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by Susan David, PhD
The path to personal and professional fulfillment is rarely straight. Ask anyone who has achieved his or her biggest goals or whose relationships thrive and you’ll hear stories of many unexpected detours along the way. What separates those who master these challenges and those who get derailed? The answer is agility—emotional agility.
Emotional agility is a revolutionary, science-based approach that allows us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind. Renowned psychologist Susan David developed this concept after studying emotions, happiness, and achievement for more than twenty years. She found that no matter how intelligent or creative people are, or what type of personality they have, it is how they navigate their inner world—their thoughts, feelings, and self-talk—that ultimately determines how successful they will become.
The way we respond to these internal experiences drives our actions, careers, relationships, happiness, health—everything that matters in our lives. As humans, we are all prone to common hooks—things like self-doubt, shame, sadness, fear, or anger—that can too easily steer us in the wrong direction. Emotionally agile people are not immune to stresses and setbacks. The key difference is that they know how to adapt, aligning their actions with their values and making small but powerful changes that lead to a lifetime of growth. Emotional agility is not about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts; it’s about holding them loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to bring the best of yourself forward.
Drawing on her deep research, decades of international consulting, and her own experience overcoming adversity after losing her father at a young age, David shows how anyone can thrive in an uncertain world by becoming more emotionally agile. To guide us, she shares four key concepts that allow us to acknowledge uncomfortable experiences while simultaneously detaching from them, thereby allowing us to embrace our core values and adjust our actions so they can move us where we truly want to go.
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