Why you need EQ to break free from the happiness trap

Let’s face it, life is an emotional rollercoaster. And sometimes it feels like you are strapped into the seat and just going along for the ride. 

Emotional intelligence is a concept created in the 1980s to explain why smart people often do stupid things. The concept is similar to your general intelligence (IQ) which is a measurement of your ability to process information and come to a sound decision. Your emotional intelligence (EQ) is your ability to process emotions -both yours and others- to reach sound decisions. 

This ability to understand and process your feelings means you are not just a little apple bobbing about in the sea of your own emotions, at the mercy of the ebb and flow of whatever is emotionally happening to you at that moment. A level of emotional intelligence helps to leave a more balanced life emotionally and aids in breaking free from the happiness trap. 

However, EQ isn’t generally as stable as IQ. You can develop your EQ like a muscle or a skill. And here is how:

Emotional self-awareness

Sometimes, we like to think of our work as a place strictly for business. Though most CEOs wouldn’t like to admit it, companies can sometimes feel a bit like a schoolyard with emotion dictating the way employees interact with their peers and even clients.

Emotions regularly occur at work, we can get excited about a project we enjoy and feel happy or often stressed about a looming deadline.  Our emotions play a part daily as to how we bond with our team and what we feel when someone has broken our trust. 

We all have different emotional triggers – a phrase, an assumption or the behaviour of an individual. While it is good to feel an array of emotions at work – after all, we spend a good chunk of our life there – when it impacts the way we work and our enjoyment of work, it can be uncomfortable. 

‘Know thyself’ is an Ancient Greek aphorism and an applied saying that simply translates to know your limits, your motivation or even just know yourself. Self-awareness is as much about being honest with yourself as to who you are, as well as with others. 

You must truly understand yourself. What triggers you to emotionally react or behave in a certain way. Is it the work environment which is causing you stress, or is it the expectations you have placed on yourself. 

Knowing yourself helps to apply introspection to your own personality in order to understand both your strengths, weaknesses, prejudices, and motivation. A level of emotional self-awareness is essential for personal growth. And additionally,  understanding your thoughts and how you emotionally respond and feel makes it possible for you to control your emotional response. 

Social awareness

Do your team look gloomy and uninterested when you are discussing an exciting new project you are going to start working on? Or do they share your enthusiasm? 

To be an effective leader, you must be able to read the room from an emotional and social perspective. Social awareness is something you can develop with practice, but it requires emotional self-awareness to do so, specifically empathy. 

Competition in the workplace, strict deadlines and the ambition trap are all factors that reduce our empathy. When was the last time you cared about the feelings of your team? Have you seen your colleague looking emotionally stressed yet turned a blind eye? If you cannot remember then you are certainly lacking social awareness. 

If someone in your team has made a silly mistake, don’t act with a knee jerk reaction and berate them. Instead, talk to them about what happened. Understand their personal circumstances – there might be a problem in their personal life which is impacting their ability to concentrate and causing enormous stress. 

Being a leader does not mean you just assign tasks to your team and expect them to deliver. A genuine leader knows and observes how employees are feeling so you can get the best out of them. And this starts first with mastering the art of social awareness.


We are exceptionally good at dismissing even the tiniest possibility that we as a person, might change. We all think that who we are now is the finished product and we will be the same in 5, 10 and even 20 years. We put ourselves in a box. And this box controls us. 

We act and feel a certain way because we believe we are a ‘such and such’ kind of person. You might order a flat white because you are a flat white person. It’s just part of who you are and we subconsciously accept this. And this principle applies to so many other daily choices we make. 

This is especially true for individuals in the ‘should trap’. These people feel that they are a boat simply floating along with the tide instead of being the skipper sailing their own waters. A flat white person might not be a cappuccino person tomorrow, but what about in 5 years? 

You do what you do because often it has been ingrained in you that it is the kind of person you are. We all believe we have a fairly stable idea about what kind of people we are. But what if this is not true. Have you ever stopped to think about what sort of person you want to be? If so, why not try and sail a course to be that!

You are not a victim of your circumstances, you are an independent human being capable of free-thinking. Self-management requires you to control how you react to your emotions. 

If you are feeling down in the dumps and unmotivated – self-management, along with self-awareness helps provide the discipline that picks you up, dusts you off and redirects you towards your goals.

Relationship management

Most of the points we have covered, deal with handling and directing our emotions internally. But the whole point of developing strong emotional intelligence is to grow healthier relationships across all aspects of our lives. Good, functional working relationships not only make our lives easier they make it more enjoyable. 50% of people stated that having robust relationships in the workplace made them feel happier in their role. And people who say they have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage at work. Now, what do these numbers tell us? We are social creatures and the quality of our relationships contributes to our overall well being. 

To truly manage your relationships with someone doesn’t mean to completely understand them, but instead to accept them as they are and often how they act. When we learn to value others for their existence and treat them as they are, the satisfaction derived from the relationship exponentially increases. 

Relationship management is where the emotional rubber hits the pavement so to speak. It gets us out of our own head and into the world. 

At various stages of our careers, some of this advice will apply and other times it won’t. But it is important to be aware of each and their benefits to you as an individual. All of these together can help you take the reins on your life and break free from whatever trap is holding you back. 

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