Principled Learning for Emotional Intelligence

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If we reflect on the role of logical thought in our lives today, we realize that it is the instrument of thought we use throughout the sciences and its many divisions. In fact, we spend years studying logical principles in all sorts of academic fields so we can perform well in our professional lives.

These logical principles are proven truths that are used in hundreds of different scenarios, yet still generate the outcome it promises regardless of how large or abstract the problem. 

For example, in mathematics, we have the orders of operations [the distributive law or PEMDAS], which helps mathematicians understand the correct way to read and solve a mathematical problem. Regardless of how challenging or abstract the math problem is, no individual with intelligence in mathematics would work through the problem against this law.

For example, try evaluating the expression 2+(4×10) – if we didn’t all agree on the order of operations, there would be two ways of interpreting this: one could assume that since we read from left to right, we must first add 2+4×10; by doing this we get 60, which is incorrect. By following the order of operations and by first multiplying 4×10, we get 42, which is the correct answer.  

The principles in the distributive law help mathematicians reach the optimal outcome – a quicker, easier and more accurate outcome; it makes life easier for them. Imagine the distributive property didn’t exist and then ask two computers to execute the math problem; they may both answer differently, making math quite frustrating and problems extremely hard to solve.

This is exactly how I felt growing up about navigating problems around emotions – I got frustrated and had an extremely hard time solving emotional problems in my life. I constantly failed to navigate my emotions well, and faced many costly consequences because of it; I am sure many of you can relate. 

By using a set of principles, we individually and collectively end up with better and more reliable outcomes. After dreadful consequences of relying solely on my emotions, I asked myself, ‘where are the principles that teach us how to navigate the complex world of emotions?’

Navigating the world of emotions is no more complex than navigating the world of mathematics, economics or even physics; they are all multi-layered and can get very abstract in nature. So, if that is the case, then where are the principles that help us navigate the world of emotions? 

By developing and studying a set of principles to act on, I am able to solve problems in all areas of my life much faster and overall, reach much better outcomes in my life. Humans are subject to irrationality when emotions are involved – they’re stuck in the micro, as I like to call it.

At some point though, we have to be able to pull back and see things from a more macro lens. To combat emotional bias, I have developed and used principles to define the world around me through facts that sometimes, and often, conflict intuitions and emotions in the heat of the moment.

If we wait to make important decisions when we are in the heat of the moment, it is often too late to see the rational option. I follow these principles regardless of how heated the moment is… because they are rooted in truth, and after all, that is where we find life’s optimal outcomes. 

So, how did I come up with these principles? Well, I asked myself what the goal of emotional intelligence is so that I can measure the efficacy of each principle; the goal of emotional intelligence is to effectively navigate emotions so that you can create optimal outcomes in life for both you and those around you. In the heat of the moment, emotions completely cloud our judgment, whereas being grounded in logic clouds nothing.

Reasoning with emotions has become the primary way to gain emotional intelligence; there is no going around that. This means that you must be able to practice delayed gratification – the ability to resist the temptations of your emotions, or of a small immediate reward, for a larger reward or better outcome later. 

The content of reasoning comes from research, history, and principles that we prove to be true when we aren’t emotionally influenced – when our reality is not distorted by emotion. When we are in a state of emotional distortion, it becomes too late to use logical thought because our emotions and perceptions cloud reality, and our perception becomes too real to us in the moment. We know that perceptions aren’t always true, which is why we need to set our principles to benchmarking our perceptions against in order to reality-test and act wisely. 

Principles are tried and tested over time, and must prove to consistently lead us to better and optimal outcomes, for ourselves and others.

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