"The psychologist Daniel Goldman has shown that emotional intelligence (EQ) makes up two-thirds of the likely success of business executives, compared with intellectual capacity (IQ), which, along with the amount of working experience, makes up only one-third."
So what on earth is an “emotional equation”? And what’s the point? First, let’s get an example on the board, so we’re all on the same page. An example of an emotional equation (and one that particularly resonated with me) is:
Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness
Meaning, that the emotion of “anxiety” is typically created when one experiences a lack of understanding combined with a lack of control. The power to understanding this equation (and the dozens of others outlined in Emotional Equations) is that in understanding the cause of the problem, we can start to look for solutions. In this case, focusing on what we do have control over – getting more information or focusing on what we do have power to influence – can start to diminish our sense of anxiety.
At its core, this is what Emotional Equations offers – a new way of thinking about emotions, breaking them down into their core components. When we begin to understand where emotions come from, we can start to control the way we respond to emotions that we might typically feel helpless against. And, as Daniel Goldman points out in our opening quote, those who are more in tune with, and able to influence, their emotions are proven to be more successful in a business landscape.
I Believe, Therefore I Become
"Many people do not distinguish between something that happens to them and their reaction to it. Yet it isn't the event or situation that holds the emotional charge; it's our beliefs that create our response."
One of the main theses of Chip Conley’s Emotional Equations is that we have more power over our responses to emotions than we might at first think. As Conley explains on page 21 of the book, “the biological life span of a particular emotion is about ninety seconds. It’s the afterlife of a particular emotion that we mortals constantly revive and bathe in.”
It’s so easy for us to use events (both positive and negative) to shape our emotions and responses in our lives. We blame bad news for our sadness or unhealthy emotions, and rely on positive experiences for the “pick me up” that we want in a day. After all, events trigger emotional responses – we’re human. But, as Conley points out, the actual, chemical impact of an emotion is less than two minutes. Any emotional impact beyond that is our own creation, typically pulling from other past experiences. Let’s look at the emotion of Despair as an example.
When something bad happens to us, we suffer. But suffering spirals into despair when we combine that suffering with a lack of meaning. In other words:
Despair = Suffering – Meaning
When you suffer a hardship, acknowledge the pain (90 seconds), but then ask yourself – “did this happen for a reason?” or, “is this suffering necessary when put in the context of a larger purpose?”
Negative emotions tend to grow in magnitude when left unchecked. The best way to put them into their proper context is through action.
Carpe Diem... For Your Health
"As you think of your own life, what are two or three ‘failures to act’ that you wish you could do over? Is it too late to do anything about them, or can you take steps now so that this regret doesn't linger any longer?"
Conley talks about action specifically in the chapter on Regret (Regret = Disappointment + Responsibility), but the lesson is universal to all emotions, as far as I can tell. Taking control of your emotional response to external stimuli requires deliberate action.
So often, our emotions run rampant when we play the role of the helpless victim; of someone who has no control over the events transpiring around them. Choosing to do something – whether that “something” is simply making out a list of all the things we do have control over (in the case of Anxiety), or having a heartfelt conversation with a boss or spouse to determine meaning (in the case of Despair) – is almost always a good idea. In fact, research has shown that when people think of “regrettable moments” in their lives, “failures to act” outweigh “regrettable actions” by a two-to-one margin. (p54).
Take action. Do something, even if it makes you feel nervous to consider it. Statistically speaking, you’ll more likely regret it if you don’t.
"I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious."
Here’s the thing with taking action – doing so exposes you to the risk of failure. Failure, of course, can rekindle those negative emotions of despair… but it doesn’t have to.
As Conley suggests in part three of Emotional Equations (Getting the most out of your work life), we can shift our emotions at work by shifting our intention and expectations; shifting them to a place of curiosity.
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of today’s business landscape is the sense of unknown. For all of us, the world is changing; providing opportunity to dream, experiment and redefine. No industry or role is safe from the impact of technology, which means that everything is ripe for reinvention. The most successful innovators and entrepreneurs throughout time have been embodied with a genuine and abundant sense of curiosity. Which makes sense, when you believe that curiosity helps you overcome “failures”. If your actions come from a place of curiosity, rather than an ego-driven desire to be right, then getting something wrong doesn’t mean failure; it means growth and experience… so that your next experiment will be that much closer to being a success.
Curiosity keeps us going. Curiosity tempers dark emotions with a childlike sense of wonder and excitement. Curiosity moves the world forward.
What are you curious about these days? What are you going to do about it?
I really enjoyed Emotional Equations. A bit of a departure from the more traditional business books we summarize here at Actionable, this book is well and truly about the individual. It’s a highly actionable book, with a “Working Through the Equation” section for every equation, complete with specific activities you can complete to take better control of your emotions immediately. And, while it may sound like a book that attempts to layer logic onto emotion, this is really not a book about complicating things, but rather about simplifying and clarifying the most human aspect of each and every one of us.
If you’re wrestling with any nagging emotion, or simply looking to improve your emotional intelligence, I highly recommend checking out Emotional Equations.