Supplementary Session



Overcoming the Reality Gap problem with EI (Emotional Intelligence)

In Mental Health in the Workplace – Part 2 I explained how a lack of awareness is the main reason that we get pushed in the direction of the Survival and Burnout Zones.

That’s not to say that work pressures aren’t real, they are, but the problem can be two-fold: we don’t recognise a lack of self-awareness in ourselves and we almost certainly don’t recognise it in other people – until it’s too late!

This lack of awareness creates a discrepancy between the expectations of business owners and managers and the reality of daily life for the employees working under stressful conditions, in other words the Reality Gap.

Creating a profitable business capable of phenomenal growth and innovation, one that can become sustainable for the future, is not mutually exclusive to creating a healthy workplace culture. We can create places where employees feel valued and are not afraid to speak up and who are productive, creative AND achieve all the usual business goals.

To understand how awareness and EI work together it is only necessary to be familiar with the basics.

EI (Emotional Intelligence) and Awareness

The diagram below shows the Emotional Intelligence model and relationship between the five principles of EI (often referred to as the 5 Pillars of EI).


The first three principles are based on an understanding of ourselves, the ‘Self’ group; the two other principles are connected to individuals that we interact with, the ‘Others’ group. In a work context, the ‘Others’ group would typically include colleagues, clients, customers, suppliers, contractors, stakeholders and so on.

Self-Awareness and Stress

As humans we mostly live our lives in a condition often referred to as ‘auto-pilot’, a state of ‘unawareness’.

Are you presently aware of what you’re thinking? This, for example, could be the demanding ‘voice in the head’ saying:

  • You’re too busy to read this
  • You should be doing something more important
  • You’re wasting time

The list is endless, but which zone do you think these thoughts are pushing you towards?

Are you presently aware of how you feel? Again, the list is endless, but you could be experiencing any of the following:

  • A tightness in your chest
  • A knot in your tummy
  • Legs like jelly
  • Anxiety
  • Tension
  • Frustration

Which zone do you think these feelings relate to?

So, you see, in just a few seconds you’ve learned a self-awareness skill and you CAN be more aware of your inner experiences.  If you now join the dots in the EI model, you can also now ‘notice’ (not judge, analyse or blame yourself) how these thoughts and feelings and emotions strongly influence (in some cases, dictate) behaviour that sometimes works favourably for us and sometimes adversely, against us.

It is this ‘noticing’ skill (self- awareness) that can then help us to use self-regulation to moderate our action and behaviour best suited to situations in order to produce the most favourable outcome for us.

Self-Motivation (including resilience) and Stress

Self-motivation is often confused with what might be called ‘high ideals’: to be self- motivated, to achieve success, wealth, fame, acknowledgement, acclaim, glory and so on.  These are certainly the drivers for some people. For most of us though, I would say we would just like to be happy, whatever that means for us.  The problem is that life has a habit of thwarting even this simple ambition of being happy, by generating an endless stream of problems, challenges, difficulties, set-backs, obstacles – in other words ‘adversities’ – the nasty things in life.

It is almost certain that these adversities will generate uncomfortable, difficult and often distressing thoughts and feelings and it’s inevitable that these internal experiences will unfortunately have a stress connection in some way.  Resilience is a skill within EI that can be developed and help act as a counter-balance in difficult times.

Relating what we’ve just covered to the Emotional Energy Matrix (covered in Mental Health in the Workplace Part 1 and Part 2 of the blog) you will hopefully see that without awareness we are likely to be pushed in the direction of the Survival or Burnout zones.

However, with a sufficient level of awareness you can learn and develop a range of strategies and techniques in order to move to the Recovery zone, which also in turn helps people move to the Performance zone when required.

At Koala Wellbeing we help clients recognise the traps of the Survival and Burnout zones, but our focus of attention is to show people how to find the best Recovery zone for them and to be able to effectively navigate their way to Performance zone when required.

As far as the ‘Others’ group is concerned in the EI model, there is much to cover and it will probably be the subject of a future blog.  I will just say, that when you understand yourself better and you are able to develop skills of Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation and when you understand more about Self-Motivation many of the EI skills which involve working and interacting with ‘others’ (Social Awareness and Social Skills) tend to fall into place quite naturally.

Free 1-hour Taster Sessions are available on this topic; for further information on dates/times and how to book, or for an informal chat with Chris, please contact