Do you ever wonder what sets the successful person apart from the average? There are many studies in psychology that discuss the influence of certain personality traits and level of IQ as it pertains to success in life. But there is something else that determines happiness and success. Simply put, it’s your own personal growth and development, pointing to the level of your emotional intelligence.
What is Emotional Intelligence?
Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions well. People that are always “flying off the handle” would be considered to have a lower level of emotional intelligence. They are obviously not very good at handling their emotions. These people are so used to acting out of their emotions that they never take the time to slow down and find out what triggered the behavior in the first place.
How Do You Increase Your Emotional Intelligence?
Increasing emotional intelligence starts with awareness. The way to manage your emotions is to start becoming aware of your triggers or reactions to certain stimuli, and begin to look for emotional patterns that will eventually lead to thinking patterns. We feel or have emotions because there is an underlying thought or belief that triggered that emotion. Furthermore, we are usually never upset for the reason that we think.
Self-examination is the key to developing a higher level of emotional intelligence. Most of the time the emotions that give us the most trouble involve anger, fear and sadness. Unfortunately, most of us find it easier to look outward and blame others for the behavior instead of slowing down and looking within for the true cause of the emotion and behavior.
Therefore, taking responsibility for our emotions is the way to bring about positive change in ourselves and in our relationships.
How Does Growth Begin?
If you are willing to slow down and work on what you can control, which is your own emotions and behavior, then you will have the opportunity to discover what underlying patterns of thinking create most of the havoc in your life.
Thoughts and core beliefs create emotion and emotion in turn create behavior, whether the behavior is non observable (passive) or observable (words and actions).
BELIEF/THOUGHT ====> EMOTION ====> BEHAVIOR
Let me give you an example of how this works. If you make plans for dinner with your significant other and they show up 20 minutes late to the restaurant with no text or call, most likely you will be somewhat upset for the lack of consideration. Well, let’s first be clear, I am not condoning inconsiderate behavior, I am only trying to provide you a new way of looking at emotions. Did you ever slow down to think about what preceded the emotion of anger in that situation? Maybe you thought to yourself “he/she is being completely selfish” instead of realizing what you might be saying is “he/she hurts my feelings by triggering a thought that my time is not important and therefore I am not important.”
Root Causes of Thoughts, Beliefs and Mindsets
Now we are getting down to the root of the emotion. Most often this type of self-belief started in our childhood and we just never realized how it impacted our lives. It always comes back to something within ourselves and how we are interpreting the situation.
Most conflict between people come about because of their own perception based on experience. This leads to misunderstandings between two parties that see things through their own lenses. The only way to combat this is to do two things. First, be willing to take ownership of your emotions in the situation and second, be willing to communicate your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we would rather keep those insecurities to ourselves because it is not always easy to be vulnerable. The truth is that everybody has these self-beliefs and can do something about them. First you must increase your ability to recognize unwanted thoughts that lead to undesired emotions and behaviors, thereby increasing your level of emotional intelligence.
My Personal Experience with Emotional Intelligence
As a former public-school teacher, I often taught this approach in my psychology classes and applied it when it came to handling discipline issues with students. Most importantly I used this approach with myself when I was triggered emotionally. The outcome was always positive, resulting in better relationships and an overall better learning environment.
By using this approach in education for the past several years, I observed one very interesting thing. Generally speaking, high school students were much more willing to look at themselves and take ownership for their thoughts, emotions and actions than were the adults. On the other hand, by no means is this a teacher issue, I believe it is a generational issue. Younger people tend to be more open minded than the older generation. It makes perfect sense because the older we get, the more we tend to be stuck in certain ways of thinking.
Whether you are a student, an educator or a stay at home mom, it makes no difference, you can always increase your level of emotional intelligence. The question is, do you see the value in it or are you perfectly satisfied with your current relationships? More importantly, are you satisfied with the relationship that you have with yourself?