By Dr. Jean Greaves
Juggling the competing priorities of your work and personal lives leaves little time to focus on bettering yourself. Where should you focus your efforts to make the most progress in the limited time you do have? Beyond the pace at which you learn (your IQ), there are two fundamental contributors to your ability to reach your potential. The first contributor involves knowing who you are (your personality); this includes your strengths. The second contributor is your skill—personally and socially—in navigating life’s complexities. This skill is emotional intelligence, or EQ, and it helps you make the most of who you are and what you’ve learned.
Strengths and Emotional Intelligence
The simple premise of the strengths movement came forth from positive psychology. Rather than focusing on your weaknesses, the goal of the movement is to find out what your natural strengths are (and have been from an early age) and develop these further. The central principle is that you will get farther faster if you strengthen what you are already naturally good at. Those things you are terrible at doing (and always have been) will never be the areas where you shine. Instead of wasting your time and energy chasing mediocrity, you spend it turning your strongest gifts into greatness.
The simple premise of emotional intelligence came forth from breakthroughs in brain science—specifically, the discovery that the brain is hard-wired to respond emotionally to events before it is able to process things rationally. The goal is to increase your awareness of your emotions so that you can understand them and manage them to your benefit. When you develop self-awareness, you can quit wasting your time attempting to push your emotions aside and allowing them to control you. Instead, you are able to understand them and manage them to your benefit and the benefit of the people around you. You get farther faster when you become adept at reading emotions and handling them constructively. The best thing about emotional intelligence is that it’s something you can change. The areas of the brain where emotional intelligence operates are highly elastic—as you develop new behaviors your brain physically changes to make these behaviors into habits that become easier for you to use again in the future.
How Emotional Intelligence Influences Your Strengths
Every person, no matter their profession or stage in life, should be developing their strengths and their emotional intelligence together in order to make the most out of their opportunities in life. For example, you may discover that your strengths include being competitive, strategic, and forward-looking; but if you have no self-awareness and no ability to self-manage, you will have a difficult time mobilizing these strengths into personal or professional success.
Picture a true visionary with the motivation to win and the ability to see how to get from here to there. If she’s compelled to try to win every conversation with anyone she encounters, she won’t recognize when it just may be the worst moment to push too hard and lose the support from key allies she needs to get her vision off the ground. If she lacks the self-awareness needed to understand that she’s competing in her conversations, she won’t even realize how she’s allowing this strength to work against her. The urge to beat others will impede her ability to reach strategic goals and it will slowly erode the quality of relationships that she’ll hope to rely upon in the future. If she develops her emotional intelligence skills, a simple change in direction will ensure every interaction with her coworkers boosts her vision and penchant for winning by igniting their support and commitment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jean Greaves, Ph.D.
Dr. Jean Greaves is the co-author of the bestselling Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder and CEO of TalentSmartEQ, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and executive coaching. Her bestselling emotional intelligence books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Greaves leverages her twenty-five year track record of consulting, speaking and applied research. She has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.