Developing Emotional Agility for a Better Life

Being emotionally agile will help you navigate complicated emotional states in a better way. Do you have a hard time dealing with anger or frustration?
Developing Emotional Agility for a Better Life
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 05 August, 2022

Developing emotional agility is one of the best ways to prevent psychological misfortunes such as disappointment, frustrations, anger, and sadness. It’s particularly helpful if you’re an apprehensive person, as you’d eventually explode otherwise. This is an exercise everyone should do more often.

Psychologist and speaker Susan David popularized this term in 2015 with her TED talks. The concept quickly went viral and it wasn’t long before books on the subject began to appear. Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, for example.

Many people struggle daily with complicated mental states and don’t know how to handle them. However, they’d connect with thoughts and emotions in a more compassionate way if they could apply a more agile and flexible mental approach.

This world is already overly complex, so it’d be best to act as allies and navigate everyday difficulties a little better.

A woman looking at a butterfly.

What’s emotional agility?

People are increasingly stressed and tired. That progressive wear and tear permeate almost any circumstance. It becomes difficult to make decisions, work is overbearing, and psychological exhaustion impacts their personal relationships.

The roots of this discomfort lie in the stress that permeates the mind and body, the built-up sadness, silenced anger, disappointments, and anxieties. This even makes it hard to breathe and sleep at night.

In this society, people are increasingly reading more self-help books. Yet, it seems that people don’t have any basic survival skills and can’t properly manage what hurts and distresses them.

Emotional agility can provide an answer to this emotional stagnation and allow you to flourish in mental well-being.

Four keys to understanding emotional agility

Susan David introduced this term clearly. The purpose of emotional agility isn’t to be happier but to help boost well-being. It seeks to facilitate that inner flowering that allows you to be in tune with yourself and, thus, improve your relationships and professional performance.

For example, researchers, Ishangi Mishra from Jain University and Dr. Neeraj Panwar from Christ University conducted a study to measure this dimension in various companies around India. They administered a test to people between the ages of 20 and 56.

The researchers were able to appreciate that every person must develop emotional agility to better manage any difficulties that may come their way.

The dimensions that define emotional agility are:

  • Minimizing or ignoring negative thoughts and emotions isn’t helpful. Emotional agility encourages you to accept every emotion, feeling, and idea in order to transform and replace them with more valuable and healthy reasoning.
  • Being emotionally agile allows you to feel psychologically safer. Your self-confidence increases because it allows you to be compassionate, kind, and respectful. This self-confidence also positively impacts your personal relationships.
  • Another thing you must do is get out of your comfort zone. You also need to deal with any emotional knots and worries.
  • Finally, keep in mind that emotional agility is synonymous with adaptability. You need to adapt to know how to react to any circumstance, person, or situation and flow in life.
A person holding a glass ball.

How to be emotionally agile

Who wouldn’t like to develop emotional agility? Like any competence, it can be improved through willpower, self-discipline, and self-commitment. Below, you’ll discover which dimensions can enable you to activate them.

Four exercises for everyday life

  • Acceptance is the basic and essential step. Thus, you must be able to accept and validate every emotion you have. Don’t ignore or hide what hurts, worries, or detracts you. Acknowledging what happens to you is the first step to adequate emotional management.
  • The second step is to move forward. What does this mean? You must confront anger and sadness once you’ve accepted them and distance yourself from them a little to rationalize and see things more objectively. “I understand you’re sad, but the last thing you should do is be angry at the world or isolate yourself. The best thing to do is confront things and accept things as is”.
  • This is the step in which you must wonder about the purpose. “What can you learn from what you’re going through? What can you do to feel better? Are you already doing it? How can you tune yourself to your needs and values?
  • The final step is to move forward to overcome any difficulty by being in tune with what you want and deserve at any given moment.

Finally, treating yourself with compassion every day and upholding your values and life purpose to flourish are the keys to your well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • David, Susan (2018) Agilidad emocional: Rompe tus bloqueos, abraza el cambio y triunfa en el trabajo y en la vida. Siro
  • Mishra, Ishangi & Panwar, Dr Neeraj. (2020). Emotional agility on working employees under Indian conditions. The International Journal of Indian Psychology. 8. 1367-1375. 10.25215/0802.156.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.