For many of us, 2015 began with a promise that this year we would accomplish what has eluded us until now.
The sad truth is that nearly 80 per cent of us will fall off the resolution bandwagon and by this time next year, a mere 5 per cent of us will have succeeded in reaching our goals.
There are two reasons why we have so much trouble with our resolutions.
The first is that we bite off more than we can chew. It may seem reasonable to pick up three or four new skills, but they become competing priorities that leave us distracted, discouraged and overwhelmed.
The second reason most self-improvement efforts are doomed to fail is because our emotions have a nasty habit of hijacking our behaviour.
Without a strong ability to recognise and manage our emotions as they occur, old habits are sure to die hard.
The good news is that you can address both problems and make the changes you desire by resolving this year to develop a single skill — emotional intelligence (EQ).
Over the last two decades, research has shown that EQ is likely the single most powerful success factor yet discovered — affecting everything from job performance and annual income to mood and satisfaction in life.
We have tested EQ alongside 33 other critical skills and found that it subsumes the majority of them, including time management, decision-making and communication.
But how does EQ play such a large role in so many important skills? Emotions are the root of all human behaviour.
Whether we are aware of it or not, the motivation behind every action (no matter how small) is inherently emotional.
As you master EQ, you master the ability to understand and control the motivations for your behaviour. The following skills illustrate some of the tremendous gains you can realise solely by increasing your EQ:
In this age of abundance, time is the one thing nobody has enough of. Few people recognise the degree to which time management depends upon the EQ skills of self-management and relationship management.
Creating a good schedule is a very rational thing, but sticking to that schedule is decidedly emotional. Many of us start out every day with the best intentions to manage our time wisely.
But then we receive a complicated e-mail from a co-worker, a consuming phone call from a friend, or otherwise get side-tracked.
Before we know it, the day is gone and we are completely off schedule.
When the distractions are your own, sticking to a schedule requires self-management.
When the needs of others try to impede upon your plans, it takes a great deal of social awareness and relationship management to finesse the relationship while ensuring that your priorities are still addressed.
Show me somebody who claims to love change, and I will show you a well-intentioned liar.
Change is uncomfortable for everyone at times. Those who apply well-honed self-awareness and self-management skills tolerate change much more successfully than others.
Self-awareness enables you to adjust comfortably to change because it gives you the perspective needed to realise when change is coming and when change is getting the better of you.
Those most averse to change but who possess great self-awareness and self-management skills set aside a small amount of time each week to list possible changes and what actions they can take in response.
Few things strike primal fear in the heart of the average person like standing in the spotlight in a room full of people.
That’s why a “knock-em-dead” presenter’s most inspiring presentation is often the one she delivers to herself. A bit of positive self-talk — reminding herself of all the times she has succeeded and how qualified she is to speak on the topic — enables the effective speaker to use her performance anxiety to sharpen her focus and make her more articulate.
EQ doesn’t just make you aware of your emotions; it equips you with strategies for keeping them from holding you back.
It has taken the world far too long to wake up to the fact that emotions simply cannot — and should not — be ignored when making decisions.
Neuroscience now shows us that sometimes the most rational thing you can do is trust your emotions when making a decision.
But in order to make this work, you have to be aware of the emotions you are feeling, why you are having them, and how they factor into the situation at hand.
Here, there is no substitute for the core EQ skills of self-awareness and self-management.
EQ is commonly mistaken as a synonym for “nice”. In fact, the most emotionally intelligent response is often one where you directly and openly express your emotions.
To paraphrase Aristotle, getting angry is easy.
Getting angry with the right person, at the right time, and to the right degree requires EQ, which doesn’t allow lashing out or being a doormat.
To be assertive, you have to know what you are feeling (self-awareness), read the other party accurately (social awareness), and express yourself in a way that garners the best result (self-management and relationship management). People with high EQs do this naturally.