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Emotions Matter

By Bhawana Shrestha
 | Sep 23, 2019

LT372_Reflections_680wAs I overheard a heated Viber conversation between a 21-year-old female (we shared space in the same girls’ hostel in Kathmandu) and her boyfriend (who was studying abroad in the United States), I experienced a sinking feeling that made me question: Where are we heading as human beings?

In today’s age, we have more opportunities than ever before. Yet, as the conversation I heard suggested, we are not happier and we are more stressed and overwhelmed.

This young woman came to Kathmandu with high expectations to achieve her dreams. But life is not that easy. Kathmandu is expensive and remaining resilient every day in light of her family’s increasing expectations was frustrating for her. Unable to manage her emotions, she was venting to her boyfriend, who had his own share of struggles as an international student in the U.S. from a third world country.

If critical thinking is regarded as a fundamental aspect of 21st-century education, why aren’t we starting with thinking about our own lives—what we are feeling and why, how we can manage our emotions better, and what our values are so that we can cultivate relationships and pursue careers that give us fulfillment?

Always fond of asking questions, I started out as a journalist when I was 17 and later switched careers and served in rural Nepal through the Teach for Nepal fellowship. This was when I realized how emotional well-being plays a crucial role in the learning process.

Later, when I joined a faculty for undergrads, I realized students even in the city struggled with

emotional intelligence. A 2013 study by Travis Bradberry and his team at TalentSmart concluded that only 38 out of 100 Nepalese could explain what emotions they experienced a day prior.

Astonished, I conducted my master’s research on 200 students to measure the state of emotional intelligence in Nepal. This led me to understand that the skills of emotional intelligence were lacking in teachers, and because the teachers weren’t empowered to nurture such important skills in their students, those students would go on to lack crucial skills to deal with life’s challenges.

All these years, I have witnessed pain in a lot of confused youth who could do so much better if they learned the skills of emotional intelligence. But every time I talk to a crowd of 30, only two raise their hands when I ask if they know about emotional intelligence, and only one usually gets its definition right.

This has led me to my latest venture, My Emotions Matter, a social enterprise committed to developing emotional intelligence in students, teachers, and working professionals.

Through self-reflective experiences, we introduce emotional intelligence as a learnable life skill so that individuals are more aware, intentional, and purposeful in their personal and professional lives.

If people develop the capacity to understand and manage their emotions, they will be in a better position to interact positively and form meaningful relationships. They will be better focused on their goals and resilient in the face of setbacks. These skills can help people navigate fluctuations in their emotions that come from 24/7 connectedness, cultivate intentional face-to-face conversations, respect others for who they are, and pursue meaningful careers.

The World Economic Forum predicts emotional intelligence to be the sixth most important skill in the workplace by 2020. This crucial ability is what I believe can help human beings flourish.

Bhawana Shrestha, an ILA member since 2015, is from Nepal. She holds a master of philosophy degree in English, with her research concentration on the state of emotional intelligence in Nepal. She is the cofounder of My Emotions Matter, which helps improve school and organizational climate through emotional intelligence. Shrestha was an ILA 2015 30 Under 30 honoree.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of Literacy Today, ILA’s member magazine.

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