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by Peter Sullivan

There is an ever growing body of evidence showing that emotional intelligence is a core competency in achieving success. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and impulses as well as managing the emotions and behaviour of others.

The importance of emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, impulse control, and empathy and relationship management is well documented. While these factors are important, what is more important is being able to tap into these attributes in the face of adversity.
A Walter Clarke study of 130 executives found that, how well people handled their own emotions determined how much people around them preferred to deal with them.
How often do we see talented fail to achieve their full potential? Having a high IQ and a good education are important ingredients in a successful life. These attributes gain entry into ‘the game’ but they alone are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee success.

The ability to manage adversity, stay motivated and focused under pressure is a hallmark of very successful people.


More than 30 years of extensive research by Dr. Martin Seligman on optimism has shown that optimists are more resistant to life’s setbacks and more likely to achieve their potential. They are mentally tougher and more persistent in the face of adversity.

Tough minded optimists enjoy better health than pessimists, and get the maximum pleasure out of their successes because they believe they caused them and that they’ll have more of them.

Optimism, a core competence of emotional intelligence, has proven to be the quality that fortifies people to handle change and adversity. More than any other factor in emotional intelligence optimism and resilience determine how we respond to the challenges and pressures of our environment.

Talents and skills are surely eroded if we don’t have the inner strength and mental toughness to press on in spite of the pressures of the role.

The ability to stay optimistic and persevere in the face of adversity is a large determinant of success. Optimism enables leaders to maintain their motivation despite a tough environment.

People with high hope set and commit to higher goals and inspire their people to work harder to obtain them. Being able to marshal feelings of enthusiasm and confidence in the workforce is one of the unifying traits of successful people.

With greater expectations and work load people need a high tolerance to frustration. They need the mental toughness and resilience that will keep them bouncing back from the pressures of decisions, setbacks and problems.

Rtime exesilience

Years of research by Professor Martin Seligman has demonstrated the key to success is resilience. Resilience is the ability to stay optimistic, endure adversity and not falter, it is a vital determinate of achievement in school work and life. Resilience is also about the persistence necessary to bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on goals.

The resiliency factor is what creates results beyond what mere talent would suggest. It is the ingredient that maximises ability, especially during times of change and adversity.

Resilience has proven to be a powerful predictor of performance, wealth and health.

In “The Resilience Factor”, Karen Revich and Andrew Shatte cite the number one roadblock to resilience is limitations in cognitive style. Most agree the way we interpret the world impacts on whether we feel overwhelmed by events or have the inner strength and hardiness to press on.

The fortunate thing is that the attributes of mental toughness, optimism and resilience can be developed. Learning specific strategies can enhance these skills and enable people to maximise their talents and opportunities.

A few tips

One of the first steps in building resilience is to identify the hard-to-do high-payoff activities of your role. This allows you to maintain your focus on the activities that make the biggest difference. Optimists believe they can get them done, and have the resilience to stick at it if they aren’t completed straight away. When you are more proactive with these activities you develop a habit of overcoming adversity and staying focused on goals.

Another tip is to simply recognise the hard evidence on these soft skills of emotional intelligence. Sometimes when we are so focused on the technical skills of a role we can lose sight of the value of optimism and resilience.

Recognise the role of both thought and emotion in human behaviour. Next time it doesn’t quite go to plan, review and try to understand how emotions have had a major impact on people’s decisions and behaviours. In doing so you’ll begin to see more ways to act, and not react that are particularly useful, especially when you’re under pressure.

Finally, while working to improve your mental toughness, still have remember to have a heart. We are, after all, emotionally intelligent beings!

There is plenty of evidence on how resilience is a core factor in achievement. It is by learning how to manage negative emotions, especially in difficult circumstances, that you can bounce back quicker from setbacks. And keeping your problems in perspective enhances your mental toughness and persistence – attributes that are sure to help you achieve even greater successes.

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