by Neil Nedley, M.D.


There is a popular website ad featuring two teenagers from the 70s flanked by the caption, “She married him? And they have seven kids?” The ad highlights a truism that many people have found at their class reunions: people’s lives don’t’ always turn out as expected. In terms of intelligence, individuals with high I.Q.’s are usually considered, “most likely to succeed” – but they don’t always excel. At the same time, others who have mediocre academic performances often go on to become outstanding achievers in the professional world. Why is that?

While I.Q. may contribute as much as 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, the remaining 80 percent is determined by other forces. In other words, the overwhelming majority of our ultimate success in life is not determined by I.Q., but by other factors. A study of Harvard graduates in the fields of law, medicine, teaching, and business backs this up: the student’s entrance-exam scores (which would be indicative of I.Q.) had no correlation whatsoever with eventual career success.

The reason behind this surprising fact is simple: success in life is based much more on E.Q. (emotional intelligence quotient) than I.Q. (intelligence quotient). Out-of-control emotions can make even the most intelligent individuals behave in a manner that is simply not very smart.

In recent years, the impact of emotional intelligence on future success has been a hot topic in psychiatric circles, and the concept is supported by an ever-growing body of scientific research.

The Characteristics of High E.Q.

So what exactly is E.Q.? It is a measure of characteristics that research has confirmed are critical to a successful, enjoyable life. People with high E.Q.’s 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 open to constructive criticism, innovation, novel ideas, new approaches, and information. They are aware of the limits of their abilities and have reasonable expectations.

Their emotional intelligence has been shown to help them think more clearly, communicate more effectively, reduce polarizing statements, and develop unity in group settings. These skills are particularly critical in today’s knowledge-orientated workplace, where harmonious team efforts are more critical than ever for organizational success.

Intelligence is Maturity

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, a person with a high E.Q. has the ability to step aside from their emotional reaction to an upsetting event and look logically at what is really happening. 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 I.Q., how far you advance in that job is much more related to your E.Q. Often people with a high I.Q. 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 I.Q. 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 E.Q.

In the workplace, individuals with a high E.Q. can understand their emotions and feelings and can express, control, and manage them. They usually have insight into the feelings and views of others, and they 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. They are also more likely to motivate themselves to achieve goals and to maintain a positive much realistic attitude. As a result, they often earn promotions more quickly than those with a higher I.Q. Essentially, people with a high E.Q. see the “big picture,” so they are able to avoid emotional roller coasters.

The E.Q. Equation

There are five basic components of emotional intelligence:

  • Knowing your emotions
  • Managing your emotions
  • Recognizing emotions in others
  • Managing relationships
  • Motivating yourself to achieve goals

You may notice that 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 E.Q. and motivation is a prime reason why a high I.Q. doesn’t automatically ensure life success. Motivation, which has everything to do with E.Q., is a critical component to success and achievement.

While the traditional educational system encourages the improvement of I.Q., the crucial E.Q. is often overlooked. Fortunately, it’s never too late to learn. So, no matter what your grades were in school, you can become more intelligent—and successful—by focusing on your E.Q.


Neil Nedley is a practicing physician and author of several books including—Depression—The way Out and The Lost Art of Thinking: 30 Strategies to Improve Emotional Intelligence and Achieve Peak Mental Performance

Reprinted with permission from Vibrant Life.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


About the Author

Sarah Jung

Sarah Jung is the associate director of Life and Health Network but wears a plethora of hats as editor, communications director, and sometimes photographer. Unrelated to Life and Health, Sarah is the country director and founding member of Oon Jai Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower people living in developing countries through friendship and working, learning, and mentoring side-by-side with the locals. In her spare time, Sarah likes to read, write, and find mountains to climb.

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