When people ask me what Emotional Intelligence is, I usually say that it is about being smart. An emotionally intelligent person is smart with their emotions. Being smart does not only mean we understand our emotions and those of others, but also that we know how to apply this understanding to manage ourselves and our relationships. Doing so can help us be successful in life and achieve our goals.
We used to assess our capacity to be successful with IQ, our intelligence quotient. But it has been found that there is not much correlation between IQ and being successful. IQ is a threshold competency. You need a basic level of it, but by itself it is not enough. What distinguishes outstanding leaders and top managers is EI.
The good news about EI is that, unlike IQ which is a fairly fixed trait, it can be developed. EI is not a number. It is a profile of abilities which are related to a set of competencies and skills that can be trained. This is a crucial point which I cannot emphasize enough: developing EI is possible for anyone! We all can become emotionally more competent and this will help us be more successful in life.
I recommend to anyone who wants to be more successful, and is motivated in developing the abilities that it takes to do so, to consider developing their Emotional Intelligence. But there is much more EI can do for us than being successful. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being successful. We all want to be successful. Nobody wants to fail.
Yet there is another aspect to our life which is even more important than success: meaning and fulfillment. What would be the point of accomplishing our goals, if it does not bring us satisfaction and happiness?
What a fulfilled and meaningful life means is very individual. It is different for everyone. For some fulfillment simply comes from doing things that we are good at. When we do things we enjoy and there is a nice balance where our tasks are not too challenging nor too boring, we get the feeling of being “in the flow.” We enjoy what we are doing. When we use our talents this way we will naturally be successful. And this will bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
But then there is a deeper level. For many people there comes a point, when they stop and ask themselves questions like: “What am I really doing in my life? Why am I here?” As human beings most of us naturally have a wish for some deeper meaning and fulfillment.
The self-awareness and understanding we are developing in EI allow us to also explore meaning and fulfillment in a deeper way. It helps us discover our vision, our mission, and our values. It helps us become clear about what we want to accomplish in life. What legacy we want to leave. And what kind of person we want to be.
EI development is not just a training for improving professional skills. It is actually a personal development program with a wholistic perspective. Developing EI can help us discover the life we really want and to then create it. We can unlock our potential to live our life to its fullest.