The only way that you change the world is by impacting other people. Although popular culture praises individuality--being self-sufficient and self-made through hard work--the truth is that no one becomes successful without influencing others. To maximize your ability to navigate social, political, and personal settings and achieve your goals, you need emotional intelligence.
Unfortunately, most thought leaders that advocate for EQ have no idea what it is. Making matters worse, many of them think that simply asking others for feedback is enough to develop emotional intelligence, which is a major oversimplification and a product of our culture's need for instant-gratification. Plenty of people feel comfortable talking about EQ as if it's a commodity they can purchase and possess, rather than appreciating the fact that it takes work to build self-awareness.
As a life coach and licensed therapist, one of the most important things I do is help people boost their emotional intelligence. I believe that emotional intelligence involves possessing intimate knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies across interpersonal and intrapersonal domains.
Interpersonal means that you know about how you actually engage with other people--you're aware of how you impact others. Intrapersonal means that, on a deeper level, you're knowledgeable of how you are thinking about yourself, others, and the world. This elusive construct of emotional intelligence is a tricky skill to develop, but the truth is that every person can improve their EQ.
The single fastest way to improve your EQ is to boost your self-awareness. Read the list below to discover 12 ways you can develop greater insight and achieve your goals.
1. Journal on a regular basis so you can become more aware of your thoughts.
I know this sounds strange, but thinking about your thinking is a psychological concept called metacognition. The better you can refine your metacognition, the more self-aware you'll become. When you know how you are going to think about a situation, then you can change your thoughts, adjust your attitude, and make a better decision.
2. Write down your goals and track progress.
Keeping track of what you do versus what you say you're going to do doesn't just increase your accountability, it also provides you with a lot of information. It teaches you about your tendencies, work habits, motivation, and much more. Start learning from yourself.
3. Disconnect from technology and spend time relaxing in nature.
When you stop "doing" and start "being," something transformative happens: you become more aware. Living in the modern achievement-oriented world often requires us to schedule time to be disconnected. If you value emotional intelligence as much as you say, then start taking actions that will boost your self-awareness.
4. Reflect on your interactions with others and label your strengths and weaknesses.
After each meeting, following each conversation, or each night before you go to bed, review how you engaged with others. How did you impact the other person? What things that you said went well? What aspects of your message were not conveyed in the way you imagined? What would you like to do differently next time?
The more you think about your interactions with others afterwards the better you'll be able to adjust and maintain self-awareness during conversations.
5. Make audio and/or video recordings of yourself and then see what you think of your presentation.
Many people feel uncomfortable seeing video or hearing audio of themselves. However, taking a look at yourself and thinking about how you come across to others can be very insightful. People are often unaware of various facial expressions and vocal inflections that aren't aligned with the thoughts and feelings they want to convey to others.
6. Engage in therapy or coaching (the fastest way to increase self-awareness).
Science proves that therapy is transformative for all people regardless of their presenting issue, and it shows that the results last longer than any medication. If you truly want emotional intelligence, then you need to embrace being honest with yourself and others, despite the discomfort that causes.
7. Clarify your values and notice whether or not your actions are in alignment.
Often people know what they value, whether that's quality time with family members, or achieving professional success. However, most people ignore when their actions and behaviors are not aligned with their values. Noticing whether or not your attention is aligned with your intentions will dramatically improve your self-awareness and productivity.
8. Brainstorm your biggest fears, regrets, and failures.
You need to know your weaknesses and have the ability to acknowledge and express them.
9. Take note of your greatest achievements, best decisions, and favorite activities.
You also need to be aware of your greatest choices and have the ability to express those. Most people have difficulty with one of these more than the other. Whichever one is most difficult for you, try to spend more time thinking about and discussing it.
10. Listen to what others say about you when you're not in the room.
Start asking other people for feedback. Not just what they think--but about what others say about you when you're not around. Learn as much as you can from these conversations by looking for common themes.
11. Imagine and then empathize with what it must be like to be a different person in a difficult circumstance.
The better you can walk a mile in someone else's shoes, the better your self-awareness--because after walking in someone else's shoes, you have an opportunity to investigate your own.
12. Practice gratitude for what gifts are already present in your life.
To improve your self-awareness, you need to develop gratitude for what strengths you already possess. When you start appreciating what you have right now, you start seeing the world with new eyes.
The truth is that you cannot buy EQ, you can only work to improve it. The more you stop talking and start taking action, the better results you'll create. Improving your self-awareness won't just boost your emotional intelligence, it'll also improve your relationships and build the foundation you need to achieve your personal and professional goals.