Habits ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ People Use To Maximize Happiness

Diagram of emotional intelligence

My happiness is one of the core items in my life, and something I work hard to maintain. I do it in my marriage, family life, relationships with others, job, and my personal interests such as music, running and healthy eating. And it seems that since my anniversary I have been reflecting on the good fortunes in my life.

Have you ever heard the term ’emotional intelligence’? It refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. There was a cool article last week about things successful people will NOT do, and it all ties into emotional intelligence. How do you build your emotional intelligence? Here are four key ways:

1.Perceiving Emotions: For some this is simple, for others a lifelong struggle.
2.Reasoning With Emotions: We all have emotional responses to things, but using those reactions to prioritize our decisions is another thing.
3.Understanding Emotions: just knowing that someone is frustrated isn’t enough, we need to place those feelings into context, to determine WHY someone is feeling that way.
4.Managing Emotions: I have talked about my ‘response tree’ approach before – (a) does it merit an emotional reaction (b) is anger the correct response and (c) is your response in proportion to the action.

So what does this have to do with running and healthy living? Everything and nothing – because it has to do with life, and running is very much a part of our lives. So here we go – I have adapted the list to fit into what I see as its application to running.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When I talked about running this past weekend, it was like a declaration of independence – my joy for running is purely due to my love for the sport; my joy of a mostly Paleo & Vegan diet is based on my enjoyment of those foods.

If your joy is based on where you place in a race or how you compare to others, you are no longer in control of your own happiness. It is SO important to remember that no matter what others think of you or how they are doing, self-worth ALWAYS comes from within.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Forget

I had what I should view as a pretty decent summer of running last year – I was regularly topping 60 miles per week, hitting doubles at least once a week, came within 2 minutes of a PR in a marathon in the pouring rain where the path turned to mud and there was more than 6000ft of elevation change, then hit a nearly 10 minute PR in my next marathon. I mean, why shouldn’t I be happy?!?

But I wasn’t happy because my pace control was atrocious! So I took my November half-marathon, and dedicated it to maintaining a flat pace – and not only did it work, I STILL got a PR! During 2014 one of my continued goals is pace control – running by feel, running flat, knowing what my easy, moderate and hard paces feel like, and so on.

The context around this in the business article was more about forgiving but not forgetting. It is important that we do that with ourselves – learn from mistakes, but forgive ourselves for making them.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Die in the Fight

‘Live to fight another day’ is the saying, or in our case ‘live to run another day’! How does this apply? Be smart in your runs – don’t push yourself to injury, don’t get dangerously dehydrated or under-fueled.

I have long said that we need to approach all of our running like a marathon: know when to push, and when to back off, when to keep running and when to rest and recover?

One of my biggest ‘do something stupid’ moments was dieting and restricting while heading into my first half marathon … and totally crashing near the end and finishing in rough shape. I made it – and have never forgotten and never made that mistake again! That one race changed my ‘food is fuel’ view forever!

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Prioritize Perfection

When you read most race reports, or run summaries, or how people are doing with their eating – you will hear that things are ‘solid’ or ‘really good’ or things like that. Seldom do you hear people talk about ‘perfection’ – because as runners we’ve had enough ups and downs to realize that it doesn’t exist.

Yet when we look at others (back to the first item on the list, right?) we often see a ‘perfect form’ or a perfect runner … WRONG! They are no more perfect than the rest of us! They might be after, have more endurance, be more agile, or whatever … but perfect? No.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Live in the Past

I have mentioned several races where I didn’t meet my expectations – and in each case I set up a way to take the power away from those events so I could remember them fondly. I learned from those mistakes, and they are in the past now.

If you let your past mistakes and failures dictate your reality, you will be limiting what you can do and where you can do in life. Don’t let that happen – leave your mistakes behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Dwell on Problems

You only have so much focus and mental energy to go around, so if you are dwelling on the past you have no time for the present or future. Sure we need to learn, but lessons are small and easy to carry through life. Let the past teach us things about how to shape our future, but then leave it behind.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hang Around Negative People

There is a distinct difference between frustrated but motivated people, and negative people. One set will voice frustrations at people or situations but ultimately want to move on to a more positive place … negative people find solace in the swamp of negativity.

