Are emotions the big key to your next chapter?
In 1996, Daniel Goleman popularized the notion of emotional intelligence, a concept created by researchers Peter Salavoy and John Mayer. They defined emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize, understand and manage one’s emotions as well as recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.
Goleman’s book, aptly titled Emotional Intelligence, became an instant best seller (and continues to sell briskly today) and arguably spawned its own genre in the growing, billion dollar self-help industry.
The notion became wildly popular in business and continues to generate articles, courses, EI tests, training programs. Emotional Intelligence is made up of five key components:
Self-awareness * Self-regulation * Motivation * Empathy * Social skills
If Goleman hit the jackpot by organizing and quantifying the concept, the concepts underpinning EI had long been advocated in philosophical circles and literary stories.
Questions I invite you to consider as you read & explore:
- On a scale of 1 (not good) to 10 (great) – how do you rate yourself on managing your emotions?
- Now, go ask 3 good friends the same question. Average their answers and go with that number.
- Which emotions are you in touch with most frequently? Are these the emotions you want to feel?
- What tools do you have at your fingertips that you could use to help manage your emotions?
- What tools are you willing to try today?
EGO IS THE ENEMY BY RYAN HOLIDAY
Ryan Holiday’s book Ego is the Enemy may not seem like a logical choice to put in category about managing your emotions. But I’d argue this eminently readable book is all about managing your emotions.
Holiday has divided his book into three chapters representing the three possible stages of any project: Aspire, Success, Failure. He argues that as we move through life we’re always looping somewhere between these three. Moreover, as we loop through these three stages we’re always in danger of having our egos derail us.
The book is littered with great stories from history and even better quotes like the following:
Pride blunts the very instrument we need to own in order to succeed: our mind. Our ability to learn, to adapt, to be flexible, to build relationships, all of this is dulled by pride.
It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning It is a position that one has to assume for life. Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies. At every step and every juncture in life, there is the opportunity to learn — and even if the lesson is purely remedial, we must not let ego block us from hearing it again.
More than purpose we also need realism. Where do we start? What do we do first? What do we do right now? How are we sure that what we’re doing is moving us forward? What are we benchmarking ourselves against?
Ryan Holiday is easy to listen to. He’s an engaging speaker and interviewee. Have a listen:
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO BY ALEXANDRE DUMAS
Alexandre Dumas wrote his swashbuckling classic in 1844 more than a century before emotional intelligence became the byword for leaders and managers in business.
In The Count of Monte Cristo, the dashing young, Edmond Dantes is the quintessential hero with emotional intelligence. It is the perfect tale of a hero able to recognize and manage his own emotions while understanding and manipulating the emotions of others — with great success!
It’s a long complicated story but the abridged version is also a page turner. Most of us know the basic story outline: man set up for a crime by a friend so said friend can get the man’s girl; man spends years in jail till he escapes and tracks down a fabulous treasure of gold enabling him to return ‘home’ disguised as an immensely wealthy count and exact revenge against his enemies.
So what can Edmond Dantes teach you about managing your emotions? Everything. He begins the tale naive but learns the importance of managing his emotions. He patiently stays focused on his purpose — for years under deplorable conditions. These abilities — managing his emotions and staying focused — carry him through his very complicated revenge plan.
An important note about the text: The unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo is very, very long. The Bantam Classics version of the novel linked in this post and here is much shorter. It’s translated and abridged by Lowell Blair.
JANE EYRE BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE
For many of us from a particular generation, Jane Eyre is etched in our minds. I loved the book and the many movie versions — especially the one with Charlotte Gainsbourg as the heroine. I still love the story — but now my reasons have changed.
Several months ago I re-read the novel (do, please go re-read especially if you’re a successful business woman). Jane Eyre is a wonderful pain in the ass. I know this because she’s been more than one of my office mates over the years.
She’s the woman at the office who is always moaning about how tough her life is, how unfair *her* boss is, how under appreciated she is for her superhuman effort to get things done. She’s the only one with too few hours and too much to do. How she feels is how everyone around her must feel all day long.
Here is Jane Eyre remembering her childhood. Listen and see if you hear it echoed from some around you.
Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it useless to try to win anyone’s favor? Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault. John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he twisted the necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, stripped the hothouse wines of their fruit, and broke the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory; he called his mother ‘old girl,’ too; sometimes reviled her for her dark skin, similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes, and infrequently tore and spoiled her silk attire, and he was still ‘her own darling.’ I dared commit no fault; I strove to fulfill every duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night. — Jane Eyre
It is a long and emotional litany of grievances against others; an emotional focus that will never move Jane forward.
Jane Eyre is able to move her life forward after she learns to manage her emotions. When she learns to slow down and not react impulsively from feeling that she is able to make better decisions — only then will her fairy tale ending (of sorts) come true.
EMOTIONAL AGILITY BY SUSAN DAVID, PhD
Personally, I found this book extremely useful. For someone who has many emotional conversations in her head about a myriad of issues, events and people, it was most useful in showing me how to (1) acknowledge the feelings, (2) frame the feelings through a different lens which doesn’t vilify me for the feelings and (3) move on to a more productive thought pattern that will move me forward. Highly recommend this book.
Doing this work isn’t always easy — so its useful to have someone around you who is familiar with the method so you can discuss your specific situations. But I can tell you — Susan David’s methods have made a huge difference in my life.
Additional Thought-Provoking Resources:
There is a tremendous amount of information available on managing your emotions. Much of the work being done in the field of coaching high performance athletes and executives now incorporates some form of meditation and mindfulness training to help manage emotions.
Other Books To Consider:
One can’t talk about managing one’s emotions without mentioning the work and books of Brene Brown. She’s been a positive earthquake in many lives. Her personal courage to speak with an authentic voice consistently inspires. Her books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong and her most recent Braving the Wilderness have all been bestsellers. Her research on vulnerability, shame, empathy, trust and resilience have made her a popular speaker with one of the most popular Ted Talks and a frequent guest of Oprah. Here she is on Chase Jarvis Live.