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Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life Hardcover – September 6, 2016
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USA Today Best Seller
Amazon Best Book of the Year
TED Talk sensation - over 3 million views!
The counterintuitive approach to achieving your true potential, heralded by the Harvard Business Review as a groundbreaking idea of the year.
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.
Written with authority, wit, and empathy, Emotional Agility serves as a road map for real behavioral change—a new way of acting that will help you reach your full potential, whoever you are and whatever you face.
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Winner of the 2017 Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award
Winner of the 2016 Books for a Better Life Award in Psychology
Axiom Business Book Awards Medalist
800-CEOREAD Editors' Choice
Forbes.com Recommended Books for Creative Leaders
Facebook #ReadtoLead Selection
LinkedIn's 12 Books on Leadership to Read in 2017
Success's 71 of 2016’s Best Books to Make You Successful
Business Insider's 8 Books That Will Change Your Life in 2017
2017 Thinkers50 Radar List
“A powerful book on embracing your core values, being more decisive, and committing to meaningful change.”
“Harvard’s Susan David—a psychologist, coach, and consultant—presents evidence that people need to understand and work with their negative emotions while not letting old patterns dominate their lives.”
“Emotional Agility is filled with advice on how to live in the moment, cultivate a healthy awareness of your emotions, learn to identify what those emotions are telling you, respond to your feelings in ways that will serve you, and recognize your inherent values and goals — not only in your personal life, but also in relationships, in the workplace, and as a parent.”
“Emotional agility is a science-based approach that allows one to navigate life’s twists and turns, stresses and setbacks with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind.”
“It’s one thing to feel an emotion—it’s another to gain control over it. Susan David acknowledges the benefits of sadness, anger, guilt, and fear, and then shows us how to make sure they don’t take over our lives. This is a self-help book that might actually help.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times-bestselling author of Originals
“Susan David teaches us to understand—and to communicate in—the unspoken language of emotion to better align how we feel with what we do. Essential reading.”
—Susan Cain, New York Times-bestselling author of Quiet
“In her well-researched and cutting-edge book, Susan David shows us the virtue of being both adaptive and decisive, of learning both to navigate and stay the course. At its core, her work is a powerful and persuasive call to embrace change in our everyday lives, along with the very practical roadmap to make it happen. Emotional Agility is basically the fast-track to fulfillment.”
—Claire Shipman, New York Times-bestselling coauthor of The Confidence Code
“Susan David is a leading authority on how our thoughts, emotions, and motives can empower or derail us. Her work combines compelling research, an engaging style, and practical wisdom to show people how to create meaningful change in their lives in order to thrive.”
—Peter Salovey, president, Yale University
“One of the keys to a happy life is knowing yourself. In Emotional Agility, Susan David offers us a groundbreaking way to recognize our feelings and gives us the tools we need to avoid the emotional ruts that keep us from reaching our bigger goals. This book is a revelation for anyone looking to make lasting change in their life.”
—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times-bestselling author of The Happiness Project
“The wisdom of the author’s innovative insights is only made more impressive by its practicality. Her deep understanding of psychology is matched with clear, real-world steps to more effective leadership.”
—Helen Clark, 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand
“David proves here that no one trait is more indicative of success than the ability to collaborate gracefully with your own emotions. Learning how is the difference between a fight and a dance!”
—Marshall Goldsmith, New York Times-bestselling author of Triggers
“A compelling, inspirational, and original book about how to bring out the best in ourselves. Combining robust science, practical advice, and encouraging wisdom, Emotional Agility is a must-read.”
—Pat Mitchell, Board Chair, Sundance Institute and Editorial Director, TEDWomen
“An accessible, reader-friendly voyage. Emotional Agility can be helpful to anyone.”
—Daniel Goleman, New York Times-bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence
“At a time when it’s more difficult than ever to silence the unending noise that surrounds us, along comes Emotional Agility, a practical, science-backed guide to looking inward and living intentionally. By urging us to work with – not against – our own emotions, Susan David gives us the tools we need to be more adaptable and more resilient, so that we may not only succeed but truly thrive.”
