I’ve never been good at sitting still.  Get your blood flowing, I say as I attempt to get my kids outside and running around.  Wear yourself out. MOVE! I start my day with a run, spend it in motion, and finish it feeling like I deserve to sit back down again.  Faulty logic, yes. But when I came across the title “Emotional Agility” I figured it was for me. Agility – being able to move easily and quickly.  Add the word emotional in front of it, and I’m all there.

I’d never heard of the author, Susan David, but I was pretty sure that I liked her.  She has a PhD and is on the faculty at Harvard. She is also a CEO, a founder, and closely involved with Homeward Bound, a kick ass expedition to Antarctica to increase the influence of impactful women.  And to top it all off – she is striking and seems to have a presence that invites you to like and respect her.

The book is a recipe to help us become, surprise, emotionally agile.  Dr. David lays out 4 steps to developing emotional agility: Showing up, Stepping out, Walking your Why, Moving On.  

  1. Showing Up – When we show up, we notice our emotions and accept them for what they are.  We make room for the pain and the joy. Simply accept the emotions instead of judge them or try to change them.  
  2. Stepping Out is when we can create space between our thoughts and our actions.  We can avoid getting what she refers to as “hooked” on to the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves.  For example – I’m terrible at people skills so I could never lead a team at work – is a story we can tell ourselves that we can get hooked on when offered a promotion that involves leadership.  Stepping out is creating space before reacting. It is holding the stories we tell ourselves lightly, or even letting them go so that we can look at the facts.
  3. Walking Your Why is the art of living by your own personal set of values.  Dr. David encourages us to look at our lives in the future, say ten years down the road when these little children running around are teenagers trying to avoid us.  What do we want our lives to look like? This will help us know what choices to make today in order to work toward and within our values.
  4. Moving on is having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Making “tiny tweaks” involves small changes toward our values and goals to create major change over the long run.  She encourages us to live on the edge of our ability – that point where over-competence meets over-challenge.

Susan David finishes the book with a nice little surprise – a whole section on helping our children develop this emotional agility – this ability to MOVE through emotions.  On page 227, she summarizes and pulls it together very nicely for us. “When a child feels fully seen and acknowledged by those around him, it’s hard for him not to feel loved and secure.”  She says that when we raise kids who feel free to experience their wide range of emotions, they learn that emotions pass, emotions are not scary, and emotions are teachers.

Don’t take my word for it. Go and pick up a copy from the library, amazon, or download the kindle edition to read on your tablet.  Or, more likely, download the audio book and let someone else speak it to you while you make school lunches, squeeze in a little run, or nurse that babe.  

After all, the best way for our kids to learn emotional agility, as I’m reminded by in this book, is to have it ourselves.