BOOK REVIEW: 4 steps to emotional agility | Fin24

BOOK REVIEW: 4 steps to emotional agility

Jul 10 2018 10:52

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; everything.”  

This is according to Dr Susan David’s book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, which was presented by Sarah Babb, a leadership development specialist, at the latest We Read For You (WRFY) event hosted by USB Executive Development (USB-ED) and finweek in Cape Town on 15 June.   

David, a renowned psychologist and expert on emotions, happiness, and achieving success, utilises her more than 20 years of experience to show that those who are emotionally agile have the ability to understand situations and their feelings, and use this knowledge to adapt and make the necessary changes to bring about the best of themselves.   

According to Babb, David describes emotional agility as a process that allows individuals to be in the moment and adapt their behaviour with an open mind so that they can live in ways that are in line with their intention and values. 

The book further explains that the process isn’t about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts, but rather about facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them.  

“When we don’t go to the source of our different emotions, we miss the ability to really deal once and for all with what’s causing distress,” according to David.  

Babb reiterates David’s argument that we own our emotions, they don’t own us, and that emotions should be viewed as prompts for life directions and choices. 

“Emotional agility is about having flexible thoughts and feelings to respond optimally to everyday situations to serve our wellbeing and our success,” says Babb.    

In order to achieve emotional agility, the book makes reference to four essential movements:

Showing up  

Babb explains David’s assertion that we should show up to our emotions and not run away from them or bottle them up inside.

“Label and notice them. When we show up fully, with awareness and acceptance, even the worst demons (or emotions) back down.”

Learning to label emotions can be absolutely transformative, says David.   

“It does take guts. What David emphasises is that once we show up, then we can have a choice,” explains Babb.  

Stepping out  

Babb explains that once we’ve showed up to our emotions, we can step out, which dissolves the entanglement between impulses and actions and creates a space between an emotion and an action.   

David explains in her book that this requires mindfulness, rather than mindlessness where you are not in touch with who you are and completely disassociated from reality. 

“Mindfulness requires stepping out so that you can observe the thinker inside,” says Babb.   

Walking your why

Walking your why is the art of living by your personal set of values and striving for the behaviours and beliefs that you hold dear and that give you a sense of meaning. 

“So, we show up to our emotions, we step back from them and then we have a choice,” says Babb.  

Babb explains that we often make decisions that are not our own and that are influenced by others. “David states that there is an opportunity to live by your values and where you want to be.”  

Walking your why gives individuals the opportunity to consider their values and make choices that are in line with these. 

“Each choice point presents you with the opportunity to walk your why,” states David.

Moving on

In the last movement to emotional agility, Babb says we need to tweak our mindset, motivations and our habits.  

“A malleable sense of self is the cornerstone of emotional agility. The curse of comfort is that we often stay in it because of fear and then disguise it as procrastination, perfection, or opt to shut it down.”   

With empathy and wit, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life provides the tools to navigate through emotions and to make sound choices on how to respond. 

David encourages everyone to live in the zone of optimal development and states that finding a balance of being whelmed is a way of staying agile and fresh.   

finweek is the USB-ED’s media partner in its We Read For You series. 

This article originally appeared in the 5 July edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

book review  |  management  |  leadership