—Arianna Huffington, New York Times-bestselling author of The Sleep Revolution
“Susan David's Emotional Agility provides fresh strategies in harnessing creativity, teamwork and growth. These components can be key in making any organization a great place to work!”
–Tony Hsieh, New York Times bestselling author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
About the Author
- Publisher : Avery; First Edition (September 6, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1592409490
- ISBN-13 : 978-1592409495
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.19 x 0.96 x 9.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #23,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2022
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I really enjoyed reading this book. I first discovered Susan David and the concept of Emotional Agility from her interview on Impact Theory. I feel that I have practiced Emotional Agility without really having a name for it.
In this book, Susan David walks us through the downfalls of being emotional rigid and how to become agile. Its not just a simple – be agile – discussion. She does a wonderful job of including examples and research. As in all the books I like, there are plenty of science based evidence to back up the theories that are put forth from the author.
Early on in the book she mentions Viktor Frankl and his book Man’s Search for Meaning (on my list of books to read next). Viktor talks about creating space between stimulus and response. She takes this concept and says emotions are data points but not decision points. They can tell us about our environment but they do not make us make decisions – unless we let them.
In walking through the process, Susan David outlines many of the ‘hooks’ we get entangled with when it comes to emotions. Then she shows us how to get ‘un-hooked’ and create better outcomes. I believe this is one of the aspects that makes this a good book. She gives plenty of real world examples on how to make practical changes to improve our lives. Its not just listing theories on the ‘hooks’, its also lays out a plan and path to a better more fulfilled life.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Susan talks about dead men goals. It is when we want to have a stress-free life. We don’t want any problems to disrupt our happiness. Susan says these are dead men’s goals – because dead people are the only ones that do not have any stress in their lives.
This book should be on everyone’s list to read.
Many readers/listeners may come to this book during a time of struggle, which of course if perfectly fine, and this book will likely help the struggling person get through that difficulty. However, if that's the path that leads you to read this, you should revisit the material once you've made it through that struggle or started to improve. It's likely that you will interpret, apply, and learn from the material in a way that is specific and focused on the problem you were dealing with. That path is healthy and undoubtedly helpful, but there's so much more value to get from "Emotional Agility" than that.
"Emotional Agility" is a fantastic tool for learning how to fully appreciate and process emotional experiences that can become chronic and demoralizing over time if left unchecked. Dr. David's discussion of "bottling" and "brooding" is particularly helpful here. She walks the reader/listener through how this works in a variety of settings (i.e. work, home, school, romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, and in specific events or critical incidents). My wife and I have come to understand that if we use "Emotional Agility" as a kind of ongoing emotional and mental maintenance program, we continuously improve our abilities to handle difficult emotional experiences in stride no matter in what setting they occur.
First responders (police, fire, EMS, dispatchers, corrections) should absolutely invest the time to read/listen to this material. I firmly believe it will help members of the public safety profession keep from developing burn-out and chronic stress associated with the experiences that public safety professionals are exposed to. Like continuing education, public safety professionals should incorporate "Emotional Agility" into at least an annual refresher.
My wife and I highly recommend "Emotional Agility," but don't just read/listen to it once!
Top reviews from other countries
However, the more I kept reading the more confused I felt. I tried listening to the Audible version to see whether that would help, as sometimes a good narrator can draw out key insights by emphasis. That didn't work either. In fact, it added to my confusion.
I am NOT saying that the concepts in this book are bad. They are backed by research and I was familiar with many of them from prior reading.
What I AM saying is that I disliked the presentation. The key messages are helpful but packaged in a way that I did not find conceptually satisfying.
Maybe I'm just picky, or maybe my expectations have been set really high by other works (see my later recommendations).
Let me illustrate what I mean by the packaging being unsatisfying.
This book has a multitude of analogies and references to pop culture (movies and the like) but the narrative often jumps from one analogy to another with wild abandon. I like a powerful analogy that provides a means to understand a new or difficult concept, but the overuse of analogy is troubling because an analogy is not reality, only a pointer to a deeper truth. Too much analogy and I only get a glimpse in the direction of truth, not the truth itself. Analogy can be used to mask fluffy thinking.
