5 Simple Ways to Stop Feeling Stuck – Step 5: Develop Emotional Intelligence

This is Part 5 in a 5 part series

Read the Intro

Read Step 1: Identify and Attack Your Triggers

Read Step 2: Make a Bored List

Read 3: Start Heatmapping

Read Step 4: Give Up a Comfort Crutch

On my birthday last year I didn’t throw myself a party or buy a ticket to New Zealand (though I was tempted). Instead, I did a Life Evaluation.

I wanted to review the last year of my personal life the way a boss might review the last year of your professional life. What was I doing well? Where was there room to grow? What had I even done over the course of a year? I made a worksheet, took myself on a coffee date, and spent three hours poring over my journal and calendar from the past year, trying to get a sense of where I succeeded—and where I failed.

Side note: if this sounds like fun to you, sign up for my weekly newsletter! You’ll get a free copy of my Life Evaluation Worksheet when you sign up.

What I realized when I looked back over the year was that I achieved all of the tangible goals I set for myself. Run a half marathon? Check. Write a book? Check. Travel to a different country? Double check (thanks, Canada!). But I’d also really struggled. I went three months without a full night’s sleep. I pulled away from close friends and suffered from some severe cases of the doldrums (see this post from Jennifer Hatmaker on what it means to be stuck in the doldrums).

I realized that what I needed to work on over the next year wasn’t physical, it was mental. I needed to work on my emotional intelligence. When I started feeling stuck, I knew the biggest work I needed to do was on my feelings (which I hate discussing and prefer to pretend don’t exist).

So. What’s Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence: the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

In the same way that IQ is a measurement of a person’s mental intelligence, an EQ is a measurement of a person’s emotional intelligence.

Life is hard. This is a difficult fact to acknowledge, but it’s true. I can’t control other people. I can only control myself—and my reactions to the things life throws at me. And so this year I pledged to work on developing more control of my emotions.

Daniel Coleman the author of the original bible on EQ, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, lists the top four characteristics of EQ as:

  1. Being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations

  2. Control impulse and delay gratification

  3. To regulate one’s moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think

  4. To empathize and to hope

These all sound like great qualities, but when I started the year I had no idea how to move from where I was (gloomy, pessimistic, distrustful) to this place.

I’ve still got a long way to go, but here are some things I’m trying to incorporate.

3 Tips to Develop Emotional Intelligence:

1. Morning pages

There’s a ton of research that confirms what most of us probably already know: self reflection improves work performance and emotional intelligence. But if you’re like me, when you’re feeling stressed or emotionally overhwlemed, reflection is the first thing to go. I don’t want to write about my feelings when I’m feeling like a failure. I want to eat junk food and make fun of contestants on The Bachelor (let’s be honest, this is what I want to do most of the time).

I’m planning on doing a post on The Artist’s Way sometime in the future, but one of the key components of this program is doing a three-page writing “brain dump” every morning. This has been the first thing I’ve done every morning for the past six weeks and it’s been a centering and TK process.

2. Ask Others

After evaluating how my life, I realized that I wanted other people’s perspectives as well.

I made a Relationship Evaluation Worksheet that basically asked people to tell me everything that’s annoying about me and that has hurt them. I can honestly say it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my relationships. I’ve had honest, painful, complicated conversations with some of my closest friends and gained insight into how my actions affect others.

You can take an EQ quiz from the Harvard Business Review here and then send this PDF to your friends to compare their perception of you with your perception of yourself.

And if you’re interested in using my Relationship Evaluation Worksheet, let me know and I’ll make a version of it available online.


SOCS is a method from Daniel Coleman’s book on EQ. It stands for : Situation, Options, Consequences, Solutions. You can use this acronym to help you process the underlying causes behind your emotions.

Here’s how to use the acronym when something has upset you:

  • Situation: Say what the situation is and how it makes you feel

  • Options: Think about your options for solving the problem

  • Consequences: What are the consequences of these options

  • Solutions: Pick a solution and execute it

I’ve saved this one for last because I know it’s huge. Developing EQ is the work of a lifetime. But if you’re feeling stuck, it’s a great place to begin assessing what’s off in your life.

Henri Nouwen said, “You don’t think yourself into a new way of living. You live yourself into a new way of thinking.” What’s one step you can take today toward developing a more emotionally intelligent way of life?

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Other EQ resources:




  1. speak766 says:

    Interesting post and great tips. Thank you for sharing!


    1. alikaywould says:

      Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. GCee·A says:

    Very insightful.


    1. alikaywould says:

      Glad to hear it! Thanks for reading!


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