I was recently asked to write a blog on how exercise helps improve emotional intelligence (EI) in your career. And to be honest I had no clue what EI was, so I had to do a little research before I could come up with reasons of why or why not fitness can play a role in EI. I had a pretty good idea that yes it can, because of the psychological benefits of exercise and how those benefits carry over to many aspects of life, including but not limited to work place performance and leadership.
So what is EI and what are the psychological benefits of exercise?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and mange both your own and the emotions of others. EI is broken down into three sub categories
- Emotional awareness
- Ability to harness emotions and use them in a positive way
- Management of emotions
Psychological benefits of exercise
- Decreased stress
- Mood booster
- Decreased depression symptoms
- Decreased anxiety
- Increased serotonin (mood)
- Increased self esteem and confidence
Now that we know what EI is, I want to examine this from a role of leadership/management. Not only do you need to be able to mange your own emotions in the workplace but it’s vital that you are also aware of the emotions of those on your team and that is no easy task. In the role of a leader there are many more responsibilities that you have on your plate that can have a big impact on your emotions . So I will speak from personal experience….taking on other people’s emotions can be draining. It can increase stress, increase anxiety and can also effect sleep and eating habits. Look above at the psychological benefits of exercise…see where I am going with this?
As a leader you are responsible to harness emotions and use them in a positive way right? What if you are having a rough day? What if you got in an argument with a spouse or family member right before work? How do you handle those emotions on top of knowing you need to show up for your team and get the job done? What situations have prepared you to be able to walk into work and manage your emotions on top of your teams?
So how does one take on all of that and still be able to run a productive team every day like a well oiled machine….I would without doubt tell you that exercise can and will help you improve your EI and improve your leadership skills. But to go a step further I believe that you need to exercise at a high intensity to really get the benefits. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time.
As I am writing this I know from my own life that anytime I’m in a good string of fitness training I am able to handle and mange emotions so much better than when I’m in an exercise funk. I am a better leader and a happier person.
Exercise will challenge your EI each time you go to the gym. Will you quit when the exercises get hard? Will you get mad when you can’t perform a certain exercise? How will you motivate a training partner when they are having a bad day? All of those situations you more than likely will encounter in work and in the gym. I believe that the more you are faced with emotional experiences your ability to manage them will improve. No different than setting goals and creating motivation. Motivation will strengthen with time and use.
After examining EI I would tell you that exercise is even more important. But not just as an adult but being active as a child is even more important. Who would have thought that I needed even more of a reason to advocate for being fit?
Thank you for taking the time to read!