Take a moment to reflect on people you know—famous and not—whom you consider to be highly successful and live happy, success-filled lives. Were they the most intellectually gifted people you know? Was there something more than their brainpower that accounted for their high degree of success? What the majority of us know in our guts is that there is more to success than book smarts, and there is a difference between book smart and being life savvy.
The question is: Does it really matter for your success in life whether you’re emotionally smart or dumb? The answer is, unequivocally, yes!
Emotional brilliance isn’t about being adept at handling mushy emotions or feelings in others, and it isn’t a substitute for a lack of baseline ability. Instead, it is about our having and expertly using a set of skills that influence the way we see and express ourselves, tune into the world, read others, cope with challenges, build connections, and use emotional information in meaningful and effective ways.
Just like brilliant leadership is intentional, so is developing one’s emotional brilliance. So where do you start developing your emotional smartness? Try these things as a great jumping off point:
Identify Where You Are and Commit to Where You Want to Be
Engaging our brain’s natural ability to reshape and rewire itself begins when we assess what our current capabilities are, and how are we currently using are emotional smarts. Balance across a variety of emotional intelligence skills is critical in becoming emotionally brilliant. Begin with a self-assessment via a tool that measures one’s emotional competencies and / or invite others whose opinions you value and trust to give you feedback through assessments that let them rate you anonymously on key aspects of emotional intelligence. The information gleaned will help you identify where to direct your efforts and energy.
Be Discerning In What You Select and Give It Focused Attention
Be cautious about trying to hone too many skills at once. This recipe for success involves focused, practiced, and disciplined attention on one or two skills. Part of being emotionally smart is being an expert at self-management, so don’t bite off more than you can focus your attention on, and be disciplined about practicing. For example: If you choose to develop the skill of being assertive, your plan might contain the following: when the opportunity presents itself to share what I believe with another person, I will clearly state my belief, give consideration, and be receptive to the beliefs of the other person. By being precise and having clarity about what you will do in certain situations, focused attention on implementing that skill, and doing it repeatedly over time, will embed the new skills in the hard-wiring of your brain, strengthening the connection so that the skill becomes automatic. You can create a simple log and check off when you use the skill throughout the week. Celebrate your successful use of the skill, and look for lessons in those times where you weren’t able to do so.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Perhaps you’re familiar with the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and its famous answer: “Practice!” The same holds true for translating your new skills / smarts into automatic responses. The hard-wiring of the change begins with the first time you do what you planned to do, and can take up to six months before the new skill comes more naturally to you than the old. Mental Rehearsal is a well-known tool that will further assist you with embedding the new skill and helps you be prepared in the moment. Running through what you’ll do in your mind from your brain’s point of view is no different than actually doing it in the moment.
I encourage you to jump in and learn more about developing your emotional brilliance, so that you pursue your personal and professional goals with enthusiasm, build connected high trust relationships, and achieve what you set out for yourself.