Get happy: A look at emotional intelligence

By Gale Mote / Guest Editorial

I’ll confess that when I listen to Pharrell William’s hit song, “Happy,” I can’t help but boogie in my chair, behind the steering wheel of my vehicle or in my kitchen. “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth/clap along if you know what happiness means to you! ‘Cause I’m happy, happy, happy…”

Positive psychologists define happiness as the experience of positive emotions – pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. It implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future.

In 2005, psychologist Reuven Bar-On defined emotional intelligence as “a cross-section of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and facilitators that determine how effectively we understand and express ourselves, understand others and relate with them, and cope with daily demands.”

Multi-Health Systems, a publisher of psychological assessments, has identified three emotional intelligence competencies that contribute most to happiness and overall well-being as part of its EQ-I model. They are self-regard, self-actualization and optimism, and they are interrelated – each needs the other two for maximum impact.

There are no strengths or weaknesses in emotional intelligence, or EQ. We measure how attracted a person is to certain competencies and how frequently they engage in them. EQ is a measure of your capacity to utilize the behaviors available to you to improve your overall life and job satisfaction.

As we look at each, think about where you fall on the continuum from low (you feel most disconnected and unskilled in) to high (you feel most connected to and secure in.)

Self-regard is your ability to like and have confidence in yourself, with all of your positive and negative qualities. People low in self-regard stand out from the norm as lacking self-esteem and feeling inferior. Those high in self-regard demonstrate feelings of acceptance and self-esteem. When self-regard is overdone, it comes across as arrogant and conceited.

Building self-regard goes beyond Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live saying, “I’m smart enough, I’m good enough and doggone it, people like me!” While positive self-affirmations are helpful, the biggest boost is to set some reasonable goals and then relish the success of nailing them. Accept all positive feedback unconditionally. Try new things and be willing to fail forward.

Another EQ element contributing to happiness is self-actualization. This refers to your ability and desire to grow and continuously improve – to see your potential, set meaningful goals and work toward betterment and fulfillment. A person disconnected from self-actualization might come across as lazy or lacking ambition, whereas someone high in this skill would demonstrate visible drive toward self-improvement. Too much and a person may seem overly goal-driven and unable to be satisfied with any level of performance – even bordering on the self-centered.

Happiness requires that you feel your life has meaning – it fulfills a purpose. With high self-actualization, you demonstrate a healthy drive toward the pursuit of intellectual and emotional satisfaction through meaningful work and play. The ability to bring your strengths and pay it forward is a powerful combination. The reason why many people struggle to get out of bed in the morning is that they have no goals – no reason to get to it and give it all they’ve got! Start now and identify an activity you would enjoy and get excited about at least once a week for a month, and then do it.

Lastly, optimism drives happiness. Nobody ever damaged their eyesight by looking on the bright side of a situation or event. It is your ability and tendency to maintain a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity. Optimism gives you hope, and enables you to see the future as a positive and inviting place.

People low in optimism are viewed as pessimistic, focusing on the negatives and what is wrong rather than shining a light on what is right. They may act hopeless, helpless and engage in victim thinking – giving up easily. People high in optimism train their brain to be positive and maintain that outlook even in high-stress situations – but when taken too far, they can be viewed as unrealistic or blind to reality.

If you want to develop optimism, start by developing an attitude of gratitude. Focus on what you have in your life that is good and why it matters. Be careful about associating with toxic vampires who suck the energy right out of you. Surround yourself with good people and positive things. Stop worrying; most of the things we worry about never happen. Remember the past is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift – that’s why we call it the present!  Focus on what you can control and influence.

Happiness doesn’t mean that we are joyful all the time, everywhere. It means that we embrace life, with all of its challenges, and with cheerfulness and enthusiasm. As you strengthen your self-regard, self-actualization and optimism muscles, you will feel the happiness that comes from within.  So go ahead, get happy!



Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at