Family Addiction Specialist Aaron Sternlicht: Emotional Intelligence; What It Is, Why It Is So Essential, And How We Can Increase It

Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine
Published in
26 min readDec 29, 2020


Emotional intelligence allows us to identify our emotions, acknowledge our emotions, and react in an appropriate way. We can react without being reactive. I have a crass joke that emotions are like having children in a car, we don’t want to let them drive the car but we don’t want to stuff them in the trunk either. Similarly, with emotions, we do not want to let them drive our actions or our life, nor do we want to ignore them. Emotional intelligence allows us to realize that emotions are neither good nor bad, they simply are a natural part of life and we can live with them without having them destroy us.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC.

Aaron Sternlicht is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor based in New York City. Aaron completed his graduate work in mental health counseling from Pace University, and received various post-graduate certifications in related fields. Aaron combines his clinical training and experience along with his firsthand knowledge and success in long-term recovery to help him guide his clients into sustainable recovery and encourages them to embrace a more holistic and satisfying approach to mind and body wellness. Aaron’s approach is pragmatic, warm, and patient, and he believes everyone has the ability to create lasting and meaningful change in their life. Along with his wife, Lin Sternlicht, they co-founded Family Addiction Specialist, a boutique concierge practice where individuals and their families receive impeccable support for mental health and addiction related issues. Their approach is uniquely tailored for each client and expertly integrates different psychotherapeutic modalities with research-based wellness practices to help their clients attain their personal and professional goals.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in Niskayuna, NY, a suburb outside of Albany. Both of my parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe; my Dad originally from Poland and my Mom from the former Soviet Union and what today is Lithuania. I also have an older brother, Joshua. Growing up I attended a Jewish private school from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Because of cultural differences in my upbringing as the child of parents from Eastern Europe and my Jewish identity, I sometimes felt a bit separate from others and what I perceived as being a “normal average American.” This sentiment was most pronounced when I went to public high school for 9th and 10th grade where I did not perform well, resulting in my parents transferring me to a private high school where I completed my secondary education, and went on to attend the University of Vermont for my BA in Political Science and then Pace University for my MS in Mental Health Counseling. During my childhood my favorite activities were playing basketball and tennis and going skiing at Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My career as a therapist was inspired by the staff at the Betty Ford Center, a prominent substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Palm Springs, California. So let me back up a bit and explain by giving you a bit more of my personal history. Growing up as a child I developed an addiction to food resulting in me being overweight my entire adolescent and early young adult life. By the age of 23 I found myself close to 300 pounds at 5 foot 10 inches, having to buy size 44 pants because my 42’s no longer fit. I was severely depressed, passively suicidal, and extremely anxious and self-conscious about my body weight. At the age of 16 I found marijuana as a way to cope with my mental and physical discomfort, which progressed through the years into various other substances, culminating into an opioid dependency in my early 20’s. My life spiraled out of control quickly and completely fell apart, I was expelled from school, I had several arrests, and several severe car accidents just to name a few of the consequences of my drug addiction.

This eventually led to an intervention by my parents in which I was “forced” into treatment. I went to the Betty Ford Center to get my parents off my back, and figured I would go back to my life after satisfying them with a 30-day stint in treatment. At that point, I did not think I could find happiness in life without drugs. I was hopeless. Within about a week of treatment, something unexpected happened. I had a shift in mindset, a shift in perspective. I realized that not only could a live a life without drugs, but I could find meaning and purpose in life and even find happiness.

