Book Review: Emotional Agility

Are you familiar with Daniel Goleman’s concept of emotional intelligence? It has become the catchphrase of organizations and within societies, reaching out to all corners of the world.  By definition (or a quick Google search), emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

When I heard of emotional agility, I was excited to see what it entailed. Would it be a continuation of emotional intelligence or would it be different altogether? I had picked the book up, read then put it down again and it took me a while to finish.

It’s not a book that can be read in one sitting.

Sure, you could if you put your mind to it but Susan David writes in a way that as she explains the concepts in a very relatable way with some humour, there are also many examples to go along with it. I found myself folding the corners of some pages and revisiting them later, particularly the excerpts that I liked. Taking some time to digest and ponder different bits.

“Welcome your inner experiences, breathe into them and learn their contours without racing for the exit. Open yourself up to the love that will come with hurt and the hurt that will come with love; and to the success that will come with failure and the failure that will come with success.”

As for its connection with emotional intelligence, I believe it is like a supplementary tool. Both have parallels in encouraging you to be more mindful of yourself and your surroundings, but emotional agility is more focused on the self instead of others. Where emotional intelligence is the longer journey we make in becoming more self-aware and empathetic with others, emotional agility leans more towards a heightened self-awareness and the art of mindfulness. Like an inspection and re-consolidation of yourself before you go out to conquer your own corner in the world.

“Be mindful of your surroundings, really focus on what you do, how you think and the values you hold. Then, stretch yourself and choose courage over comfort.”

I suppose some would say this is nothing new. It is an often repeated mantra (mindfulness, emotional intelligence…), but I can see how this book has gained its traction as a CEO read of 2016. Many people are fascinated and may use the catchphrases of mindfulness and the other parts of emotional intelligence yet may not fully understand what it is or how exactly it can be applied. Maybe when they asked, they were greeted with a whole bunch of technicalities and not one step closer to grasping the concept.

Some may just dismiss it as psychobabble yet the situation is all too real. The stress of concrete jungles and a heightened pace of life has increased a lot of people’s awareness of behaviour, personality, mental health, and so forth as they try finding coping mechanisms for themselves. This shows that field of psychology has made a lot of progress over the recent years, it’s become less of a boogeyman that does not exist. People want to find out more about the boogeyman and how they can defeat it, if not live with it without it being a threat.

Daniel Goleman has reviewed the book as reader-friendly, accessible and can be helpful to anyone. Keyword: CAN. The thing about books like these is that it’s not just about finishing them, but applying the concepts therein. Take notes or highlight if you want, but try applying her concepts in at least one aspect of your life. If you actively do, it should be of some benefit.

She also shares the different steps with you to break possible “dead people goals” or self-destructive patterns you may have. Live with zest, don’t trudge through passively. If you are new to the concepts of emotional intelligence or how you can start your journey yet would like to skip the psychological jargon, then this would be worth the read.

Just remember to take your time with it.


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