Let’s put aside the notion of happiness and fulfillment for a minute. What does it mean to be successful? Depending on who you ask, this question invariably has many different responses. Regardless of how success is defined, however, it always requires two ingredients: emotional intelligence and endurance. Without the ability to be aware of and acknowledge/interact with others, there is rarely anything in this world that is attainable. Similarly, to achieve something or to meet a goal, I must continue working at it even after meeting failure and rejection multiple times over.
What is emotional intelligence? It’s your ability to be aware of emotions in yourself and others, and to respond to/with these emotions in a helpful way: e.g., understanding why I snapped at the driver who cut me off, and responding in an appropriate way to get me what I need. It would certainly not do me any good to get out of my car while parked in standstill on the highway to give the driver who nearly sideswiped me to cut me off in my lane a piece of my mind – I may even come into contact with repercussions that I may not be ready to face (e.g., get arrested, or worse, engage an individual who is more agitated than I am and willing to use physical assault). Being aware of your emotions and to react accordingly is very critical to engaging with our world the way we want to and the way that benefits us. Similarly, some of us who are high in EQ might know intuitively that we can use our emotions during certain situations to benefit us. For example, we are able to problem solve and focus a lot easier during neutral or slightly negative moods than when we are elevated in good spirits. Additionally, we are more inclined to engage others when we are happy. Emotional intelligence and current research in this area is too vast for a short paragraph here so I will add a future post (how about that for a teaser?).
Let’s move on to endurance. Resilience is another word – but whatever we set our mind to, moving forward when things get tough is critical for our meeting success. Faced with rejection number 287? Going to sleep again with endless thoughts of doubt and insecurities in your ability to achieve? Resilient individuals weather the storm, they don’t just bounce back. They anticipate difficulties and hardship and they keep going anyway knowing that their efforts will be met with satisfaction. They value growth, grit, gratitude.
When you have someone who is 1) resilient and 2) able to recognize emotions, regulate and harness them, they’re more likely to succeed in whatever goal they set or meet with their definition of success. These two areas of functioning are not set in stone. It’s not something you’re either born with or not. Instead, like muscles, we can train ourselves to become more emotionally intelligent and resilient. It takes time and hard work, but let’s get our feet wet:
- Learn the emotional vocab. There are more than approximately 4,000 words in the English language that describe feelings or emotions. Emotional awareness in EQ requires us to be able to identify and express emotions. As there are many shades of one color, there are also many variations to how we feel. For example, feeling frustrated is certainly not the same thing as being furious. Learning to express our emotions can also help us to cope with difficult situations.
- Be particular in language. Putting your experience(s) into language is helpful. It can also be unhelpful – when describing a past negative situation as ongoing (vs. finished), it puts us in a negative mood. Similarly, past, happy events that are described as ongoing can uplift our mood (vs. happy events that ended). The experiences you choose to put into words, as well as how you choose to capture your experiences matter.
- Practice coping. Learning to cope with negative emotions can help you become better at curtailing your impulse to yell or throw something at your boss. Recognizing when you have a negative emotion and being able to separate yourself from that emotion can be a tremendous skill to learn and practice.
- Use emotions to your advantage. Learn to use different types of emotions to your advantage. For example, when you want to ask your partner or friend to join you in meeting new people, ask them when they’re happy and in an expansive mood (vs. neutral or negative mood). When you know you have a deadline and have to finish typing up a report that requires focus, aim to complete the task when you’re not extremely happy or excited about something. Do your editing when in a neutral/slightly negative mood, while doing your brainstorming during positive moods.
- Adopt a growth mindset. Individuals who believe in growth are also more likely to persevere through a difficult task. In contrast, individuals who have a fixed mindset give up much more easily. Next time you find yourself wanting to give up on a task or goal, ask yourself what type of beliefs are holding you up. More on growth mindset later.
All of these steps are critical in getting closer to accomplishing your next big thing. Are you serious about putting your life back on the trajectory that you know it belongs on? Commit to learning these skills, or find a trained professional to help you get unstuck to get what you need.