Much of this was inspired by the staff members at the Betty Ford Center, 99% of which were in recovery themselves, from the doctors, nurses, therapists, fitness trainers, and so on. For the first time in my life I met people who had similar stories and addictions as my own, who were once just as depressed, but were now living happy, joyous, and fulfilling lives. I wanted what they had, and I was willing to do the work to get it. I have been in recovery ever since. They also inspired me to get into working in the field of addiction recovery, where I felt I could be most useful given my personal experience with substance abuse. After treatment I applied to schools, ended up getting my Masters in mental health counseling among other licenses and certifications, and have been working in the addiction and mental health field ever since.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My Dad was an extremely intelligent and highly successful engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur who founded and was involved in several companies in various industries including real estate, energy, and furniture. He was also a Holocaust survivor with a very interesting story having escaped Nazi-invaded Poland at the age of 8 after being separated from his Mother who was murdered by the Nazis. After a long journey, he and his Dad ended up in India of all places where they lived until my Dad immigrated to the United States for college. He became the epitome of the American dream. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 84 due to melanoma. I was 26, and fortunately in recovery by that time. He always provided with me with encouragement, taught me valuable lessons, and showed me unconditional support. Although I did not appreciate him, his journey, or his success as much as I feel I should have while he was alive, he made a lasting impact on me and instilled in me coveted morals, values and ethics that I live my life with every day. Without him and my Mom I would never be where I am today, and I am forever grateful to have such incredible parents.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Well, it is not so much a mistake, but perhaps an interesting story. I actually met my wife and business partner, Lin Sternlicht, working together at a rehab. We call it a “rehab romance,” except we weren’t patients, we were clinicians. We started dating and things progressed quickly, and we have been together ever since. We worked together at the rehabilitation clinic where we met for 2 years, and then both made a decision to resign and start our own private practice. I was extremely terrified to do so. The primary fear was leaving something stable for something unknown. I would never have had the willingness to challenge myself and face my fears in this way without the support and encouragement from Lin. She strongly believed in us and in the vision of starting our own private practice, and it is truly her ingenuity and motivation that not only got us started, but that also continues to move us forward to this day.

Lin also helped me realize my worth, which went well beyond my role at the rehab we were working for. Lin and I were both the hardest working clinicians at the rehab, seeing a high quantity of patients on a daily basis and giving them our all. We would regularly see approximately seven patients a day for individual therapy sessions in addition to facilitating one or two group therapy sessions of up to fifteen individuals per group. We worked long hours, and really put in our all. As the only couple employed there, we felt an extra sense of responsibility and pressure to perform at our best. We did not want the perception that since we were a couple we used the office as a time for romance or connection. So we were always mindful to not only treat work as work, but to overperform. In the long run we ultimately felt that our talents could be better utilized in a private practice. It was incredibly important for me to realize my own worth, and to have the mindfulness and intuition to know that we could be of better service to patients who were under our own care in a private practice. I think a lot of entrepreneurs go through similar fears, especially when they are just starting out and transitioning from a former career.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

This sentiment cannot be understated. And to be quite honest, I may have given up if it were not for the support and encouragement I received from Lin. So yes, dedication is critical. If you are not as lucky as I am to have a partner like Lin to help keep you accountable and on the right path, my advice would be to find a support system that will keep you accountable, and to also be disciplined. In the early stages of starting a business it is easy to find motivation and inspiration with newfound excitement for your pursuit, but motivation and inspiration can come and go. In those moments when there are setbacks, bad news, or things may have not gone as quickly or as smoothly as you had hoped, it is incredibly important to continue to practice consistency and discipline in your daily habits, rituals and routines that are needed for success, and to have the support that will help you along the way.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I enjoy materials that are in the fields of psychology, wellness, business and spirituality, and I particularly enjoy when information is provided in an easy to understand way with scientifically backed research or explanations. One book that comes to mind is “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor. Fundamental to his book and philosophy was that life can have meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning — a psychotherapeutic approach Frankl coined “logotherapy.” Even during the haunting experience of living in a concentration camp, Frankl looked beyond his own suffering and was able to find purpose and meaning to that suffering. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Frankl highlights one of the most important parts of the human experience — that no matter how horrible our external experience may be, we are always able to control our outlook on life and our reactions to it. That the most fundamental freedom in life is the ability to choose our attitude, and to choose our behavior. His teachings resonate with me deeply and I find this simple truth about one’s own perspectives and reactions as critical to life. So many individuals end up living a lifetime of pain because of one bad decision made out of impulse. Taking pause and valuing my perspective is a lesson I apply to my own life and that I also utilize in my own therapeutic approach in helping my clients.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

There are so many, and I really find quotes very inspiring, motivational and impactful on my life. One that comes to mind at this moment is, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This quote is very aligned with what I was just discussing with Viktor Frankl’s philosophy. This idea of mind over matter and reacting without being reactive resonates with me deeply. That even in the most dark or challenging times, we have the ability to choose our behaviors and our mindset. That while we may be powerless over nearly everything in life, the one thing we do have power over, ourselves, is the most important.