There are negative people everywhere, and they will destroy you – your running, your eating, your life. Sure you want people around you to provide reality checks and keep you grounded, but not a self-serving complainer.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Hold Grudges

Did you know that holding grudges is a stress response, so recalling the grudge actually causes the stress to resurface. That is just not good for you no matter how you look at things.

So what grudges do you have? Relationships are a clear one, but also races, foods that are triggers, other runners who beat you before, touchy subjects with people close to you and so on. While you shouldn’t forget things we learn, it is important to let go of the stress and regain control.

Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To

In business and in life, inability to say no leads to stress and burnout – with eating it causes failure to maintain goals, and with running it gets your hurt. I look at the example of the Corning Glassfest 8k run compared to the Catharine Valley Half Marathon – I knew I wouldn’t run either, but didn’t want to give up the 8K. That caused me to be stressed and irritable. With the half-marathon, I decided long before and as a result was totally open to enjoy the day.

So whether it is saying no to a race, saying yes to a rest day, or no to some food you’d rather not eat – be polite, but firm. You will thank yourself!

Emotional Intelligence and Eating Disorders, Running, and Dealing With It All

One of the reasons I decided to post about this was that there has been study in recent years (a couple are here and here) about the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and things like body dissatisfaction show that as dissatisfaction increases, emotional intelligence decreases.

A great article looks at translating Emotional Intelligence back into actions, and the quote: “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

As for runners, according to a study from the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport “Findings lend support to the notion that trait emotional intelligence associates with adaptive psychological states, suggesting that it may be a key individual difference that explains why some athletes respond to repeated bouts of hard exercise better than others.”

In other words, the better you can deal with the emotional aspects of your life, the better you can handle the ups and downs of being a runner.

How is YOUR Emotional Intelligence?

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20 thoughts on “Habits ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ People Use To Maximize Happiness

  1. Improving – is the word I chose to use about my Emotional Intelligence, which I consider another term for maturity (which seems to have many negative connotations, but is not a negative). Maybe my use of the term improving could be called making progress, especially when put into perspective of my running.

    We all learn or mature at different speeds, with different experiences or events happening in our lives and unfortunately, some do not learn the lessons that are given by life or learn to accept or grab the opportunities that life presents.

    I admit it has taken a long time for me to get to this point, but I am finally beginning to learn many of the things you wrote about in this post. Does that mean I will do them all the time – probably not…old habits die hard (and it is not just a movie 🙂 ).

    Like many who follow your blog Mike, I/we are making progress. :-).

    • I think all of us are a work in progress 🙂 And as stuff comes and goes throughout our lives we makes advances and suffer setbacks.

      It took me a long time to really be perceptive with many of my own emotions … but it was worth the effort!

  2. I am pretty good in most of those areas, but the way I manage my own emotions could use a little work. I think my main problem is that I bottle things up too much and slap on a happy smile rather than approach a situation head on and get it out of the way. So in the end I just end up like a powder keg. That is what happened at the job that I am currently in the process of leaving. Who knows if it would have been salvageable otherwise, but now it’s REALLY not.

    I love how you applied all these things to running as well. Great post!

    • There is a great line from The Simpsons where Marge says “Push your feelings down past your knees … ” … haha

      Wow on the powderkeg thing … sorry to hear that. It can be super-hard to avoid things getting to that point. Fortunately you have a new gig.

      But it brings up the ‘don’t burn bridges’ thing … and I had someone from my old job in Massachusetts ask if I returned to the area if I would want to work there. Um, no – I still remember that I had set up interviews BEFORE the layoffs, and everything I have heard says things have only gotten worse in terms of what my role would/could look like 🙂

  3. I would like to think that I am pretty emotionally intelligent–I am very aware of my shortcomings, as well as where I excel emotionally. With running as well. I think that my major fallback can bet eh tendency to take on too much and not realize how overwhelmed I am. Like, I honestly don’t, until all of the sudden I find myself just sitting there, accomplishing nothing. I have gotten better about it, I have to say, however, but I think that this aspect of my emotional maturity has truly developed in the past six months.
    Holy cow. I just realized I left the restaurant 6 months ago.

