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Motivation, Defining EI, Gods, and Education

This morning I woke up feeling more motivated than yesterday. Does that mean I am more emotionally intelligent today? According to Dan Goleman, I guess it does. He says that the ability to motivate oneself is part of emotional intelligence. (I am not sure if he means while you are asleep, though!)

Anyhow, I was thinking about the connection between motivation and fear.

Here are two examples.

Yesterday I was afraid to go to an English institute to see if anyone wanted me to help them with their English or if anyone wanted to help me with my projects. I was afraid of rejection. The fear of it kept me from going. I wasn't motivated enough to go in spite of my fear. Is that more a factor of my low emotional intelligence or my past experiences with rejection? Maybe a person who is emotionally intelligent will stay out of situations where they are likely to feel emotional pain, such as the pain of rejection. I really don't know.

Now take the case of a bear chasing a man in the woods. If the man feels motivated to run, would we say he is emotionally intelligent? Is this really a helpful way to think of emotional intelligence? This leads to a question: Which definition of emotional intelligence is most helpful to the world? To humanity?

I have pretty much concluded we are all just guessing at what emotional intelligence is. Also, the definition you like is going to depend on your values. This is a big problem with trying to define it. It is a lot easier to get people to agree on something like what is black or what is 2+2.

Maybe we could say that emotional intelligence is a bit like the concept of a god. Maybe it depends a lot on a) Whether you believe in it at all and 2) What you believe about it.

Here is a quote from an article I read the other day. It is an article in a magazine for doctors. The writers were trying to figure out if emotional intelligence can be measured. Here is the quote:

This paper ponders the question whether EI is in fact measurable. We do not believe that it is. Indeed, we are not sure whether EI even ‘exists’ in the terms in which it is generally discussed in the literature. The measurement of EI is fraught with problems and leads us to question both the construct and predictive validity of EI. (source)

Personally I believe emotional intelligence does "exist." And I believe it is important. Very important. For one thing, I believe it offers us hope to stop killing each other. I believe it offers hope for us to stop focusing on the accumulation of wealth and material things. I believe it offers hope for us to treat children and teenagers in more emotionally supportive and understanding ways, as well as to put more value on their feelings and thoughts.

Honestly, I believe the concept of emotional intelligence offers us more hope than the concept of gods. The "god" concept has lead to countless deaths through recorded history and continues to divide the world. Though the definition of emotional intelligence is hard to agree upon, and it may be a concept, or "construct", (1) which is very hard or impossible to measure, I think it has a bit more chance of being universally accepted than any one concept of a supernatural being. Then again, the concept of emotional intelligence is now suffering from the same problem that the concepts of various gods has suffered from, ie widespread ignorance and repetition without thought.

We might even be able to make a case that the concept of emotional intelligence as promoted by Dan Goleman, Reuven Bar and David Caruso has spread more rapidly than any religion in history. I hesitate to add David's name to the list, but it is harder and harder for me to see the difference between his concept of emotional intelligence and Dan and Reuven's. More and more I see the three of them promoting emotional intelligence as an ability to conform and adapt emotionally to the status quo and then be considered "successful" in socially conventional terms. Below I have a link to my writing on what I cynically call the common definition.

I disagree with this view of emotional intelligence. I feel offended by it in fact. I believe the most highly intelligent people, whether intellectually or emotionally, are not conformists. I believe they rise above the masses, even above the masses of highly "educated" people. I put educated in quotes because I want to draw attention to the fact that there are different kinds of educations. One is in the university and one is in life. One may result in a degree and one may result in wisdom. One may result in the ability to speak phidish and market toothpaste (*) and one may result in the ability to comfort a crying child or a suicidal teen. One may result in the ability to win wars, another may result in the ability to prevent them.

Steve Hein
March 28, 2006
Salta, Argentina

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Links & notes

Dan Goleman
Reuven BarOn
David Caruso
My page on motivation
The common definition of EI


Note about toothpaste –

I mention toothpaste because when I was at Indiana University, diligently studying business, I saw many of my classmates go to work for Proctor and Gamble, whose main products are things like Colgate toothpaste. I also mention it for David Caruso's sake, should he be reading this, since he has had many years of experience in marketing.

I could have also said life insurance or cosmetics -- both of which have been used in studies to show that "emotional intelligence" helps sales.

I am really just waiting now to see how many people will claim that emotional intelligence also helps someone be a better soldier. So far I have found one example of this on the Internet. - see the
ei soldier page


1 - the word "construct"

I don't like using words like "construct". Words like this are part of the language of phidish, the needlessly complicated language PhD's use. If you haven't studied psychology or read a lot of things written by PhD's in psychology, you probably won't know what the word means. As a reader said once I don't think it should be necessary to learn a new language to learn about something.







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