Most people believe that their level of intelligence or IQ is the greatest indicator of success in life. But is it scientifically true?
Let’s delve into the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman to find out what the truth really is.
1. Ability to handle impulses
Let’s first go into the labs of Walter Mischel, back in 1960s in California. Mitchell did a study on a group of four-year-old kids and he offered each kid one marshmallow. He tested the kids by saying, “If you don’t eat this marshmallow for 20 minutes, we will give you another marshmallow.” Of course, some kids ate the marshmallow and some kids waited for the second marshmallow.
The researchers made a follow-up on these kids 14 years later – what had happened to their lives and where were they today. They found out that the kids who couldn’t wait for their marshmallows obtained an average SAT score of 1052. Meanwhile, the kids who waited for their 2nd marshmallows got an average SAT score of 1262, almost 20% higher than the score of the kids who couldn’t wait for their marshmallows. Not only that – results reveal that these kids were more socially competent, could handle pressure better, and embrace challenges in life.
So, what was going on here? The results of the marshmallow test show that these kids had emotional intelligence. They have the ability to delay gratification and the ability to handle impulses. Both abilities, which are among the most fundamental psychological skills, are crucial to serving long-term goal and achieving success.
2. Ability to handle defeats and challenges
Now, let’s look at another component of emotional intelligence – which is the ability to handle defeats and charges. Now, in history, stories of all the great performances and achievements are laden with defeats, challenges and setback.
Elon Musk was on the brink of losing both SpaceX and Tesla and going bankrupt in 2008. He rose from that setback to become one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our times. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and then, he rose from that humiliating setback to become one of the greatest basketball players ever. So, these stories of rising from failure are what history is really made of. This is a very common theme amongst all great achievers.
Now, what’s going on here? Research says that our achievement in life is not just a function of our level of intelligence or talent; it is also a function of our capacity to withstand failures, setbacks and defeats. Basically, it’s our ability to handle defeats and challenges – our ability to handle those tough emotions.
Another concept related to emotional intelligence is the concept of self-efficacy. You have self-efficacy when you have the feeling that you can handle life’s challenges as they come.
3. Ability to handle pressure and anxiety
Let’s talk about another key component to emotional intelligence which is your ability to handle pressure and anxiety. If you follow sports, you’ve probably seen that some players perform really well under pressure while others just break down. They choke under pressure. What’s going on here? Well, it is all about their ability to handle those tough external situations and regulate their emotions in those moments so that they can perform at their very best.
Now, let me ask you: When do you perform at your very best – when there is very little pressure to do anything or when there is too much pressure. Well, for most people, there is a peak performance of somewhere in the middle – not too little pressure but not too much pressure. Some pressure is good but too much pressure can be bad. Optimal performance zone is where you want to be.
Now, the key is that the elite players or the clutch players can stand in the face of pressure and regulate their emotions so that they get themselves in the peak performance zone. Even when there is too much pressure, they can get themselves in the peak performance zone. They don’t let the situation dictate their emotional state; the external situation does not dictate how much pressure they feel. Hence, they can do their very best.
So, now let’s step back a little. So far, we’ve talked about three keys to emotional intelligence – your ability to handle impulses, your ability to handle defeats and challenges; and your ability to handle pressure and anxiety and nerves.
What do they all have in common? These three components of emotional intelligence calls for the ability to handle one’s emotions. The ability to handle emotions only comes when you become aware of those emotions that are happening to you rather than being lost in these emotions.
This self-awareness, also called metacognition, happens when you can be above the flow of your experiences. That awareness of emotions as they come as they go through you is the ultimate key to emotional intelligence. Such awareness is the ultimate key to great performance in all walks of life
Developing emotional intelligence
How can we develop this self-awareness? Well, one of the most powerful ways you can develop your metacognition, your self-awareness, your overall emotional intelligence is through mindfulness meditation. Over 1,000 different scientific studies have now come to the conclusion that mindfulness meditation helps us develop self-awareness, emotional intelligence, mental toughness, brain power, focus, concentration and a lot of other great benefits. Mindfulness meditation helps us reduce stress, anxiety, depression and a slew of other psychological problems. Overall, mindfulness meditation is a wonder drug for our minds.
I want to help you get started on meditation. I have been meditating for over 20 years now and I’ve put together a really simple guided meditation recording that you can just play at any time and start meditating. All you really need to do is download this guided meditation audio here and press play; and you will be meditating in no time you can also download the guided meditation audio below: