Emotional Intelligence Can Predict Life Success

Why EQ is a Buzzword You Need to Know

December 1, 2019

Have you ever gone to a high school reunion and looked around and exclaimed, “She married him? And they have seven kids?” This is a truism that many alumni have found at class reunions: the lives of classmates don’t always turn out as expected.

“Success in life is much more based on EQ than IQ ”

In terms of intelligence, individuals with high IQs, usually viewed as most likely to succeed, don’t always excel. At the same time, others who had mediocre academic performances go on to become outstanding achievers in the professional world. While IQ may contribute as much as 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, the remaining 80 percent or more is determined by other forces. [i] In other words, the overwhelming majority of our ultimate success in life is determined by non-IQ factors.

The reason behind this surprising fact is quite simple: success in life is much more based on EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) than IQ (Intelligence Quotient). Out-of-control emotions can make even the most intelligent individuals behave in a manner that simply is not very smart.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

So what exactly is the Emotional Intelligence Quotient? EQ is really a measure of characteristics which research has confirmed are very important to successful and enjoyable living. People with high EQs have control of their impulses and emotions. They are trustworthy, honest, conscientious, dependable, and responsible. They are flexible and able to adapt to change. They are also open to constructive criticism, innovation, novel ideas, new approaches, and information. In addition, people with high EQs are aware of limits to their abilities and have reasonable expectations. [ii]

Emotional intelligence has been shown to help people think more clearly, communicate more effectively, reduce polarizing statements, and develop unity in group settings. [ii] These skills are particularly critical in today’s knowledge-oriented workplace, where harmonious team efforts are more critical than ever to organize success.

What we are really talking about is emotional maturity – an openness and willingness to develop, grow, and be mature in how we handle others and ourselves. In personal relationships, an individual with a high EQ has the ability to step aside from their emotional reaction to an upsetting event and look logically at what really happened. Their honesty allows them to understand other points of view, as well as potential solutions to the problem. While your first job out of college will likely be directly related to your IQ, how far you advance in that job is much more related to EQ. Often people with a high IQ don’t understand this. They think the reason they’ve been passed over for a promotion is that the rest of the world doesn’t have enough intelligence to recognize their IQ. They often feel slighted or that life is unfair. The truth is, employers do recognize intelligence in promotion decisions. The intelligence being recognized, however, is EQ.  

“They are willing to delay gratification in favor of the greater good”

Individuals with high EQ understand their emotions and feelings and can express, control, and manage them. They usually have insights into the feelings and views of others, and more easily understand the dynamics of a group and their role within it. They are willing to delay gratification in favor of the greater good. Those with a high EQ also are more likely to motivate themselves to achieve goals and maintain a positive but realistic attitude. As a result, they often earn promotions more quickly than those with a higher IQ. Essentially, people with a high EQ see the “big picture” so they are able to avoid the emotional roller coaster.

There are five basic components of emotional intelligence:

  1. Knowing your emotions
  2. Managing your emotions
  3. Recognizing emotions in others
  4. Managing relationships
  5. Motivating ourselves to achieve goals

You may have noticed the word “emotion” is a focal point in three of the five components. If you take the “e” away from the word “emotion” you get “motion,” which is related to motivation (factors that activate, direct, and sustain goal-directed behavior). The close relationship between EQ and motivation is a prime reason why a high IQ doesn’t automatically ensure life success. Motivation, which has everything to do with EQ, is also a critical component to success and achievement.

Numerous factors affect EQ. Although IQ is more influenced by genetics, heredity does play a role in EQ as well. Children learn emotional intelligence – or a lack thereof – from parents. [iii] Childhood experiences also have a major influence on EQ. Sexual abuse in childhood impacts the amygdala, limbic system, and prefrontal cortex areas of the brain. [iv] The frontal lobe of the brain actually shrinks, while the limbic system becomes stronger. Developing a high EQ becomes more difficult in such situations, but no impossible. Watching entertainment television during childhood also results in a dramatically increased limbic system. Additionally, your current level of emotional support will affect your EQ. [v] Physical factors such as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition also contribute to a poor EQ, particularly in the reaction to an uncontrolled stressful event. [vi] Nutrition is emerging as a particularly important factor effecting emotional intelligence as well.

