Date posted: 15/05/2017

Do you know what you're feeling?

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Every student has gone through something similar. Picture it: you worked hard, gave it your all, wanted it desperately, thought you deserved it, but came away disappointed. It might've been an interview, an internship, a graduate position, a scholarship, an award, or a grade. As a student we all experience that feeling of inadequacy at some point - why do we put the effort in? Maybe we shouldn't set our sights so high.

What many students fail to realise, however, is how insignificant these often overwhelmingly disheartening experiences are in the larger scheme of things. At such a young age, we succumb to mounting pressures and unrealistic expectations, and forget we're only at the very beginning of our careers. There will be many more and much larger failures to come and each of those failures present an opportunity which, if taken advantage of, can lead to far greater long-term success.

I've found that even while acknowledging this, it's still a challenge to put it into practice. Re-living your failures isn't a pleasant experience, but it is a worthwhile one.

Articles tout it as the one skill demanded of future leaders, industry experts preach its importance, and employers claim it's what their ideal candidates possess. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has become somewhat of a buzzword of late.

EQ refers to emotional quotient, and is separate from IQ, or intelligence quotient, which refers to a person's cognitive ability, often relating to memory, attention, and speed.

In simple terms, emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.

In an age dominated by technology and automation, the fundamental skill required by employers is one technology will (hopefully) never be able to replicate - emotional intelligence. A student that gears themselves towards success develops their intellect and studies hard, yes, but more so, develops their EQ. Indeed, EQ can be improved, and is entirely under a person's control, yet we fail to treat it with the importance it deserves.

As a student myself, I see an overwhelming lack of awareness of the importance of EQ. Students fail to reach their goals, knock themselves down, and refuse to get back up. "I wish I was smarter," they say. "I wish I was good enough to win those awards," they complain. "I seem to be always studying but still don't achieve the grades I want," they protest. A student with a high EQ, or who is committed to developing a higher EQ, says the opposite. "How can I improve?" they ask. "I may not be able to win those awards now, but if I make small steps now, I know I can in the future."

Possessing a high EQ means a student isn't afraid of highlighting their weaknesses. Instead, they identify their flaws, and actively work to overcome them. They are capable of understanding how their actions and emotions resulted in failure, and spend time reflecting on what that failure can teach them. They are able to critically evaluate their methods of study, are comfortable in being flexible in their approach, and are confident enough to seek help when needed. They have high ambitions, and make the necessary steps now in order to realise them sometime in the future.

A student with a high EQ is able to identify why a member of a group project isn't contributing, and takes active steps towards resolving the issue. They are aware of how their own actions and emotions directly impact the performance of the rest of the group. They are conscious of what they say, when they say it, and what effect it may have.

Employers often tell students that while grades get you an interview, it's the soft skills that get you the job. What they're stressing is the need for students to harness their EQ. Studying might give you the opportunity to develop your intellect, but pursuits outside of study allow for greater development of your EQ - the sports teams you join, the clubs and societies you're involved in, or hobbies you enjoy. They allow you to practise building relationships, managing your emotions, and to develop personal and social competence.

It is not a matter of whether you possess it or not. EQ is something you can nurture over time, and if you take the appropriate steps now, it will stand you in good stead for the future.

"How do I improve?" you might ask. It's relatively simple. Dr Travis Bradberry's book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 lists a few simple methods to help develop your EQ:

  • Acknowledge other people's feelings and work to better understand why they feel that way - If they're happy, congratulate them. If they're frustrated, ask what you can do to help.
  • When you care, show it - Your emotions have a direct impact on others. Let people know you appreciate them. Someone who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.
  • Be aware of your own emotions - Take note of your emotions, thoughts, and behaviours as a situation unfolds. The goal is to slow yourself down and take in all that is in front of you, so that you can understand how your emotions influence your behaviour and alter your perception of reality.
  • Sleep - Sleep is vital to increasing your EQ. When you sleep, your brain recharges, shuffling through the day's memories and storing or discarding them.
  • Avoid negative self-talk - The more you dwell on the negatives, the more power you give to them. Appreciate that every human is a work in progress, and that you're no different. Identify your flaws, embrace them, and work to overcome them.

Keep working at those grades, but acknowledge the equal, if not greater importance of developing your EQ.

Harry Flett

Article written by Harry Flett

Harry also attended One Young World in 2017 as a delegate from CA ANZ.

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