What Does Emotional Intelligence Have To Do With Mindsetting and Flow States?

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As we set out to explore the foundation of the flow state and mindset work that I do, I'll start by clarifying a couple things about where I’m coming from. One of the cornerstones of Mindsets On Demand™ Training is emotional intelligencing because the heart of both is about identifying and understanding your emotional impulses and subsequent feelings and using your feelings to help you think and act in ways that bring out the best in you. We need to use our emotional intelligence (EQ) to make and embody the kind of mindsets that guide us in taking proactive, soulful, purposeful action —instead of reactive habitual behaviours and responses  — if we want to be increasingly happier, connected and fulfilled in life.

Your ability to be on your game, in your zone or get into your flow states on demand = your ability to embody the right kind of mindsets at the right time.

These are mindsets that matter.

Learning how to create mindsets that matter and getting into them on demand are advanced skills in emotional flexibility. Disengaging from negative and reactive feeling states and getting back into a mindset that matters is emotional resilience. This is true whether the cause of the negative feeling state is internal: from a self-generated thought (you pushing your own buttons); or external (the thought you have when you allow someone/something else to push your buttons).



Many empirical definitions of emotional intelligence have emerged since the 90s as research on it has been developed for different contexts and varying models have emerged. The definition that resonates with me the most is the ability model by the two researchers who made history by publishing the first scientific article on EQ, John (Jack) D. Mayer & Peter Salovey. They define EQ as:

the capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth. (1)

What’s the difference Between Emotions and Feelings?

Some people use the terms ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’ interchangeably and dictionary definitions vary. I think of them as in a cause-effect relationship because the visceral response system is faster than the cognitive one. First we have an automatic emotional response and then we have a thought about that visceral experience which creates the feeling about it.  When Mayer and Salovey use the word ‘emotion’ here, they define emotion as:

a feeling state (including physiological responses and cognitions) (2)

To understand the difference, I appreciate how neuroscientist, Dr. Antonio Damasio explains it:

Emotions are the sets of physiological reactions that take place throughout our bodies as we experience our environment. These include the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, changes in heart rate and muscle tension or relaxation. These bodily reactions are hard wired in all of us with some individual variation when it comes to expressing them. (3)

Feelings are mental experiences of body states. (4)

My equation of how we go from internal emotional impulse to external behaviour and experience is this:

emotional/visceral impulse + thought about that impulse

= feeling + what we do (behaviour) = created experience (result)

Our emotional wiring is to foster self-preservation in our journey of life.
Using our feeling states to create flow mindsets is how we choose to enjoy the ride.

Here’s My Take: We can’t control the emotional impulse because that neurobiological messaging system is hardwired and beyond the speed of cognition. You know how they say that we move towards pleasure and away from pain...well that’s it...that’s what’s happening on an emotional level — those two buttons love/pleasure and fear/pain. This is because on a survival level, if your life’s at stake and you only have a few seconds to make a decision and you’ve got three choices — move towards what you want, freeze, or move away from what you don’t want — the odds are better that you’ll make a choice that leads to your survival. If in those moments you had a bunch of choices, the odds are against you because your attention would be diffused — you’d waste time considering too many options, increasing the odds that you’d run of out of time to pick the best one.

So if we only have two basic emotions, love and fear, then everything else we make up — how we interpret these impulses with our thoughts. That is, all the feelings we experience are derivatives of these two primary motivating impulses. 

In the love/pleasure camp we have feelings like: happy, inspired, motivated, connected, abundant, generous, energized, centered, etc.

In the fear/pain camp we have feelings like: frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed, doubtful, stressed, discouraged, angry, sad, etc.

We can’t control the hardwired love/pleasure-fear/pain emotion circuitry. What we can control or choose and change are the thoughts and resulting feelings we have, our interpretation of that emotional intel. This is how we change how we communicate, how we act, how we show up in the world. This is where we flip the switch from reactive habit to proactive purposeful action. The thought-feeling interaction in our bodymind space is where we give meaning to the stimulus of the basic emotional impulse we experience as we interact with our environment. It’s the space where we create our beliefs, our projections, our stories, our mindsets — which determine our responses in what we say and do.

“This interactive thought-feeling space is our freedom button.

This is the space that is referred to in the famous quote about the space between stimulus and response derived from the writings of the late neurologist and psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl. Stephen Covey refers to Frankl's writings in the chapter on Habit #1 — Be Proactive — in his 7 Habits book. He relates how Frankl had a breakthrough in his deterministic thinking when he realized that:

“Between what happened to him, or the stimulus, and his response to it, was his freedom or power to choose that response.” (5)


Since your mindsets are key to accessing your flow states, to effectively work with mindsets, a working definition is necessary. You need to know what you’re working with, so you know how to work with it. Researchers develop working definitions so they can test hypothesis and get measurable results. It’s the same thing here. English dictionaries don't provide working definitions of 'mindset', they're too vague, so I created one:

A mindset is a bodymind construct.
It’s the emotional-mental-physical state you’re in, infused by the self-belief and level of awareness you have, when you face situations (opportunities or challenges).


Since how we choose to feel in any given moment determines our mindsets, and mindsets determine our behaviour; consciously using our feelings to make our mindsets is using EQ in mindsets. Since feelings are fueled by ‘molecules of emotion’ (5) — powerful elixirs of neurotransmitters and hormones directed by thoughts into behaviour, feelings are the fuel of mindsets. I think a more accurate term for the concept of a mindset is: bodymindset.

This is why when we consciously use our feelings to make and embody  mindsets that matter — and get into our flow  states — we get to live our lives the ways we love to feel while creating more of what we want. And how good of a win-win is that?



1 Mayer, John D, Salovey Peter, & Caruso, David. What is Emotional Intelligence? University of New Hampshire. (n.d.) Website.

2 Ibid.

3 Damasio, Antonio. How our Brains Feel Emotion. Big Think. Video.

4 Ibid.

5 Covey, Stephen, R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. Fireside. 1999. p. 69. Book.

6 Pert, Candace, B. The Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel. Scribner. 2010. Book.


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