I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about what qualities make you successful. Working in higher education with a Masters in Higher Ed. and Student Personnel Services, you might expect me to say a degree is number one! Well yes, I would say that having a college degree is vital to having a fruitful career and to your development as a person. I would also say a Jesuit education will set you apart from the average Jill or Joe when it comes to the opportunity for holistic growth. However, I will also argue that a person can have multiple degrees, accolades, honors and recognitions and still not have what it takes to be successful.

I know this sounds crazy, but there is a lot more that goes into intelligence and success than what a piece of paper will claim you are an expert in. I recently read an article by David Brooks, titled “The New Humanism” in the New York Times. He discusses the ideology that we as humans have overly simplified human nature. We have dismissed the idea that emotions are reliable and decided that only “reason” can be trusted. Think about it, it’s easy to talk about the material or tangible things in your life, but difficult, sometimes painfully so, to breach the topic our emotions. When you were raised, it’s highly likely that your parents focused on and rewarded you for your grades, your performance in athletics or awards you received, and that’s great! Those very accomplishments helped your admission into Loyola. However, I believe that there has been a great lesson lost in our culture of high achievement. Building relationships, keeping those relationships, and confronting difficult issues are core components of growing up. I use the term “growing up” loosely. I am suggesting that all of us, young and not so young are still growing up, especially in the area of emotional expertise.

Brooks writes that “emotion is not opposed to reason”. We use our emotions to place significance to ideas that are the foundation for reason. Your unconscious mind is always working, whether we realize it or not (obviously, right?). To discount that our emotions are real and vital to our existence and the power we have to make decision is irresponsible. Brooks provides a few definitions that I think reconcile this point:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations

Equipoise: ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own min and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Personally I find this idea fascinating! In no way am I suggesting we sack reason; it keeps us on track and reframes situations when our emotions go awry. This leads to what I am trying to say; emotional intelligence is completely underrated!  Just as we train our intellect we have to train our emotions and recognize their validity. This training is harder than any test you will take. It starts and ends with you and if you can be in tune with your emotions and know how to use them to your advantage AND for the advantage of others I believe you will reach greater heights than you could have imagined.

Click here for “The New Humanism” article (free subscription required to view)

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