By:  Dale A. Hicks, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Certified CEO Effectiveness Executive Coach

brain-770044_1280We have always known that intelligence or talent alone do not accurately predict success. Nor are they highly correlated with happiness, satisfying interpersonal relationships, or life satisfaction. There are too many other variables that play a role in whether someone is able to actualize their potential, as measured by an aptitude test. Some of these variables may not be under our control, but many of them are. It has been noted by Dr. William Anton (Business Success through Self-Knowledge, 2013) that “extremely high levels of achievement almost always come at the expense of other areas of our personality.”  Likewise, these other personality variables can significantly detract from (or enhance) the success we achieve, independent of our innate level of intelligence or talent.

The concept of emotional intelligence has been recognized at least since the 1960’s, but it was popularized and presented as an important area of research in psychology and neuroscience by Daniel Goleman in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ (1995). While subsequent authors, including Goleman, have conceptualized it in various ways over time, Goleman highlighted five dimensions of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness (knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognizing their impact on others), Self-regulation (controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances), Social skill (managing relationships), Empathy (considering others’ feelings when making decisions) and Motivation (driven to achieve for the sake of achievement). As implied by Goleman’s book title, emotional intelligence often is viewed as equally or more important to success than actual raw ability. That is, given at least a sufficient level of talent, it is rather our ability to fully access our resources and direct them toward success that determines how well we can actualize our potential. Consistently, we all know people who have achieved far greater than we would have predicted, as well as those who have failed to achieve what we might have expected.

Fortunately, emotional intelligence can be learned and can continue to grow throughout our life spans. When integrated with our innate talents and hard earned skills, this can make all the difference across every area of our lives, including how we relate with others, how well we achieve in our careers, how we function as leaders and how easily we find joy and happiness in our daily lives.

Unfortunately, many people remain unaware of the extent to which they sabotage their success across multiple areas of functioning as a result of their limited self-knowledge. As Dr. Anton has pointed out in earlier posts, “Self-knowledge influences the delivery system for everything (we) attempt in life.” In order to understand why we may not be reaching our “potential” in any one of our endeavors, it may be best to begin by looking within ourselves and identifying those obstacles (many of which are held at an unconscious level, but drive us nevertheless) which are interfering with our self-actualization.