Are you really being successful?


Often, we identify success with the CEO’s of the biggest companies, and with the people that make a lot of money and can surround themselves with all kind of luxuries. Certainly, making a lot of money, being popular, being able to do many things that without money we cannot afford, and buying beautiful objects are great things, if we can genuinely enjoy them. We all know many cases of famous people who in theory are very successful, but at the same time are tremendously unhappy. They  get married, and divorced, and remarried, changing partners as if they were changing stickers at the door of the school, but never reaching authentic happiness. Often, they need to abuse drugs or medications to stand their inner pain and disorientation. In some cases, unfortunately, they end up committing suicide, or dying a premature death running excessive and unnecessary risks (such as running high speed nautical boat races without the due preparation and experience, diving into ravines, skydiving, skiing off-piste in dangerous areas, or consuming toxic substances).


From my point of view, we experience authentic success when we enjoy the things we do, when we feel proud of our job, whether we get a lot of money in return or just a little, when we go to work happy because we like the people we work with, we have exciting projects ahead of us, or we see day by day how we learn and advance.


In our job, and in our life, we are never alone. We always depend on the support and work of those around us, whether co-workers, peers, friends, or family. In this sense, in all areas of our lives, our best investment is to make all efforts to create or promote a team of people who support each other, who talk when problems arise, who try to improve each day, who continuously reach for new and ambitious goals, and who are never satisfied with doing the same over and over.


In this kind of teams, the success is guaranteed. And, sooner or later, people start to notice that your team reaches goals that nobody else does, and your sales or your production levels, or your costumer’s satisfaction indexes or your creativity surpasses your rivals. When that happens, promotions, salary increases, and public recognition begins to appear.  People ask you what the secret of your happy marriage or harmonious family life is. You may not be the best paid person in the world, but when you have a great team at home, and a great team at work, you feel truly successful.




Are you really emotionally intelligent or you believe you are?

There are two ways of measuring emotional intelligence: One is presenting people with a series of emotional tasks that need to be solved and seeing how well they do. For instance, experts show people pictures of different faces and find out if they can recognize the emotion they express, or they show them a vignette with a story that presents an emotional problem and ask them to solve the problem. It is kind of an exam. And this kind of exam gives a pretty good measurement of your emotional abilities. The second one is to ask people how well they think they deal with emotions. For instance, questionnaires ask respondants if they are good at calming themselves after an upset, or at recognizing other people’s feelings. Of course, what we think about how well we do things, and how well we really do them can be two very different things. In any case, these kinds of questionnaires are not a measure of real ability, but of your beliefs about your ability.

The first kind of measurement is useful to find out about people’s real emotional intelligence. How well we can identify emotions, understand emotions or regulate emotions is somehow linked to our general intelligence. General intelligence is the ability to process information and use it in effective ways. Emotional intelligence is the ability to process emotional information and use it in effective ways. The second type of measurement is good to find out people’s emotional intelligence self-efficacy beliefs. How emotionally intelligent we believe we are is somehow related to our personality as it seems to reflect more on our personality traits, and natural dispositions. Emotional intelligence self-efficacy beliefs can be seen therefore as a measure of an emotionally intelligence personality.

What is interesting is that it is as positive to have real emotional intelligence as it is to believe you have it. In fact, research studies more often report positive effects of emotional intelligence self-efficacy beliefs than they do of actual emotional intelligence. That is not as surprising as it seems. Many years ago, a famous psychologist called Albert Bandura already demonstrated that believing that you possess specific abilities in one area, is more predictive of future success in that area than actual ability. For instance, in different studies, researchers found that adolescents who believed that they were very good at math, but who weren’t that good, did better in some math tasks they were asked to solve, than their peers who believed they were not good at math, despite the fact that they were as good as the students in the other group. Bandura called this self-efficacy beliefs and they exist in any field or area of human activity. Therefore, it is not surprising that believing that you have emotional intelligence is as or more beneficial to deal with emotional situations than it is to have actual emotional intelligence.

If you believe that you are good with emotions, that you are assertive, and empathetic, and make friends with easy, and know how to regulate your own anger or sadness, good for you. You are up for some positive experiences in life. But, if you don’t, the good news is you can learn to develop those abilities increasing both your real emotional intelligence and your self-efficacy beliefs. And, I am sure, although I haven’t found any study looking at that, that enjoying both actual and self-perceived emotional intelligence is the best of both worlds.


What is Emotional Intelligence?

There has been a lot of discussion in the scientific world about the meaning of the term emotional intelligence, and even about whether emotional intelligence really exists or is just a new repackaging of old well established psychological traits.

It is clear now, after years of research and discussions, that there are two types of emotional intelligence: one is related to the ability to process and use emotional information and is therefore somehow connected to the general ability of the person to process and use all kinds of information, what we normally call general intelligence. The second one is related to a conglomerate of personality traits. People with an emotionally intelligent personality tend to respond to situations, events, and challenges that are emotionally charged in ways that are effective and positive.

So, you may be emotional intelligent because you know how to process emotional information, reason with that kind of information and used it in ways that are beneficial to you, or you can be emotionally intelligent because you have a personality that mostly intuitively knows how to respond to the emotions involved in almost all human interactions. Of course, you may enjoy both kinds of emotional intelligence, which probably is the best.

Basically, EI can affect two big areas: our own emotions, and the emotions of others. In relation to our emotions, we may have knowledge about our emotions, be able to identify them when we experience them, understand them, regulate them, and express them in socially appropriate ways. In relation to others,  we may be able to identify the emotions other people are experiencing, understand them, and respond to them in socially effective ways.

The research that I have done and the research of many others had led me to believe that there are five main emotional dimensions that are essential to experience success in many endeavors. Three are emotional skills, and the other two are emotional traits. The emotional skills are the ability to understand emotions, the ability to regulate them, and the ability to express them in socially effective ways. The two traits are a positive sense of self, including a positive sense of self-competence, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-efficacy, and a high level of intrinsic motivation.

In any case, one important aspect of both EI is that they can be developed and improved over time. It does not mean that it is easy, but it can be done. On one hand, we can learn more about emotions, when they appear, what do they mean, and how to use them in beneficial ways. On the other hand, we can practice positive ways to reacting to emotionally charged situations, so when forced to face those situations in real life, we respond in what we now know is the beneficial way for us and for everyone involved. We can enhance the vision we have of ourselves, and definitely we can find ways to increase our motivation to pursue our goals.

If you ever watched the movie “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”. You may remember the last battle in which Aragon gives a speech to his soldiers about dying in battle. Aragon knows that  his soldiers need to fight with rage, hope, and commitment if they are to win, and he does not achieve this goal by providing the soldiers with facts about the number of soldiers in each side, the weapons available, or the reasons for the war, but with a very emotionally charged speech about the time of men. This is emotional intelligence at its best.