One other factor eclipses all else in terms of impact. That factor, as identified by numerous emotional intelligence experts, is simply what an individual thinks. In other words, your moment by moment thoughts have a tremendous amount to do with your personal EQ. Negative, turmoil-producing thoughts nearly always contain gross distortions. While the thoughts appear valid on the surface, they are actually irrational, twisted, and wrong. To begin improving your EQ and achieve lasting change, you will have to consider both the words you are using and the thoughts you are thinking.  The good news is that straightening out thinking can improve moods, personal relationships, and life in general.

You can learn more about how what you think affects who you are in two Let’s Talk Mental Health articles – “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”: Part 1, The Ten Cognitive Distortions and Part 2, Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The truth-oriented principles of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are so pivotal to clear thinking that I have dedicated ten whole chapters in my book The Lost Art of Thinking to better understanding CBT.

You can improve your EQ, and with it, your prospect for personal happiness. Despite what effort may be involved, the success, happiness, and improved relationships you’ll enjoy because of your heightened EQ will make the time spent in this valuable pursuit well worth your investment in effort.

I understand the need for easy-to-access, high quality information on improving mental performance and increasing emotional intelligence. That’s why we created a new online course, Optimize Your Brain™ Online, to meet this need, no matter where in the world you’re located.

Optimize Your Brain™ Online by Nedley Health offers access to my educational lectures, interactive quizzes and lesson plans, the Optimize Your Brain™ e-workbook, and a structured platform to improve your emotional intelligence, mental health, and general wellbeing in six weeks. The complete package includes hardcover copies of the Optimize Your Brain™ workbook and my book The Lost Art of Thinking, as well as the Depression and Anxiety Assessment Test™, which provides an emotional intelligence evaluation. With the complete package, you’ll see in-depth analysis and assessments of your mental health.

Optimize Your Brain™ Online will help you:

  • Improve relationships
  • Learn, retain, and apply knowledge
  • Set and achieve your goals
  • Creativity, motivation, and life satisfaction

I wish you the best in your quest to maximize your brain’s potential.

Adapted from The Lost Art of Thinking.

Please contact us first before publishing this or other Let’s Talk Mental Health articles.


[i] Riggs, NR et al (2006). The mediational role of neurocognition and behavioral outcomes of a social-emotional prevention program in elementary school students: effects of the PATHS curriculum. Prevention Science.

[ii] Goleman, D (1995). Emotional intelligence: why I can matter more than IQ. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

[iii] Hooven, C et al (1994). The family as a meta-emotion culture. Cognitions and Emotion.

[iv] Spates, CR et al (2007). Psychological impact of trauma on developing children and youth. Primary care: clinics in office practice.

[v] Freeman, P, Rees, T. (2009). How does perceived support lead to better performance? An examination of potential mechanisms. Journal of applied sport psychology.

[vi] Killgore, WD et all (2007). The effects of 53 hours of sleep deprivation on moral judgement. Sleep. 303(3);345-52.

About the author


Neil Nedley, MD, is a practicing physician in internal medicine. He is the founder and medical director of the Nedley Depression and Anxiety Recovery Programs™. Dr. Nedley has presented and published numerous scientific studies in the medical literature and is well known as a public speaker and teacher throughout the world. He is author of Proof Positive, Depression—the Way Out, The Lost Art of Thinking, and Optimize Your Brain.  He hosts the annual Emotional Intelligence Summit with global speakers and participants. Dr. Nedley and his wife Erica have four sons. He enjoys hiking in nature with his family, piloting his own aircraft, snow skiing, and listening to sacred and classical music. Nothing is as enjoyable to Dr. Nedley, however, as helping people from the depths of depression and anxiety to the pinnacle of success and fulfillment.