Students who are anxious, angry or depressed don’t learn. People who experience these feelings don’t absorb information efficiently, struggling with remembering information and solving complex problems.

Marshmallow challenge

In 1960, psychologist Walter Mischel performed a study on impulse control and its impact on our lives. The experiment was done on 4-years old kids who were placed in a room with two marshmallows in front of them. The rules were simple: if the kid could wait until they get a good to go, they can eat both treats, but if they can’t wait, they can have only one marshmallow – right then. After the challenge those kids were tracked as they were graduating high school. Those who were patient enough and resisted a temptation to have a treat right that second, showed to be more socially competent, personally effective and able to better cope with the life’s challenges and frustrations. They were less likely to regress under stress, they embraced the challenges and had things done, regardless to complexity of the task. They were less likely to give up in the face of difficulties, they showed to be more confident, trustworthy and initiative. Those kids were able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. On the opposite side, the kids that couldn’t resist the impulse and ate the treat were more likely to shy away from social interactions, they were more likely to get upset and frustrated when things didn’t go as wanted. They also showed the tendencies to think bad about themselves, saying they are unworthy or “not enough”. They would often overreact to situations in life and would easily get into the argument or fight.

Goal-directed self-imposed delay of gratification is perhaps the essence of emotional self regulation: the ability to deny impulse in the service of goal, wether it be building a business, solving an algebra equation, or resisting temptation to eat the marshmallow.

Walter Mischel

This experiment shows how important emotional intelligence in determining how well or how poorly people are able to use their mental capacities.

Mental performance

Worry and anxiety have damaging effect on mental performance of any kind. Even slight mood changes will impact your thinking abilities. The number of worries that people report before or during an important exam, is a great predictor of how poorly they will do on it. Worrying is essentially drains your mental energy, leaving you empty to perform an important task.

Good moods – improve the ability to think. People that are feeling good, find it easier to solve complex problems. A good laugh is extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to solving creative problems.

Hope has been found to give students a great advantage in performing good in schools and then later in their jobs. Students that hold hope for performing good, set themselves higher goals and work harder on them. Hope does not only mean seeing everything through the rose glasses and believing everything will be good, but believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals. Having hope helps to push through anxiety and depression when faced difficulties or challenges. People with hope are less anxious and experience less emotional challenges.

Optimism is similar to hope in a way that it focuses on thought that things will turn out well, despite setbacks. Optimistic people respond to challenges by formulating plan of action, reaching out for help and advice, they see a challenge as the opportunity. Pessimists feel themselves as victims, assuming there is nothing they can do and often do nothing about the problem. Self-efficacy – is the belief that one has mastery over the event of one’s life and can meet challenges as they come up. People’s beliefs about their abilities have profound effect on those abilities. People with a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from set-backs more easily, they thinks in terms of how can I handle the problems, instead of worrying about what con go wrong.

The flow state

Hundreds of rock climbers, surgeons, soccer and basketball players, engineers and mangers described being in the state of flow, when they outdid themselves at the chosen activity. The ability to enter the “zone” is emotional intelligence at its best. Attention becomes so narrow and focused that you loose the sense of time. There is no worrying or anxiety in a state of flow. People are completely absorbed in the task at hand.

There are few ways to enter the flow state:

  • Intentionally focus a sharp attention on the task. A highly concentrated state is the essence of flow
  • Have the task that slightly higher than your ability

If there is too little demand, you get bored. If there is too much for you to handle, you get anxious. Flow occurs in that small zone between boredom and anxiety. Intense concentration is the key.