Like most things in life, it is easier said than done to realize that we choose our own destiny regardless of what happens to us. And knowing is different than applying. The idea makes sense but can be challenging to apply to real life situations. Nonetheless, I try to practice this idea on a daily basis, as it is really life changing. Practicing gratitude is a good example of this. Gratitude is not a feeling, it’s a choice, and at any given moment we can choose to be grateful and shift our mindset to a more positive one.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Our primary focus continues to be on our clients in order to ensure that we provide them with the highest quality to care, giving them the time, energy and attention they deserve. As opportunities present themselves we are always interested in pursuing new ventures that align with our values and vision, so long as we never spread ourselves too thin at the detriment of the quality of care we provide to our patients, and still have time to enjoy life. That being said, we do have an exciting collaboration on the horizon in partnership with a fellow New York City based couple to open a luxury clinic in Midtown Manhattan that offers a unique therapeutic experience using a breakthrough medication and behavioral programming to help alleviate addiction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety among other issues. I cannot go into too much more detail at this time, but we hope to launch in Spring 2021. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has certainly exacerbated mental health and addiction related issues, and we hope to continue to be a part of the solution in the best ways we can.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is a fundamental component of mental wellness, an important life skill, and is something that I have studied in my graduate and post-graduate work as a mental health professional. In addition to utilizing emotional intelligence in my own personal and professional life, I have also found emotional intelligence to be of particular importance in serving the clientele I work with, mostly high-achieving and highly successful individuals, predominantly executive level professionals.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your emotions and understand the impact they have on your behavior and subsequently your life. Emotional intelligence allows you to have enough awareness and introspection to know how you are feeling and why you are feeling this way. Furthermore, it allows you to understand the relationship between your feelings and your actions. This is a fundamental component of emotional intelligence, as it is not only about recognizing your emotions but also utilizing your emotions to navigate life in a positive and beneficial way through your behaviors.

Another important component of emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize the emotions of others. In this way, emotional intelligence is also about having the level awareness and “outrospection” to know how others are feeling as well. As with inner-awareness of emotions, this outer-awareness is not just about awareness of others emotions in and of itself, but also utilizing this awareness. When you are able to understand how others are feeling at any given moment you are able to manage relationships with those individuals more effectively.

Five elements that are commonly thought of as being connected with emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Being adept in these areas equates to high emotional intelligence, and really affords you with having mastery over your own life. Being in tune with your own emotions and those of others is fundamental to the human experience. Emotional intelligence is incredibly important in the field of psychology and can be applied to all areas of life.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

Overwhelmingly when individuals think of the word intelligence they immediately think of intellect. They think of an individual’s ability to reason, understand, and think. Put bluntly, they think about how smart an individual is in terms of their mental brilliance, or lack thereof. This type of intelligence is more in line with IQ. As I’ve described, emotional intelligence is very different from one’s IQ. Whereas IQ is more aligned with informational knowledge, EQ is more aligned with emotional knowledge. IQ is considered to be a fixed trait, that is, what your IQ is as a child will not change drastically from what your IQ is as an adult. EQ on the other hand is considered to be more fluid and placid, changing over time. EQ and IQ are distinct from one another, so an individual can have a low EQ and low IQ, a high EQ and high IQ, or one may be high while the other is low.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Whether we are aware of the fact or not, our life is a product of our behavior which is a product of our reactions to our emotions. At the core of our human experience are our emotions which play a fundamental role in how we behave, which ultimately creates our life, and I would argue ultimately dictates our life. Our emotional intelligence trickles into every area of our life and everything we do — the way we communicate, our decision making, our mood regulation, time management, interpersonal relations, and so on.

The greater our emotional intelligence, the greater the level of insight we have of our emotions, and with that comes the power of self-awareness. Self-awareness allows us to make mindful, informed, and smart decisions irrespective of our temporary emotions that we might be feeling at any given moment. So during times of sadness, anger, anxiety or stress our emotional intelligence can lead us to making powerful, thoughtful and positive decisions rather than impulsive and destructive ones. We can be guided more in line with our head and heart rather than just by our fleeting emotional state. So emotional intelligence not only affords us with the ability to understand our emotions, but to regulate them and allow them to appropriately manifest in our lives as well.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there may be individuals who show lots of emotions but are not aware of them. This is an important distinction because showing lots of emotion does not correlate with having high emotional intelligence. On the contrary, individuals who show lots of emotion unknowingly have low emotional intelligence. If you know such people who are brazen with their emotional states like an open book but may be unaware of their emotional state and unaware of their emotional actions, they probably do not fare well in social settings, their careers, or general life.

