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This week, Life Training Online is reviewing Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, by Daniel Goleman, the eleventh of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

The Emotional Brain

Goleman sets aside the first two chapters of his book to establish a foundation of the workings of the brain. Without going into too much detail, he basically describes the relationship between the cortex (the rational, modern area of the brain) and the limbic system (the impulsive, emotional, more primitive brain). The interplay between these two areas of the brain are at the heart of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence can be described as the ability to police or moderate the primitive emotional impulses through the rational mind. Fortunately for us, emotional intelligence can be developed.

When Smart is Dumb

When I was much younger, I remember my older brother becoming frustrated with me when I did something stupid, often saying, “You’re wicked smart (sorry we’re from Boston) but have no common sense!” He summarized what this whole chapter is about.

Goleman — by citing a number of studies — tries to prove that many students with high IQs have failed in their practical lives, while those considered “average” have had incredible successes. IQ, according to Goleman, only accounts for 20% of one’s success. It’s those with a greater degree of intrapersonal intelligence who tend to have more success in all areas of life than those without. Having a lack of it, you’ll make poor choices in who to marry, what job to take and so on.

It’s not uncommon to have someone with an IQ of 160 working for another who has 100.

Know Thyself and Passion’s Slave

Self-awareness is such a central part of emotional intelligence. It is “being aware of both our mood and our thoughts about that mood.” It’s having the ability to pay attention to our inner states or stepping back from our current experience, allowing a parallel stream of consciousness to, in effect, monitor our emotions.

Those who are highly self-aware generally have a positive outlook on life. And when they do get into a bad mood, because of this awareness, they can snap out of it and bounce back very quickly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who have no self-awareness. They are controlled by their emotions. Without this external policing, they get easily swept away by every mood — both good and bad — feeling overwhelmed and emotionally out of control.

By actively monitoring your thoughts and feelings, you become more self-aware. This is very similar to learning how to live in the Now. It’s this ability to withstand the “emotional storms” in our lives — something that has been praised as a virtue since the times of Plato — that is the key to our emotional well-being.

Emotional Intelligence is the eleventh of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.


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