strategies. What they are most confident about is their ability to learn and grow.
Alphas take responsibility for outcomes.
Alphas take responsibility for their behaviors and the success of the group; betas make excuses for failure. Alphas attempt to identify and control variables in advance that might scuttle projects or derail successful outcomes.
Alphas don’t fear failure.
Alphas are curious about failure; their primary interest is in what they might learn that can be of value going forward. Obstacles exist for Alphas as opportunities to expand their creative problem-solving abilities.
Alphas keep their own council.
“A woman who wants to lead an orchestra must turn her back on the crowd.” (apologies to James Cook). Alphas are pretty resistant to peer pressure and groupthink. They use their own life experiences and values to guide thinking and actions.
Alphas are able to regulate their emotions.
Alphas don’t have temper tantrums. Explosive and uncontrolled expression of emotion come from feelings of frustration, helplessness and fear. People who lose control of themselves are seldom true alphas. Aggression should never be mistaken for real power.
Alphas have goals and plans to get there.
Alphas operate in the world with an eye towards the future and what might be best for the group. Alphas tend to have careers; betas have jobs. Alphas trust in the combination of an inspired vision and hard work, while betas too often rely on structures provided by others.
Alphas understand and utilize the power of words.
Alphas know the power of words and so they measure them carefully. In addition they work on the practice of learning to listen deeply to what is both spoken and unspoken. Alphas also know the power of story and humor and self-disclosure and use them to get their perspectives across.
Alphas accept their vulnerability.
In doing so, alphas are unafraid to face their faults and do their best to skillfully address them. Alphas rarely succumb to internal blackmail – making unhealthy compromises so that the secret of their imperfection never gets out. Alphas accept their imperfections and work to improve them.
Alphas select their partners consciously.
Alphas don’t simply hook up with people who are attracted to them. When it comes to partnering with others, at whatever level, alphas listen to both their hearts and their brains – both brain hemispheres. They look for partners who are not threatened by their strengths or abilities, who are secure in their own values and competencies in the world.
Alphas are not afraid to be quiet or alone.
Alphas recognize, as the poet and novelist May Sarton pointed out, that loneliness is a poverty of the self, while solitude supports a richness of the self. Alphas continue to work to grow the capacity to monitor internal monologues and simply dismiss any thoughts their brains secrete that do not support growth, learning, health and happiness.