Emotional intelligence helps us not only in our response to experiencing emotions but can help us beforehand as well. What I mean by this is that when we become more emotionally aware we can understand how our external environment and behaviors impact our emotions. For example, we might find that we constantly feel stressed at certain times of day or that particular situations or people make us feel sad, anxious or angry. Whatever the situation may be, emotional intelligence enlightens us to better understand our emotional experience and what causes them. With this awareness we can alter our reality and in turn alter our emotional state. We can try to avoid triggering people, places or things or at a minimum be better prepared to deal with them. In these ways, emotional intelligence is an incredibly powerful tool for navigating life.

Fundamental skills that I encourage my patients to practice that increase their EQ is self-awareness through a mindfulness-based practice in order for them to garner greater insight into their thoughts and feelings, and subsequently how that impacts their behavior. In doing so, they can learn to react to their emotions without being reactive. The greater the level self-awareness and self-regulation, the greater the individual’s emotional intelligence.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

What comes to mind for me personally is that it is not necessarily one big thing in which my own emotional intelligence has served me, but rather many little things which have added up into big things. It’s in the daily discussions with others and the daily hustle and bustle of life. I think ever since I was young I was a bit of a social chameleon in a way that I was able to make friends with all sorts of people. In high school for example there were many different groups, or some call them cliques. There were the athletes, the nerds, the artists, the punks, the hipsters, the skaters, and so on. I found myself being able to make friends with all of them, and sometimes my demeanor would change to better fit in with a particular group. While this ability to be a sort of chameleon involves various personality traits and interpersonal abilities, it also involved my emotional intelligence, although I did not know it at the time as a teenager. I had to read other people, be aware of their reactions, and be aware of my reactions as well. This ability, or skill if you want to call it that, has served me throughout my life. I have been able to build relationships with various people and capitalize on my relationships. This skill evolved into empathy, to really understand others on a deep level, which is in part what I believe makes me a good friend, colleague, partner and also a good therapist.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

Emotional intelligence is fundamental to business and excelling in your career, whether you interact with others or not. For example, if you sit behind a computer in your home trading stocks without any social engagement at all it still takes a great deal of self-awareness and emotional regulation to not make trades based on emotion or impulse, and to have that level of insight into what you are feeling and how that is impacting your decision making. So even if your career is isolated from others, emotional intelligence plays an important role in your decision making.

But let’s focus on broader business which often does involve engaging with others such as your clients, your colleagues, your subordinates, your superiors, and so on. Emotional intelligence allows you to understand power dynamics in the workplace and how to best interact in such roles, whether you may have to be more submissive or domineering in certain roles or situations. Emotional intelligence also affords you with the ability to have empathy in understanding others emotions and responding appropriately. This is important in all roles of business, and is especially important in a leadership position where sometimes you may need to be more understanding and sympathetic to particular needs of those who you manage.

Emotional intelligence is connected with various skills used in business such as the ability to adapt to change, time management, conflict resolution, interpersonal and teamwork skills, managerial skills, and so on. It really bleeds into everything you do personally and professionally. There have been studies which show that people with high emotional intelligence are high performers, but there have also been studies that have shown little correlation between high emotional intelligence and those at the top of the executive level such as CEO’s. So I think what this tells us is that while emotional intelligence is incredibly important, the most important factor of success is a well-rounded individual who has various skills beyond emotional intelligence such as IQ, managerial skills, industry knowledge, and so on.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

As I was explaining with business relationships, emotional intelligence is incredibly important in all of our interpersonal relationships. Emotional intelligence provides many social skills that are fundamental to developing fruitful relationships. Core to this is understanding the impact of emotions on relationships — how our emotions and behaviors impact others, and how the emotions and behaviors of others impact us. In this way, emotional intelligence allows us to not only better understand ourselves, but also to better understand others. Whether we are aware of it or not, we all would prefer to be surrounded by people who make us feel good, make us smile, who motivate and inspire us, and who understand us. When we have high emotional intelligence, we are better able to be that type of individual for others, and to attract those who resonate with us on a similar frequency.

