Want to Build Your Emotional Agility? Lean into your discomfort

Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.   Susan David

Are you looking for practices that will help you work with difficulties and obstacles in ways that can strengthen your resilience and add meaning to your life? Harvard Medical School psychologist, Susan David’s approach for building emotional agility has the potential for such powerful outcomes.

According to David, “Emotional agility is a process that 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.

She provides a roadmap for building emotional intelligence by drawing on four concepts.  Here’s how she describes the concepts on her website (see link below):

Showing Up: Instead of ignoring difficult thoughts and emotions or overemphasizing ‘positive thinking’, facing into your thoughts, emotions and behaviors willingly, with curiosity and kindness.

Stepping OutDetaching from, and observing your thoughts and emotions to see them for what they are—just thoughts, just emotions. Essentially, learning to see yourself as the chessboard, filled with possibilities, rather than as any one piece on the board, confined to certain preordained moves.

Walking Your WhyYour core values provide the compass that keeps you moving in the right direction. Rather than being abstract ideas, these values are the true path to willpower, resilience and effectiveness.

Moving OnSmall deliberate tweaks to your mindset, motivation, and habits – in ways that are infused with your values, can make a powerful difference in your life. The idea is to find the balance between challenge and competence, so that you’re neither complacent nor overwhelmed.  You’re excited, enthusiastic, invigorated. 

When I am drawing on this material as part of a learning program, I prefer to ‘workshop’ it, that is, plan reflection or interactive activities that help people understand the value of the concepts, provide strategies for working with them and practices to make outcomes real and lasting.

More on Susan David, PhD.

David is a psychologist on faculty at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and co-director of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, and CEO of Evidence Based Psychology.  Check out her website for access to her book, Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life (2016), to take a free Emotional Agility Quiz, or to listen to her talks, including a popular Ted Talk that brings the concepts of her work to life.   If you are new to her work, you may want to check out the Ted Talk first The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage.

Read posts on related topics:

Women, Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Resilience: Not Just a Buzz Word

The Neuroscience Revolution

Three Tips for Becoming a Resilient Leader

Sign up for our newsletter to get inspiring articles, news about workshops and events, and a copy of our eBook, “13 Practices for Brilliant Women: A guide for transforming intentions into action.” We hope you’ll follow us on Facebook to see what is going on in the Women in Leadership for Life world.