    • That was a very striking thing in your post today that I think connected with most of us – we are cruising along taking on new things and then BAM suddenly we are overwhelmed and paralyzed …

  4. This is a great post and very relatable to my life right now. In general I am a very happy person but things out of my control have me slightly down right now. I am able to not dwell on it but it still is “there.” The one thing in here that irks me is the not having negative people in your life and the not dwelling on something/holding grudges. My brother has been dating a girl for ages and most people just plain aren’t huge fans of her. She lied to me about things she claimed my mom said about me and tried to cause a rift and she did the same thing by saying things about my husband to my family. We all figured it out and my parents want my brother to be happy so they have this notion of, “We have to learn to like her to make him happy.” So nothing was said and gosh darn it, I just can’t forgive her and I can’t like her. Personally I feel like something should have been said and she thinks she got away with this. So yeah I still hold a grudge and dwell on it. Will it make me unhappy? Probably a little, but this one I am not budging on. You better believe I am lips sealed around her at family functions. 🙂

    • Learning what to say to whom is very important – I tend to be slow to open up and am always very controlled with private information, but Lisa talks more and has discovered who NOT to trust the hard way!

      I think the problem though is that your parents think that compounding dishonesty by hiding the truth will help … as we teach our kids, ‘omitting the truth’ is merely another form of deception. Doesn’t make it easy … I ran into an issue with my family and religion and one person telling me ‘mom thinks this …’ which turned out to be what THEY thought … ugh! Not a pleasant outcome at the time, though things have worked out since …

  5. I’ve actually been talking to someone about this topic. My emotional and just well being is something I put before a lot of things. There is no need to stress about life or a simple day to day. I have a post I’m working on now about coming to terms with my happiness. That’s interesting, the emotional intelligence and correlation with eating disorders…I’m going to look some more at that!

  6. Mm a lot better than it used to be, which makes me happy to say and recognize haha. People pleasing perfectionist that I was not so long ago could never figure out why my life felt like it was falling apart at least once a year (but of course I never let on). I definitely still have work to do in this area, but I know where I have to grow, too, and I’m confident the next few years will see lots of it haha.

  7. My emotional intelligence is only improving at this point! I always need to work on identifying my emotions rather than ignoring them – that is my biggest problem I would say. Once I accept I am feeling something I can process and deal with it, but in the past I often put my emotions away somewhere because I didn’t want them to be real and “get in the way” of my daily life. It’s an ongoing learning process I think. Some people seem a lot more open to learning though and others seem to spend their lives with very poor emotional intelligence and never address it.

    • Exactly what I said to Salt … and I grew up in an ’emotionally constipated’ family (easy to diagnose how I ‘ate my feelings’). Definitely dealing with our own feelings is a learned thing, but I also think there is a genetic link, because each of our boys is very different in this way.

  8. I think I am doing ok with most of these things but I know the areas I need to work on are not prioritizing perfection or dwelling on problems. That’s my type A personality coming out! But I have actually been trying to work on that this summer. It just gets harder the busier I get and the more stressed I get.

  9. I like how you applied emotional intelligence to running. I thought I was not going to like this post because of my history with depression, but I was pleasantly surprised. The grudge thing is something I’ve been working on lately. Just thinking about my old running club brings up a TON of negativity, so I’ve been trying to distance myself from it–I have removed myself from the Facebook group, “unfriended” many people, and stopped recording my runs on the club document. It has been causing a lot less stress than when I was steeped in the club. 🙂

    • Thanks Rach – I very much try to be sensitive to depression because it is very serious and under-appreciated, so please if I ever say anything that offends or bugs you, please let me know in a comment or email. Seriously.

  10. I do well in some of these and need improvement on others. I spent a lot of my life avoiding much in the way of emotions, so being able to navigate (ugh) feelings is still tough for me. When I first got sober, I had to spend time trying to sort through what I actually felt and believed and what I’d been told I should feel and believe. Tricky stuff, but I had a fantastic therapist to help me through much of it.

  11. Pingback: 30 Days of Gratitude – Day #6, Emotions | Running Around the Bend

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