Emotional Agility

Disclaimer!  Due to increasing rates of informational obesity and in a humble attempt to reduce it, author would like you to familiarize yourself with the following data: 
According to the researches you will forget 75% of what you are about to read in the next 24 hours. In the next 7 days you will forget further 15% to 20%. Author cares about your time and wishes you a great time reading the article, if you still feel like reading it. Enjoy.

Thissusan david is my book review for the book ” Emotional Agility” written by Susan David, Ph.D., an award-winning Psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School; co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital; and CEO of Evidence Based Psychology, a boutique business consultancy.

One of the greatest thing that this book can teach anyone who reads it is that positivity ISN’T always a positive thing to have. Which will be particularly beneficial for our century, where at every corner world suggests you smile, think positively, give another thumbs up or like to whatever you see or hear. Don’t get me wrong, Susan doesn’t advise us to become pessimistic and negative about our lives, rather she describes the health necessity and research-proven benefits of finding the beauty and sense in the whole spectrum of human emotions.

“The paradox of happiness is that a conscious pursue for it is fundamentally incompatible with the very nature of happiness. True happiness comes from actions that are valuable to you in themselves, and not for any external reason – even such seemingly worthy as the desire to be happy. “

She structures her approach that helps one to develop emotional agility in 5 parts:

  1. Get off the hook.
  2. Turn to yourself.
  3. Distance yourself.
  4. Follow your path.
  5. Keep going.

Of course, as you can guess, somebody wrote a book about all of these stages and it would be too ambitious to assume that I can mention all the most “right” or “useful” things from every part in this review. What I will do here instead is to mention a couple of ideas or insights that resonated deeply with me and I can only hope that you will feel the same about them. So, let’s get started.

1.Getting our asses off the hook.holly-mindrup-59816

Most people think and act according to categories and templates that help us to automate our reactions. These mechanisms prevent us from informational overload and help us to save a lot of time. Unfortunately, not every time they work correctly. Oftentimes when we act too fast we are prone to rely on readily available information too much and underestimate some nuances that are not obvious without a proper research. These mechanisms are based on associative and not-so-clearly-defined thoughts, often filled with a nice portion of emotions (that are also not-so-clearly-defined). They rule our habits (this 1000kCal cake looks really good. yes at 10 pm too) and most of our thought patterns (is there a woman driving towards us? Let’s change lanes). These mechanisms are the ones that catch us on the hooks and make us fat, lazy and prejudiced. As mentioned previously, they are not utterly evil in their nature, they do a lot of positive things in our lives but ruled by very old parts of our brains (that helped our ancestors to survive) they still uses tools that were useful when we were hunting in the wild covered by a piece of animal skin and that are not very helpful when we are talking to our annoying bosses.

So, they get us hooked and limit our perception. A hooked person doesn’t see the world the way it is. S/He perceives the world from the pre-made categories out of the context and that oftentimes not applicable to the concrete situation.

“Emotional agility includes sensitivity to the context and the ability to respond to the world as it is at the moment.”


“In order to extract maximum benefits from every challenge/situation in our lives, we must constantly destroy the old categories in our thinking and create new ones. The most relevant and interesting solutions often come when we allow ourselves to think like a beginner, to look at everything that is unknown with fresh eyes. This is the basis of the emotional agility.”

2. Turn to yourself. Hi, it’s me. ian-schneider-90597

“And our successes in life are determined by how nicely we can manage to get along with our own shortcomings or dark sides and learn from them. And the way to conflict resolution and personal development begins with the fact that we turn to ourselves and accept ourselves”

Many people have negative thoughts about themselves. Different variations of  “I am not enough” are played in peoples’ minds all over the world every day. Some of the hottest hits include:

  1. Look at that fat face in the mirror, nobody will love me.
  2. I am absolutely useless.
  3. I do not deserve this position.
  4. I am a horrible friend.
  5. I will never be happy

Prolly, there are some local hits in your region but I guess you got the vibe.

The tip here is to turn to the statement, allow it to be and remember that not every thought in your mind is correct.

The truth is because you have 10 or whatsoever extra kilograms doesn’t mean that nobody will love you. Because you couldn’t pass one exam doesn’t mean that you are stupid or useless. There are some facts in our thoughts: extra weight or failed exam but conclusions are wrong.


“Generally this is one of the greatest paradoxes of our lives: a person is not able to change either himself or circumstances until he accepts what exists at the moment. Acceptance is a prerequisite for change. We should allow the world around us to be what it is: only when we stop trying to control the whole universe, we can reconcile with it. We will not fall in love with something that did not suit us, but we will stop fighting with it. And when the war is over, changes are possible. “

3. Distance yourself.bruno-soares-6838

One of the many approaches that Susan described in her book, I really liked this one. She says that we usually think in images and when we think that we are, for instance, stupid, we imagine that we are speaking in the class, people are laughing at us and saying what a nonsense we say. The book suggests that we start to repeat this  “I am stupid” to ourselves a couple of times. And then repeat words of this phrase in a random order: “stupid I am, am stupid I, I stupid am”. At a certain point, this phrase will turn to something that it is: just words. Without any emotional charges. And that, in reality, has nothing in common with you.

“You are already looking at the world not from the captivity of negative thought – you are looking at the idea itself. You have created a free space between the thought and what you feel about it. You turned the telescope. “


Catching any negative though, give yourself some time to realize that it is just a thought. One of the million thoughts in your beautiful mind. And then choose not to accept it and let it go. Because you can.

4. Follow your path.jimmy-chang-38190

“In order to make decisions that relate to your hopes for the future, you need to understand well what is important to you – what will be your guide. If you have never paid attention to understand your values, you have to constantly improvise. “

It is pretty easy here. We need to define our values. That’s it.


Did I just say that it is easy to define your values? Ok-ok. Here are some questions that might help you to crystalize your values step by step.

  1. What are the most important things for me in my life?
  2. What kind of relationships I would like to build?
  3. What kind of situations do charge me with the most positive energy?
  4. What do I want to do in this life?

Take it nice and easy. It is ok not to know answers right now but it is important to remember to ask these questions, so that one day they are answered.


5. Keep going.

It has been a long way.

We have detected our auto-pilot reactions, accepted our flaws, gave our reactions some space, determined our values… And it is time to keep practicing what we have learnt.

One of the most difficult things for me in any self-development activities is to constantly do something. And I guess, it is not a secret to anybody, that without consistency there is hardly any progress in whatever we do. It is relatively easy to study foreign language in the first couple of weeks when you are at the vacation, it is not that easy anymore when you need to deny yourself some rest or some nice hanging out time with your friends in order to keep learning. And one of the techniques that can help us to keep going is to get ready for those times when we won’t want to do what we planned to do (beneficial in a long-term, according to our values, but so painful and daunting at this very moment).

I believe that one example that almost everybody can relate to is early wake ups. In the evening, I envision myself jumping out of the bed happily, putting my sneakers on and with “Eye of the tiger” mode jog into the sunrise. In reality, I can snooze my alarms for hours. No tigers, no.alex-guillaume-238697

However, I have learn’t one very cool methods that works for me in 99% of times and I really hope it can work for you.

I ask myself: “Do I really want to start my day with a failure?”. Because, if you really think of what “waking up at 5 am” is, you will understand that it is a goal. And what I am doing by snoozing the alarm is failing at achieving this goal.


Try to find “I want” in every “I have to”.

I wish you best of luck in your journey to emotional agility. You can do it.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s