It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters
Ancient wisdom taught us that it is not the circumstances or events in our life that matter, but the meaning we give to them and how we decide to respond to them. Epictetus was a Greek philosopher who lived over 2000 years ago. Back then, he taught that it is important to identify what are the things we can control and those what we can’t. We don’t control many things, such as genetics, the economy, politics, other people, death… But we control the CHOICES we make and this is the only thing that matters. Many people keep chasing things that are out of their control thinking that they will make them happy. But the reality is that we suffer when we try to control things that are outside of our control.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget this as we succumb to the whirlwind of our mind’s activity, automatically generating thousands of thoughts a second. This frenetic pace leads us to interpret our circumstances in variously biased ways, projecting our fears or wishes and mistaking them for reality.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a modern and scientific framework that reminds us of these fundamental themes and wisdom. EI is defined a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. EI can also be used as a practical tool that can help us increase our well-being by getting more deliberate about our behavior and the choices we make.
The EQ-i model of EI is supported by research that started 30+ years ago asking “Why do some people have better psychological well-being than others?” and “What are the competencies that lead to performance and success?”. Since then many studies investigated the links between EI and well-being and happiness, and concluded that EI is a beneficial predictor of emotional and psychological health and well-being.
What is the connection between EI and Well-Being?
As a part of the EQ-i 2.0. model for EI, we have Well-Being as a separate indicator of emotional health and well-being. It contributes to, and is a product of, emotional intelligence. If you take the EQ-i 2.0. assessment, you’ll get a score on each EI competency and a score on your level of Well-Being. Although it is impacted by all the competencies of EI, four of them are more important than the others. Improving the level of any of these four competencies results in an improved level of Well-Being. These four competencies are:
- Interpersonal Relationships
Self-Regard and Self Actualization are a part of the Self-Perception composite. They are about our internal world. These are some of the least visible but most foundational EI competencies and determine our mindset, attitudes and behavior. They determine the choices we make often automatically, in how we respond to situations. Self-Regard is about accepting oneself with our strengths and our weaknesses. Not being overly self-critical nor having an over-inflated ego. A healthy level of self-regard promotes feelings of security and self-adequacy; we understand what we’re good at and what are the shortcomings we need to manage or complement. Self-Actualization is the drive to improve oneself and engage in the pursuit of personally relevant and meaningful objectives. It is associated with persistently trying to do one’s best and improve oneself in general. It is the motivation that gets us out of bed in the morning.
Optimism is a part of our Stress Management competencies. It is about maintaining a positive attitude in life and focusing on the positive aspect of situations rather than the on negative, overcoming the brain’s negativity bias. It involves remaining hopeful and resilient, despite occasional setbacks and helps develop effective stress coping strategies. We know from Neuroscience that the brain has a mechanism that promotes behavior that it believes is the most likely to succeed. This explains why our beliefs have a powerful impact on the outcome of situations. As Henry Ford put it “ if you believe you can you’re right and if you believe you can’t you’re right too”.
Interpersonal Relationships are fundamental to our lives. Strong relationships are about both “giving” and “taking” and involve trust and compassion. They are about social interactions that are potentially meaningful, rewarding, and enjoyable, and involve being at ease and comfortable in social situations. Our skills and ability to develop deep and mutually satisfying relationships impact us profoundly and determine many key outcomes in our lives, both personally and professionally. Donald Clifton, creator of the StrengthFinder assessment said “relationships help us to define who we are and who we can become. Most of us can trace our successes to pivotal relationships”.
Your CHOICE… All these EI competencies can be developed and the best strategy is to take frequent but small steps. Identifying small steps that can be added to your daily routines. After practicing for a while on small things you’ll be able to tackle something bigger. So next time you get annoyed at something, take a deep breath and pause and think: it is not that thing that is the problem, it is your response to it. Ask yourself “what is a more beneficial response that I could have”? You have a window of opportunity, which is between what happens and your response. Take advantage of it, this is one of the big lessons of Emotional Intelligence. Your choice will profoundly impact your well-being.