EQ WORKOUT #26 Emotional Intelligence at the Olympics


For the past three weeks, we’ve been treated to the Olympics and all its inspirational stories. For me, it’s always required viewing and a feast for the eyes. I am sure you all have your own highlights but for me there were three that stand out. Interestingly they also point to some interesting emotional intelligence observations.


1. The Men’s High Jump Final

The Men’s High Jump Final

Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi were tied at the end of the 6 jumps. They had identical scores which was a first for the Olympics and the only way to decide the gold was for them to have a jump-off. The official spoke with both about the options, one of which was to share the gold medal. You could see each of the athletes trying to process their options. Both reached a decision and instead of dueling as adversaries, Barshim and Tamberi embraced as champions, agreeing to share the gold medal instead.


What an amazing example of great decision-making in the height of competition and the emotions that came with it. The ability to zoom out and look at all the options is a sure sign of emotional intelligence.


2. The Amazing Simone Biles

The Amazing Simone Biles

In the lead-up to the Olympics there, was no hotter favorite than the US gymnast Simon Biles. It was not a question of whether she would win a gold medal, but how many golds she would add to her tally and it felt as if every camera was on her. Then unpretendingly just before the team competition, she withdrew; making the hard decision that she was not mentally fit to proceed. What ensued was a mixture of criticism which bordered on abuse and praise. Facing this added pressure, she continued to monitor her situation and elected to withdraw from other events until the final event, the beam. She won bronze, however, if there was a medal for emotional intelligence, she would have won the gold.


To have the strength to assert your needs in the face of pressure is simply inspiring. So often it is more convenient not to speak up for yourself and your needs. A sign of emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of your present needs, the voice to sound them even if it means disappointing others.


3. Knitting Away The Stress

Knitting Away The Stress

Every athlete has to deal with the stress of competition. It is a given that they must be at their physical peak, but we also know that the mental game is just as important. The British diver Tom Daley won gold with his diving partner Matty Lee in the synchronized 10m platform, however, it was how he dealt with stress that caught people’s attention. He knit.


Some wonderful pictures emerged of Tom knitting a sweater. It was unique and simply brilliant. Tom had worked out a practice that centered him and kept him in focus. He had taken up this ancient practice which requires your full presence otherwise you’ll drop a stitch. Emotionally intelligent people realize that stress is part of life but they also have practices that help them manage stress, so it does not have a negative impact.


For this week’s EQ workout, I invite you to reflect on these three examples and shine a light on your life.


1. When it comes to important decisions in your life, are you able to stop and focus on the bigger picture so that you can take in all the data you need to consider?


2. How capable are you to speak up for your needs even when you feel it might disappoint others?


3. Do you have a go-to practice to cope with stress? If not, what might be some you could consider?

You may also like this YouTube video I recently recorded which explores 5 habits of emotionally