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Emotional Agility

Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

By Susan David
15-minute read
Audio available
Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David

Emotional Agility (2016) provides the theories and tools that will emancipate you from the fickle rule of your emotions. If you can distance yourself from the knots of anger and fear in your stomach, you can gradually learn to unwind and heal.

  • Multitaskers who work a job and also take care of a family
  • Psychologists and life coaches
  • Emotional people who need help dealing with the world at large

Susan David is a medical psychologist. She runs the Institute of Coaching at the McLean Hospital, in Massachusetts, and has worked for major companies as a consultant. Her writings have been published in the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.

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Emotional Agility

Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

By Susan David
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life by Susan David
Synopsis

Emotional Agility (2016) provides the theories and tools that will emancipate you from the fickle rule of your emotions. If you can distance yourself from the knots of anger and fear in your stomach, you can gradually learn to unwind and heal.

Key idea 1 of 9

The human brain can create distorted stories based on lived experience.

It’s long been known that great movies need a great “hook,” a simple device that motivates the characters and gets the story moving. But hooks exist outside of film, too. In fact, we often get hooked into the story of our own life in the same way.

From one moment to the next, our brains are constantly trying to make sense of our experiences and turn them into a coherent story about our lives. They create narratives from billions of pieces of sensory input.

For instance, the author’s basic “story” goes like this: "I am waking up and getting out of bed. The small person jumping at me is my daughter. I grew up in Johannesburg, but I currently live in New York. I need to get up today because I’m a social worker."

As long as things are simple and positive, it’s not tricky. But the story construction often goes awry.

The issue is that the stories our minds manufacture are rarely accurate. Instead, they distort reality, often in a negative way. And that’s not good because misrepresentation produces negative emotions.

For instance, let’s say your parents separated soon after your birth. You might blame yourself for their divorce, even though you’re completely innocent. Or you might think you’ll always be unloved because you were a shy, introverted child in a family of extroverts.

These kinds of distortions happen every day, and the results can be harmful. Imagine you’re at loggerheads with your boss, but, instead of addressing the issue directly, the event negatively clouds your thinking and so you go home and snap at your spouse because she forgot to run the dishwasher. Thanks to distortion, you’ve not only failed to resolve the conflict with your boss; you’ve riled up your partner, too.

Put simply, we rarely see our lives as they really are. Rather, we weave distorted stories that make us emotionally unhappy. Emotional agility is the ability to step back from the emotions and figure out what needs to change.

So how should we set about unraveling this mess?

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