I’ve got a pretty eclectic group of friends and family members. There’s a huge range of interests, talents, abilities, and attitudes between them and it makes for some pretty interesting conversations and experiences.
I was recently sitting down by myself, enjoying a nice cup of tea in the backyard thinking about all of the differences between them, my family, and myself. I got to thinking about intelligence and whom I considered “smart.”
Then I realized that made me sound like a complete a**. They’re all intelligent in their own way.
As I dug a little deeper and thought about specific individuals I realized how different each of them, including myself were in terms of our intelligence.
Some of us are extremely book smart, others have a little more street smarts, I would consider some emotionally intelligent, a few wise, and yet others educated in their own unique sort of way. Everyone brought something original to the table when it came to – lets just call it “intelligence.”
I thought more and more about it and realized that a few of them that just dominated in school, have a high IQ, and seem to have everything going for them are struggling with career, purpose, finding success, and within personal relationships.
While others that barely made it through second grade (I’m exaggerating here, they all passed their finger painting exams) but have a high level of what I would call emotional intelligence or “people skills” are just crushing it – happy, successful, and energetic.
So what’s up with this? Those with the high IQ’s and all the schooling and formal education are supposed to be dominating it.
The kush jobs, the clear life path, the money, the happiness, the health, all that good stuff.
Why is emotional intelligence so important but often overlooked and even neglected in traditional forms of education?
What is emotional intelligence?
Well the all mighty powerful wiki would tell you that emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. Yeah, this pretty much sums it up but it’s lacking some serious clarity. I’ve been spending a ton of my free time lately reading up on the concept and have come across a few pretty awesome researchers and books. One in particular, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman sums it up a little more in-depth.
The ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions within yourself and within others. A few key characteristics were even identified:
- Intrinsic motivation
Goleman goes a little further and breaks these characteristics into five important skills to master that lead to performance.
- Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
- Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
- Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement.
I would argue, and feel free to disagree with me, but the ability to control your impulses, delay gratification, regulate your mood, communicate with others, and the ability to find motivation within yourself have much more to do with your overall success and happiness in life than your results from a scantron test.
Maybe there should be more time spent helping students, you, me, and others discover and grow strengths, gifts, and unique talents – instead of trying to rank individuals on their short-term memory, GPA, and SAT scores.
“…Most people are aware of the floundering state of education in this country on some level. We tell our children that nothing is more important than getting a “good”education, and every year, due to government budget shortfalls, teachers are laid off,classes are condensed, schools are closed, and many educational programs – especially those which help the underprivileged – are cut.
The painful reality is we don’t really value education. We value it as a business, an industry, political ammunition, and as a means to get a “good” job, but not for what it was intended: to make us better people and citizens…” -Gian Fiero
Why is emotional intelligence important?
Your emotional intelligence is important because there are over 7 billion people on this earth (way more now as you read this). To think that not only your achievements in life but others is simply determined by the self is crazy talk. Whether you want to believe it or not your decisions and actions not only affect you dramatically but also have a profound trickle down affect on the world and those in it as a whole.
In his book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman says,
“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of the mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”
It’s been stated and some studies show that IQ contributes only about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success – Overall, the lasting impact that you’ll leave on this world is determined by non-IQ factors that include social class, luck, and the social and emotional skills that you have and develop like those mentioned above.
You can probably take a look at your own life right now and see how emotional intelligence comes into play.
There’s a good chance that you or most of the people you know are in a certain career field because of the people they know and their ability to connect and relate with others. Some of the finest leaders to walk this Earth were not respected simply for their high IQ’s or where they went to school but more so for their ability to distinguish themselves from others when it comes to the five characteristics that define great influencers.
- Clearly understanding personal strengths and weaknesses as well as those of others.
- Anticipating emotions of both the self and others
- The ability to clearly express opinions, thoughts, and to respect the opinions and thoughts of others
- Sympathy and the ability to relate to others, to put themselves in others shoes
- The willingness to resolve conflict and anticipate it in certain circumstances
You have two minds, the emotional mind and the rational mind.
Your emotional mind helps you to deceiver between whether or not something is going to help you or harm you. The emotional mind works quickly and relies on instinct very often. However, it is also very hard to control, a little unpredictable at times, and often confusing. It’s what causes you to partake in emotional eating, check your phone every couple of minutes waiting in hopes “that person” texts you, or purchase items impulsively – The rational mind on the other hand moves at a much slower pace and is much easier to control.
Master of your own domain… or emotional intelligence
I hope you used to watch Seinfeld, otherwise that header makes no sense. So lets stop beating around the bush, how can you start to master your emotional intelligence and start living authentically right now.
1. Too many of us allow ourselves to be told what to do: Start figuring out what it is you want to do. Experiment, educate, and explore constantly. The more experiences the better, they’ll only help you to clarify who you are as a person, what you like, and what you are capable of. I recently took the Strength Finders test and have also taken a similar test on the authentic happiness site. I like to do this every so often as a reminder of how I should be living. The more time I spend acting and doing things that are aligned with what is most important to me, what I enjoy, and how I can contribute to this world the better.
2. Stop identifying with feelings, people, objects, etc…: You are your own unique being, the car you drive, the emotions you feel, the people you spend time with are all compliments to you, they do not define who you are. That is found in the way you conduct yourself on a daily basis, the actions you take and the decisions you make.
3. Acceptance is the way to be: You don’t have to love, like, hate, or be indifferent about anything but you do have to accept it. A gentleman I consider a mentor, Brain Johnson, has said that “pain experienced is not the problem, it’s the reaction that is.” Accept all the good and bad that comes and decide to react positively to it no matter what. You have a choice in the matter, take advantage of it.
4. Emotions in the right doses: Emotions are neither good nor bad, and that goes for the tough ones too like jealousy. Emotions in the right doses are good for you. What ever you’re feeling is a good thing, the highs never to high, the lows never to low, and they are all just an experience to learn from.
5. Control impulses: This goes for everything from relationships to your health. Controlling impulses takes practice but is well worth the effort and the research goes to support this. One way to practice this is through the habit building process we have talked about on the site before.
6. Stop worrying: The more you worry the less energy you’ll have to put into problem solving. Remember that you can not control every situation, person, or experience you are in but you can always control your reaction to it. When something happens always be thinking what do I do now? What can I do this very instant, not in 10 minutes, not tomorrow, not a week from now but at this very moment.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that the clear-cut path to a successful life is through formal education, test scores, and book smarts. I have no doubt that those things play an important role but I truly believe a better path is to get clear on the things most important to you and having the ability to express, share, and help others to find those things as well.
The ability to read body language and other non-verbal cues and anticipating and interpreting others emotions as well as your own in the most difficult circumstances might just have more to do with your success than any test you’ve been administered. If schools are not teaching these things it’s on us to start educating ourselves in how to not only connect and understand ourselves better but others and the world we live in.
How has your traditional form of education helped your advancements in life and how has your emotional education helped you?