The same with concepts. I think there were too many, too close together. As an example, I found myself nodding along to "Thinking, Fast and Slow" because Type I and Type II thinking helps make sense of the world. Even without Kahnemann's prize-winning research, I intuitively sense it to be true. But "Emotional Agility" seems to bombard me with endless lists of important concepts with the effect that I get the sense that the author knows a lot about emotional rigidity, yet can't give me powerful tools or methods to deal with that rigidity and transform it into agility.
In short, the author comes across as a subject matter expert but what's missing is that spark of life that tells me that she is a good personal guide to transformation, not just an expert who knows a lot. There's too much theory and not enough practice, at least in the first four chapters of the book. I couldn't bear to stay with the book beyond that.
Your mileage may vary.
Let me close this review by recommending alternatives. These are books that set the bar really high, and I believe they explore concepts and convey practical methods that are fundamental to emotional agility.
** Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert) - When it comes to understanding the emotional difficulties associated with creativity, I think Big Magic is pure magic. Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, has somehow bottled the essence of what it takes to create stuff and keep going beyond the inevitable emotional setbacks that accompany a creative life. Highly recommended for writers and other creative types.
** Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Marshall Rosenberg) - Having tried NVC (Nonviolent Communication) for five years, I now cannot imagine life without it. It has literally transformed the way I approach relationships at home and at work. I have defused arguments at work, vastly improved my marriage, empathized with my children to help them move through difficult times in their lives, and really started to connect with people around me.
** The Courage to be Happy: True Contentment Is In Your Power (Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga) - A self-help book laid out in the form of a dialogue between a young man and a philosopher. The amazing thing about this book is that it turns the somewhat inaccessible theories of 20th-century philosopher Alfred Adler, into a fictional work that comes alive and stays with the reader. I marvel at the simplicity of looking at life through the three basic tasks of work, friendship, and love. While being happy is simple, it does indeed take courage.
After listening to Susan David on a podcast, I became interested in her stance on how we deal with our feelings and decided to buy this book. It is all about our relationship with our feelings and how we need to change how we respond to our feelings so that we are able to make the choices that benefit us. The main message is that we should treat our feelings as a compass that guides us, informing us of our core values which we need to adhere to. I'm always sceptical when it comes to self-help books, but this one doesn't paint an unrealistically positive picture of what it's like to be in control of our emotions. The fact that it acknowledges difficult emotions playing just as important a role as positive emotions is a welcoming (and, to me, accurate) message.
It really is a incredibly well-written book with a good balance of anecdotal evidence combined with peer-reviewed studies. The writing is clear and extremely well-structured, and has some much appreciated references and humour to go alongside with important lessons. Susan goes into a decent amount of detail about the studies without it becoming too academic, but it is reassuring to know that there is evidence beyond the anecdotal.
The only reason I gave it four stars is because, although the messages all capture the truth, I felt there weren't enough suggestions of practical exercises to help consolidate some of the messages. In the middle of the book, were some great recommendations about the benefits of journalling and meditating. However, I felt that towards the end it began falling into the trap of simply saying how you should be thinking without telling you how you can move towards the goal. Perhaps she wants to leave it to the reader to figure out, but I would have appreciated a few more clear recommendations of what we could do.
Overall, extremely insightful and relevant book that anyone struggling with their anxiety/identity should read. It's a book that has definitely influenced me in a positive way. Over time, I hope to really take emotional agility to heart and more fully embrace all the struggles and successes of life.
Her message and “help” were scattered all over the place with no proper structure, it was like a jigsaw.
While it was useful having different research pieces back her statements, I felt the book was centred more on research than what the title promised.
The conclusion was the best chapter as it summarised the author’s intention for the book unfortunately, it had no substance.
This book also has amazing tips for parents.
Lastly, woven through it is the heart-warming and thoroughly inspiring story of a great woman, Susan David, growing up in Apartheid, embracing many difficulties, and becoming the author of this book; my favourite book of 2017!