Susan David’s book ‘Emotional Agility’ is the epitome of positive psychology – enforcing the notion of happiness in our daily lives, in our work and relationships. Her book is a positive navigation of our inner constructs; our thoughts, feelings, and narratives.
David argues that the way we perceive our inner selves is the key determinant of how we live and the successes we incur. Thus, to maintain a negative self-image is destructive, and impairs our potential for success. She acknowledges the inherent evolving structures that we possess, citing adaptation as the key to transforming ourselves in order to attain the success and happiness we desire.
To be emotionally agile is to be flexible with our thoughts and feelings, and not hold impenetrable, the concrete beliefs of our past, as this cannot lead to change. A seed cannot grow from concrete, only from a mixture of fertile soil, water and sunlight. In the same way, we must allow a combination of different experiences and thoughts to shape us, and not be bound to a certain number of beliefs that we have always held.
How This Book Can Help You: 4 Key Concepts
David’s book examines adaptation and advocates for consistent values as the core of who we are – the only transient point for values is to refine them when necessary, in order to evolve. We can never stick too strongly to an emotion, thought or feeling, and learn to accept these as fleeting and allow them to move on. Only when we do this, can we catalyze and bring about healthy change.
In Emotional Agility, Dr. David cites four key concepts: showing up, stepping out, walking your why and moving on. These concepts emphasize the overall stance she takes in her book and is fundamental in creating emotional agility and adaptiveness:
1. Showing Up:
To face your thoughts or feelings is arguably the most difficult thing to do but is also the most imperative to facilitate positive change. David suggests being curious about them, accepting both your difficult and positive thoughts equally in order to see them for what they are.
2. Stepping Out:
This concept is all about detachment, a detachment from your inner monologue, thoughts and feelings, in order to see that they are just emotions, not you. These emotions are not bound to you and are not an essential part of your being. To detach from them will result in you feeling far more autonomous over your actions and decisions.
3. Walking Your Why:
You need to retain core values, as these are a fundamental part of who you are. You shouldn’t give these up, but use them to dictate your actions. They provide you with your substance, your identity and roles, and as long as they aren’t negative values then no refinement is needed. Your values are your driving force.
4. Moving On:
David’s next step of moving on involves making small, deliberate and purposeful tweaks to your mindset, motivation, and habits to align them with your core values. In doing so, she says you can make a significant difference in your life. You should never be complacent, but should always seek change that will further develop and improve your being.
Why This Method Is So Important
As humans, we go through constant change, from our faces changing as we age and our changing financial situations as we go from students to adults in the ‘real world’, to perhaps having children and learning to prioritise another human life before our own. In order to embrace these changes and cherish and utilise them to the maximum, we need to be able to be adapt.
We cannot be impeded by our old beliefs, as these old mentalities do not inspire growth and adaptability. We cannot expect the same rules or actions to be applicable across the multitude of experiences and circumstances that we go through in our lives. Therefore, in order to embrace change positively and experience positive emotions surrounding these changes, we must be emotionally agile, shifting our mindset to the new situation at hand.
Many people claim they are scared of change, due to it’s existential, environmental implications. Yet, perhaps it is not the changing of the world around them that they are scared of, but the change in themselves – in case they don’t like the new person that they become.
Change confronts us during significant, inescapable life events such as death, causing us to face these inevitabilities, despite that we may want to hold on to a particular time or state. In these moments we cannot do this, we are not frozen, but instead, we are in constant evolution and we must use our emotional agility to facilitate a healthy transition from one state to the next.
Susan David, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life,2013