The level of self-awareness and social-awareness that is emotional intelligence is important in having better relationships because it allows us to have fruitful social skills, such as empathy and understanding. Empathy is a great example of a fundamental skill of all relationships that is a core component of emotional intelligence. Without having empathy, our relationships will suffer. People generally do not want to associate with individuals who are not caring or who appear to be disinterested in others. Subsequently, when you have high emotional intelligence and a high degree of empathy, you will have better relationships as more individuals will want to build relationships with you, and will also have deeper and more meaningful relationships as individuals are more likely to be vulnerable and open with an individual who demonstrates a deep sense of empathy.

Relationships also flourish when you simply have better social skills. Those who are termed to be socially awkward generally have lower emotional intelligence, and their relationships suffer. Such as the example I gave earlier of individuals who are emotionally open but lack the awareness of what emotion they are feeling and how they show their emotions outwardly. We all know someone or have come across individuals who are socially awkward, and we shy away from them. As such, when you have a high degree of emotional intelligence you are more mindful of any awkwardness that might come across through your own verbal and non-verbal communication, and are more mindful of facial expressions, body language, and other tells and behaviors that are influenced by our emotions. This skill helps you build your relationships.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

Emotional intelligence is fundamental and central to mental health, and as I’ve said it is something I focus on in my work as a mental health professional. As I always tell my clients, the first and perhaps most important step to dealing with any problem is identifying that there is a problem. As such, when one has awareness into their own emotional state they are then able to do something about it. Emotional intelligence gives us this level of awareness. We can not work on our depression or our anxiety if we are not aware of it or how it is affecting our lives.

Emotional intelligence allows us to identify our emotions, acknowledge our emotions, and react in an appropriate way. We can react without being reactive. I have a crass joke that emotions are like having children in a car, we don’t want to let them drive the car but we don’t want to stuff them in the trunk either. Similarly, with emotions, we do not want to let them drive our actions or our life, nor do we want to ignore them. Emotional intelligence allows us to realize that emotions are neither good nor bad, they simply are a natural part of life and we can live with them without having them destroy us.

Many people go through life feeling depressed, anxious, stressed or experiencing a host of other negative emotions but they may lack the awareness that they are experiencing those problems, and that those problems are what is causing them distress in their daily life, or causing them to engage in unhealthy behaviors as a means to cope with their mental health issues such as overeating or problematic alcohol consumption. Individuals with high emotional intelligence recognize that emotions have functions, and that being mindful of this can help with optimal mental health. So these are just a few examples of why emotional intelligence is so important for mental wellbeing.

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

The first and most important way to develop greater emotional intelligence in my opinion is to develop more emotional self-awareness. As I always say, awareness is the first step to making any change in your life. Emotional awareness is at the core of emotional intelligence. I encourage my patients to become more self-aware by practicing a mindfulness-based practice. So this might look like checking in with yourself on a regular basis, and even setting reminders to do so if needed. During those times ask yourself how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and how you are reacting to your feelings. If you are unable to check in with yourself in the moment, try to do a recap of your day at night thinking of how you felt throughout the day. As with all things in life, the more frequently you practice emotional mindfulness the more natural it will become over time and the better you will be at becoming more self-aware of your emotional state.

Second, and building off of the first suggestion, would be to develop a feelings and actions chart, or journal. This may sound a bit hokey, or tedious, but if you really aim to build emotional intelligence it can be highly effective. Essentially the aim here is to write down your feelings throughout the day, write down what triggered these feelings, and write down how you responded to those feelings. So you end up with three primary columns. In doing so, not only will you naturally be building awareness of your emotional state, reactions to them, and precipitating events, but you will also be able to look back and study them in order to identify patterns, triggers, and see the larger picture of how much your emotions impact your actions and your overall life. Reflecting on your emotions and recognizing where they stem from will help you navigate such experiences and emotional states in the future. Furthermore, writing down your emotions helps put distance between yourself and your emotions.

