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.
The hardest job in the world is probably being an astronaut. 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 is an aeronautical engineering master’s degree holder and studied astrophysics at the United States Naval Academy. For more than five years, the woman performed air missions for the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean. 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 in 2007, she learned 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, however, Lisa was detained by the police during the assault on the woman.
What is emotional intelligence?
Psychologists developed the concept of emotional intelligence back in the 1980s, attempting to clarify why intelligent individuals (like Lisa Novak) occasionally 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 low level of general intelligence and good EQ. For example, a street vendor who is incapable of writing without making 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, just like raising IQ, it can be pushed.
How to develop emotional intelligence
Without a thorough grasp of your emotions, you can never get better. Controlling them without self-awareness is like trying to sail a boat without sails. To raise your awareness, you need to focus on the following things.
Become aware of what you are doing. You could respond: “What nonsense, I’m already aware of 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. Video games, TV with its stupid series, and online arguments with strangers are further sources of distraction for us.
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 time each 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. Go a week without using social media on your phone. 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.
It’s crucial at this point to refrain from criticizing your feelings. You will constantly feel the urge to say, “What the hell is happening to me!” But this will only make the situation worse. Even though you can’t recall the exact beginnings of your feelings, they all have a cause. 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 is no such thing as “good” or “bad” feelings. They only elicit “good” and “bad” responses. 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 the people you care about. But it can also be destructive if it results from harming someone.
Learn to recognize how you feel, identify whether that feeling is suitable for the circumstance, and take appropriate action. Psychologists refer to this as “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. Next week, though, the fuse blows, and everything goes back to the way it was.
Therefore, you should use another method. When you need to motivate yourself, start doing something.
Action is more of a cause than a direct result of motivation.
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? Purchase a trial subscription for a month in order to “just see” – and you yourself will be lured in without even realizing it.
There is no reason to hold off until there is a lot of motivation. 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 attempted to cultivate a strong 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 crucial point: emotional intelligence is useless if it doesn’t center on the correct 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 cruel and cunning 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 excelled as a speaker and manager and had an extremely high EQ. 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