Beyond the measurables: Three things that emotionally intelligent students do.

photoEach year, a few hundred college football players from across the country are invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis.   Each player is armed with a common purpose – to impress the scouts.  Over the course of a week, players participate in a variety of drills, each of which contains a measurable result.  Whether it’s a 40-yard dash time or a broad jump distance, each measurable is meticulously calculated and added to an athlete’s portfolio of work, if you will.  For many players, this portfolio is the difference between a potentially lucrative contract and the risk of being undrafted. 

Here’s where it gets interesting.  If you follow these players over the course of a few years, you’ll find that many who finished at the very top of the measurable charts are no longer playing football, while some who finished at the bottom are flourishing.  How can this be?  The answer is quite simple.  You see, if you look beyond the measurables, you’ll find an entirely different set of qualities – the immeasurables.  In the case of a football player, a few of these are work ethic and mindset. 

Interestingly enough, this same dynamic occurs in education.  Similar to the college football player who walks away from the NFL combine with a portfolio of measurables, so too does a college graduate in the form of an official transcript.  One would assume that an impeccable transcript would lead to greater success in life, but countless research has challenged this assumption.  Again, the difference is the immeasurables that you won’t see on a transcript.  Perhaps the most notable of which is an individual’s emotional intelligence.

For the past eight years, I’ve been on a mission to make emotional intelligence a part of every child’s education.  Although academics will continue to remain a key component of education, we must begin to look beyond the transcript and into the hearts and minds of our students.  If we’re truly committed to educating the whole child, then emotional intelligence is an absolute necessity. 

Below are three emotional intelligence immeasurables that will contribute greatly to one’s success. 

Emotionally intelligent students are able to name their emotions. 

At first glance, this may seem like a simple thing to do.  After all, they’re our emotions, so shouldn’t it be easy to name them?  The problem lies in the fact that emotions often occur in layers.  For example, anger is referred to as a secondary emotion, which means that an underlying emotion exists (primary emotion).  For example, a student may feel angry, but fail to recognize that the anger is a result of an underlying fear of failure.  The more accurate we are at naming our emotions, the more effective we are in taming them. 

Emotionally intelligent students prevent various circumstances from renting space in their mind. 

Our mind is the most precious real estate we own.  Furthermore, we get to decide who (or what) takes up space in the rooms of our mind.  It’s quite common for kids to blame an emotion on a person or thing.  For example, a teacher may choose to assign a larger than normal homework assignment.  A common student response would be, “I’m so upset because now I have a ton of homework tonight.”  An emotionally intelligent student would recognize the fact that the homework itself has no power to rent space in their mind.  It’s the negative thoughts about the homework that lead to the upset, not the homework itself. 

Emotionally intelligent students practice empathy in all relationships.

It’s easy to fall into a habit of what I refer to as right-itis, which is the condition of always needing to be right.  While judgements are a part of what we do as humans, we don’t need to accept each judgement as a fact.  For example, a child may be angry about something a teacher said and proceed to check out mentally and emotionally for the rest of the day.  However, had they taken the time to practice empathy, they may realize that the teacher is in the midst of a very challenging personal circumstance.  Empathy often leads to curiosity and openness, whereas judgements lead to right-itis and stubbornness.     

If you’d like to learn more about how I work with students to develop these critical skills, please email me at  I also invite you to watch a brief video, which outlines the importance of this work.  Click here to watch. 

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