EQ-i Competencies: Optimism

Reuven Bar-On (1997);The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory™ (EQ-i™): Technical manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems. view original

Reuven Bar-On (1997);The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory™ (EQ-i™): Technical manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.

view original


This EI factor is defined as our ability to maintain a positive and hopeful attitude toward life even in the face of adversity. It is represents a positive an uplifting approach to daily living and a very important motivating factor in whatever we do.

There is a strong connection between optimism and the ability to cope with problems. Optimism also plays an important role in self-motivation and is a very important factor in coping with stress and achieving goals, which represents a valuable and desirable leadership attribute. Optimistic individuals typically feel sure of themselves in most situations, believe they can stay on top of rough situations, hope for the best and are generally motivated to continue even when things get difficult while pessimists typically give up easier. They usually expect things will turn out right in the end, believe in their ability to handle most upsetting problems, and typically do not feel they will fail when they begin something new. Optimists experience many of the same life events as pessimists, but one of the fundamental differences is that optimists weather these situations better and recover quicker from defeat by learning from their mistakes.

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Although optimism associated with emotional intelligence, it is most likely a facilitator rather than an integral part of it. David Wechsler also considered optimism, together with drive and positive mood, to be “conative factors” that he thought facilitated intelligent behavior. These factors were also considered to be motivational in nature rather than part of intelligence itself.

Optimism is an important leadership quality, because it is often associated with embracing some vision or mission that mobilizes our determination to meet goals designed to maximize individual and organizational potential. This contributes to being positive and passionate about what we do and fully energized and engaged. The “inspirational leader” is one who generates energy that impacts the immediate environment and inspires others. Additionally, one’s level of spiritual development (conducting one’s life in a meaningful and purposeful way) has a direct impact on one’s self-motivation; and this also includes the drive component of self-actualization and the motivational component of happiness.

Based on one study, there is a strong relationship between optimism and the ability to benefit from coaching, counseling, psychotherapy and other forms of intervention. This is logical in that optimism is thought to play an important role in these types of intervention, because people who are pessimistic tend to be passive rather than actively committed to doing something to improve their general condition. Optimism has also correlated high with a scale of general commitment. These findings support what has been earlier suggested about estimating an individual’s potential from benefiting from coaching and other forms intervention by assessing his or her general cognitive capacity, emotional self-awareness and motivation (which is based on optimism).

The opposite of optimism is pessimism, despair and hopelessness, which are common symptoms of depression.