Emotional Agility as a Response to Change

With change comes opportunity and growth on one hand; uncertainty, discomfort, and anxiety on the other. Why is it important for us to examine our emotional response to change?

According to the authors of EQ Edge Drs. Steven Stein and Howard Book, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) accounted for approximately 27 to 45 percent of job success, depending on which field was under study.

 “The way we navigate our inner world – our everyday thoughts, emotions, and self-stories – is the single most important determinant of our life success. It drives our actions, careers, relationships, happiness, health.

“Do we let our self-doubts, failings, shame, fear, or anger hold us back? Can we be determined, persevering toward key life goals, but just as importantly, have the insight and courage to recognize when these goals are not serving us, and adapt?” said Dr. Susan David, Harvard Psychologist and Professor.

One of my goals as a Talent Management Specialist is to help others develop self-awareness necessary to approach their lives in mindful, values-driven and productive ways – developing what David calls emotional agility. This ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to succeed in our complex, fast changing work environment.  

The prevailing wisdom says that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place in the workplace. Managers are often expected to project confidence and suppress negative emotions. Managers “stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings – that’s inevitable – but because they get hooked by them,” David said.

Emotional agility enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind. The process isn’t about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts. It’s about holding those emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to ignite change in your life.

In retrospect many may look back on the positive outcomes of change. Others get stuck in a myriad of negative emotions that hinder forward motion. As you continue your journey, I challenge you to approach challenges with emotional agility – (1) recognize the patterns of negative thinking which may be hindering your success; (2) view your thoughts and feelings objectively; and (3) accept your positive and negative emotions, but don’t let them stifle your career.