Putting distance between yourself and your emotions is a nice segue into my third suggestion which is to practice the pause. That is to say, to be less impulsive and less reactive. This practice aims to work on the self-regulative component of emotional intelligence. As I have discussed, central to emotional intelligence is the ability to respond to your emotions in an appropriate way. To react without being reactive. This is a skill much easier said than done. Here the key is to practice pause by feeling emotions and sitting with them before acting upon them. The more this is practiced, the more natural it will become. You realize that emotions pass, and that you don’t have to act out on them. If you struggle with pausing, a tool that is very helpful with becoming less impulsive is meditation. Meditation could be a separate strategy all unto itself in order to build emotional intelligence. There are many different forms of meditation, but they all have the same general effects when practiced regularly, and one of those effects is reduced impulsivity, and an added benefit of meditation with regards to emotional intelligence is increased self-awareness.

As I discussed, another key component of emotional intelligence is developing a deep sense of empathy. So there are two critical skills that I would encourage individuals to practice in order to enhance their sense of empathy. The first is to be a good listener. In order to be empathetic, it is essential that we listen. Many of us only listen to respond, so practice listening to understand. Listening also involves more than listening with your ears, it also means listening with your eyes. Non-verbal language such as facial expressions and body cues can tell us a lot, so practice paying attention to what is said and also what is not said. The second practice I would encourage others to practice to enhance their sense of empathy is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Really try to understand why they are feeling the way they are feeling. Try to understand their perspective and their needs. Think about their whole situation and of them as a whole person. These practices will help build your empathic skills that are fundamental to emotional intelligence.

My fifth suggestion to enhance emotional intelligence would be to reduce stress. Stress reduces our ability for self-control and serves to exacerbate negative emotions. When we are stressed it is very challenging to practice emotional awareness, emotional regulation, intrinsic motivation, empathy and social skills that are all fundamental to emotional intelligence. So I believe stress reduction is key. There are many ways to reduce stress, and I could talk about this topic of stress reduction techniques for quite some time, but I will highlight some of the one’s I find to be most important. One primary stress reduction technique is something that I already discussed which is meditation. When it comes to meditation it is more about consistency and quality than quantity. So don’t overwhelm yourself if you are not a regular practitioner of meditation by starting with a 20-minute meditation; simply start with 5 deep breaths in and out. Self-care is another thing that is so important for stress reduction, taking time out of your day on a regular basis to do something for yourself that is soothing and relaxing. It could be reading a book, taking a nice hot shower or bath, engaging in a hobby, listening to music, or going for a walk. I also always encourage regular exercise which helps to reduce stress. Also, proper nutritional health is a fundamental component of stress reduction that is often undervalued and underutilized in the mental health field. And there are many other stress reduction strategies, but one more key technique that I will mention is proper sleep hygiene. Having a regular circadian rhythm of optimally 8 hours of sleep is so important. In order to do so it is important to get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at consistent times, reducing caffeine and alcohol consumption, and limiting blue light exposure in the evening.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence was certainly not part of my education growing up. My step-daughter is in 3rd grade and I am quite impressed with the focus in her school on emotional intelligence through activities such as meditation and some of the reading and writing materials that highlight emotional awareness. That being said, there is still a long way to go. I think it’s so important that we implement more emotional intelligence education in schools, teaching children the different emotions, what they feel like, normalizing negative emotions, building empathy for their classmates, and encouraging children to be open with their emotions and finding healthy ways to cope with unpleasant or unwanted emotions. There are so many benefits of focusing on emotional intelligence in school because studies have shown that students with higher emotional intelligence perform better academically, and go on to be high-performers as adults, so it’s a win-win. Building emotional intelligence would also help reduce mental health issues we are seeing in young children, so I hope that schools will implement such education and discussions as a regular part of the curriculum.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Well, to steal a line from one of my mentors David Meltzer, it would be to be kind and to inspire others to inspire others to inspire others. If we can create a domino effect of being more compassionate to one another and of lifting others up, we can reach an exponential number of people around the world and make a powerful impact. It all starts with us and taking care of ourselves so that we can be the best version of us that we can be for ourselves, our family, and our community.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

There are so many people that come to mind, but probably at the top of my list is Tony Robbins. I find his teachings incredibly informative and motivational in the areas of business and self-improvement.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place to start would be with our website or . On our website you can read my bio along with my partner’s bio, read more about what we do and the services we offer, find our contact information, see press we have been featured in, and link to our social media platforms.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.



Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Authority Magazine

Entrepreneur, angel investor and syndicated columnist, as well as a yoga, holistic health, breathwork and meditation enthusiast. Unlock the deepest powers