Is Emotional Intelligence the Secret to Happiness and Success?


July 8, 2021

“In a high-IQ job pool, soft skills like discipline, drive and empathy mark those who emerge as outstanding.” 

— DANIEL GOLEMAN, Author, Emotional Intelligence, Why it Can Matter More than IQ

We live in a world that worships beauty, celebrity, athletic prowess, and graduate degrees in hard skills – such as math, medicine, computer programming, science and writing. Yet, these qualities and abilities aren’t often as changeable as we’d like them to be, as they are often simply the gifts we’ve been bestowed with at birth. We can improve in these areas, but it’s rare to reach elite status, if we aren’t innately born with it. It’s also not uncommon to know people who have great skill, intelligence, talent or beauty, only to find that they aren’t happy, or are struggling to find their place in the world.

Conversely, emotional intelligence can have a substantial impact on wholeness and success, regardless of application, and it’s teachable and learnable, but it’s not always recognized for its sheer power to change lives, or to drive improvement in every area of those lives. It’s a game changer, to be perfectly honest. And in an age of hyper tech connectivity, some of these skills are being lost as we engage less and less often in face to face contact, where EI skills can both be most easily developed and used. Let’s take a look at what exactly emotional intelligence is, and how it can have a substantial impact on building a life of wholeness, for the individual, the people they love, their community, other cultures and on the planet, as a whole.

“Experience is not what happens to you—it’s how you interpret what happens to you.”  


What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is most often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can recognize their own emotions and those of others, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, and adjust emotions to adapt to environments. (Source: {Colman A (2008). A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199534067.})

Emotionally intelligent people are characterized by their ability to:

  1. Recognize that feelings are important indicators, but they aren’t always facts
  2. Control impulses and think before reacting, especially when under stress or when bandwidth is stretched
  3. Have empathy for others, even when others aren’t exhibiting emotional intelligence themselves
  4. Manage the journey to self-awareness
  5. Accept criticism, and responsibility for one’s actions
  6. Show resilience after a setback, or after making a mistake
  7. Cultivate optimism, rooted in fact
  8. Be emotionally agile
  9. Look for win/win solutions in personal and professional relationships, even when there’s discord
  10. Have healthy boundaries, and respect others’ boundaries, as well

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so” 


How Do I Know Where I Am On the EI Scale?

It’s hard to know exactly where our skills lie in comparison to the ideal, so a standardized test is the place most people often begin their path to greater emotional intelligence, such as the one from UC Berkeley, found here. Just remember, it’s only a starting point, and the same site has tools for helping us improve our EI quotient, to assist in becoming a more caring, calm, empathetic, and successful human being.

One of our other favourite tests for learning to build the skills for greater happiness and success, both at home and in one’s career, leans heavily on emotional intelligence, but it breaks out several of the areas that comprise emotional intelligence (namely – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), so that we can begin to lean into our areas of strength, whilst diving into any component that needs attention.  It’s the Big Five Personality Test, and it can be found here.

It’s important to note that tests can be flawed, and results can be skewed by a difficult life event or even a bad day. Their value comes in the private learnings about ourselves, and what we want our lives to mean, so that we are better able to build the equanimity, happiness and success we crave.

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