The author of the book “The Subtle Art of Don’t Care,” explains what self-awareness is and how to learn to control your feelings.
Being an astronaut is probably the hardest job in the world. NASA selects only the best out of a huge number of candidates. To go into space, you must have immense qualifications and deep knowledge of science and technology. Also, to be an experienced pilot who has flown at least a thousand hours and be in impeccable physical shape. And most importantly, you must be smart.
Lisa Novak met all these requirements. She holds a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and studied astrophysics at the United States Naval Academy. For more than five years, the woman performed air missions in the Pacific Ocean for the US Navy. And in 1996, she became one of the lucky few who was chosen to join the astronaut corps.
Obviously, Lisa Novak was an outstanding and also brilliant woman. But when in 2007, she found out that her boyfriend (Bill Oefelein, also an astronaut, by the way) had an affair with another. Lisa got into the car and drove from her home in Houston to Orlando, 1,500 kilometers away, to deal with her rival.
Lisa covered this path in 15 hours, and in order not to waste time on unnecessary stops, she put on a diaper. With her, Novak brought pepper spray, belts, and garbage bags. She was going to kidnap the hated home woman, but during the attack on the woman, Lisa was arrested by the police.
What is emotional intelligence?
Psychologists developed the concept of emotional intelligence back in the 1980s, trying to explain why smart people (like Lisa Novak) sometimes do very, very stupid things. General intelligence (IQ) is believed to affect the ability to process information and make informed decisions. In contrast, emotional intelligence (EQ) is responsible for recognizing and managing emotions, both our own and others.
Some people can have incredibly high IQs but low EQs.
An example is a talented scientist who can create a new Theory of Everything but cannot choose socks to match clothes or wash in time. But the opposite situation also happens in the presence of a high EQ with a low level of general intelligence. For example, a street vendor who can’t write without mistakes can easily convince you that you have to buy this completely unnecessary T-shirt.
Some psychologists, like Daniel Goleman, argue that EQ is even more important than general intelligence. And fortunately, it can be pumped – just like increasing IQ.
How to develop emotional intelligence
You won’t be able to get better unless you have a clear understanding of your emotions. If you lack self-awareness, trying to control them is like sailing a boat without sails. To raise your awareness, you need to focus on the following things.
Become aware of what you are doing. You can say: “What nonsense, I already know what I am doing at this or that moment.” But in fact, more often than not, we do not think at all about what our time is spent on. It’s as if we’re on autopilot checking email, texting in messengers, scrolling Instagram, watching YouTube, rechecking email, and so on in a circle. And we are also distracted by video games, TV with its stupid series, arguing with strangers on the Internet.
Removing distractions from your life is the first step to increasing your self-awareness.
First, try turning off your smartphone and chatting with others in the real world. Set aside a special time every day to get rid of all that is unnecessary. Try skipping music and podcasts in the morning – reflect on your life and how you feel. Take 10 minutes and meditate. Remove social media from your phone for a week. And you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you change.
Become aware of how you are feeling. All distractions help you avoid a lot of unpleasant emotions. So when you give up on them and start accepting your emotions for what they are, your real feelings can scare you at first. You may suddenly realize that you are actually quite depressed or, for example, acting too viciously. Behind the mask of normality: You will understand that gadget addiction is just a way to distract from anxious feelings.
At this stage, it is important not to judge yourself for the emotions that arise. You will constantly feel the urge to say, “What the hell is happening to me!” But this will only make the situation worse. Whatever emotions you have, they have reasons, even if you don’t remember how it all started. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
Realize your weaknesses. Once you accept all the unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions, you are experiencing, you begin to understand your weaknesses.
For example, I am very offended when I am interrupted in a conversation. I take it as a personal insult and become very rude. This is my weakness. And only after realizing it, I will be able to react to it correctly
However, just being aware is not enough – you also need to manage your emotions.
Channel emotions in the right direction
People who believe that emotions are central to life often look for ways to control them. But you know what? Emotions cannot be controlled. You can only react to them.
There are no “good” or “bad” emotions. There are only “good” and “bad” reactions to them. For example, anger can be a destructive emotion if you use it to hurt yourself or others. But it can and be beneficial if you use it to correct injustice or protect yourself or others.
Joy was a wonderful emotion when something good happened to you, and you share it with your loved ones. But it can also be destructive if it results from harming someone.
Learn to recognize how you feel, decide if that emotion is appropriate for the situation, and act accordingly. This is what psychologists call “purposeful behavior.”
Learn to motivate yourself
Most people try to find inspiration or motivation to take some important action that will change their lives. They believe that they will be enlightened and take to work, training, or creativity as soon as they choose the right method. However, next week the fuse ends, and everything returns to its starting point.
Therefore, you should use another method. When you need to motivate yourself, start doing something.
Action is not so much a consequence of motivation as a cause.
Not strong enough to get to work? Sketch out a to-do list, make a plan, complete the smallest point – before you can look back, you have done half of what you planned. No incentive to go to the gym? Buy a trial subscription for a month to “just see” – and you yourself will not notice how you will be drawn in.
There is no need to wait until strong motivation arises. Do something first, and the desire to continue will appear later. Watch how you feel before, during, and after the auction, and use those emotions.
Keep in mind that “good” feelings will not always motivate you. You may become frustrated, annoyed, or anxious if you don’t get things right. Turn those emotions into stimuli and keep going. In the end, the sweetest victory is the one you achieved against all odds.
Acknowledge the emotions of others
The previous steps were solely about your own emotions. But the main goal of developing emotional intelligence is that it should help build healthy relationships with others.
Any healthy relationship – romantic, family, friendship – begins with acknowledging and respecting each other’s emotional needs. This can be achieved only by listening to others and empathizing with them.
Empathizing with someone doesn’t necessarily mean fully understanding them. Learn to accept and appreciate loved ones for who they are, even if you don’t understand them.
Fill your emotions with the right values.
When Daniel Coleman’s book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matters More Than IQ was published in the late 90s, EQ’s concept became incredibly popular. Leaders and managers read smartbooks and attended training on its development to learn how to motivate employees.
Psychologists have tried to instill a high EQ in their patients to help them cope with problems. Parents were encouraged to develop emotional intelligence in their offspring from childhood to prepare them for adulthood.
However, many authors of books on EQ are missing one important detail: emotional intelligence is meaningless without focusing on the right values.
A tycoon may have high emotional intelligence – this is necessary to run a corporation and employees. But if, at the same time, the businessman exploits poor people or destroys the ecology of the planet, how can his EQ be called a virtue?
Parents can develop emotional intelligence in their children. But if not instilled in them with honesty and respect, they can turn into ruthless and deceitful little assholes – but emotionally intellectual!
Scammers have a well-developed EQ, and they understand well the behavior of others. But in the end, they use their abilities to manipulate people and enrich themselves at someone else’s expense.
Hitler had a very high EQ, was an excellent speaker and manager. And look what kind of firewood he messed up because monstrous false values guided him.
Therefore, to live a fulfilling life, you must first understand what is really important to you. Choose the right guidelines – honesty, compassion, respect for yourself and others – and channel your emotional energy towards these values. Ultimately, identifying the right personal priorities is the most important trait of emotionally intelligent people.
Adapted and translated by The Cop Cart Staff
Sources: Life hacker