Learning Emotional Intelligence From “A Christmas Carol”

Emotional intelligence: The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions. – Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer

This ability need not be innate in all people; they can be learnt and deliberately acquired with practice. This ability is what we mean by personal intelligence. Personal intelligence is both intrapersonal and interpersonal.

Intrapersonal means that which relates to yourself. This means being aware of yourself and your surroundings, being able to manage the things that the world or you yourself throw at yourself and the motivation that spurs you to do things which are worthwhile and help you to reach your goals. Awareness. Managing yourself. Attitudes and actions to reach worthwhile goals.

Interpersonal means that which relates to others. This means being aware of other’s feelings, needs and concerns and acting in such a way that others do desirable things that will help them improve themselves and the world around them. You will surely benefit in the process but that is not the primary goal. Awareness of others. Inspiring others.

So how can we learn practical lessons of emotional intelligence from ” A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

Scrooge is a rich mean miser who only cares about making money. He uses people and loves things and the only goal is more money. He hates Christmas as his staff gets a day off with pay and Christmas does not make him richer. People want gifts and donations during Christmas time and he hates to part with his money. His colleague, Marley, who was also a miser, visits him on Christmas eve and he has a lot of heavy chains which he is dragging along. He warns Scrooge that if he does not change, he will have to do the same carrying of chains which he is doing. He advises Scrooge to listen to the three spirits who will visit him that night.

1. Learn to be simple.Money is not everything. It is needed for the basic necessities of life, but beyond that it has little value. Our lives are not just for earning money and accumulating possessions. We need to learn to be content with what we have and appreciate the benefits of a simple, frugal life which is peaceful and calm and joyful. Clear out external and internal clutter and see what joy it brings to your life.We need to love people and use things. Learn the value of simplicity. I think this is the first lesson one should learn if they aspire towards emotional intelligence.

2. Do not be attached to material things. Money is force. It can be used for good. It can be used for evil. It can be left idle. We need to save money for the future. We also need to spend money for the future of ourselves, our kids, our family and the world around us. Money hoarded is of no use to anyone. The money has to flow, not for evil causes but for good causes, and we all know what the good causes are. Allow the dam to flow and God will fill it by pouring rain.

3. Work and earning money is not everything. We all need to work to make a living. But we need to know where to draw the line. We need to know what is enough. Working 12 hours a day 30 years of your life will give you a lot of money but what life have you lived. We need to be balance. Work enough to live but do not live to work to earn wealth. Obviously it is good we can all do the work we love and we will then never work all our lives. But in reality, it is not true. If we can know what is enough and what things we really want to do in our lives, then we will not work like machines for fulfilling the wishes of somebody else.

4. Remember- you can’t take it with you when you die: Even if you are the richest man in the world, you cannot take anything with you when you die. You may say you are leaving it for the future generation, but a generation which does not know the value of wealth and work will squander it. It is better to inculcate the values of what is important rather than just money. If you spend all your time working and earning money and not have any balance, then what balance your soul will have.

5. Learn from others’ mistakes: We make mistakes as we learn, just like a child falls as it learns to walk. Making mistakes is okay, but we need to learn from them. Often many people have done mistakes and left advice about what should be done to avoid mistakes. We should learn from them. It is not necessary to learn that fire burns by burning our hand.

The Ghost of the Past:Scrooge was abandoned by his father even during Christmas at boarding school. His father blames him for his mother’s death. His father goes to jail for not paying debt. Then when he develops a successful business, Scrooge becomes a workaholic and loses his fiancé as he wants money more than her. His sister, whom he loves very much also dies. All these events make him hardened, without empathy and without love.

6. Learn usefully from the past: We all have a past. This past is filled with good things as well as things we would wish we had not done. Learn from your mistakes but let them go. Use them to improve your present and future. Be grateful for the things life gave you in the past to become the person you are. No matter what circumstances are thrown at you, remember as Victor Frankl says, that no one can take away the last of your human freedoms- the freedom of choice. Scrooge realises this and decides to change for the better.

The Ghost of the Present: Scrooge is taken to a lot of Christmas dinners which are filled with happiness and joy. He sees Tim the boy who is sick but is happy to be around the people he loves and learns that unless he is treated soon, he is going to die. He sees Fred saying that Scrooge is so miserly and has lost the ability to take pleasure in life’s small things. He is also warned by the ghost about two things that he should avoid: Ignorance and Want.

7. Always be grateful for what you have: In life we will always find we have something more than others and something less than others. learn to see the cup half-full always and be grateful for what God has given you. Look at the world optimistically and with a good attitude.Aspire for bigger and better things but remember that it is God who gives everything. Be happy and thankful for what you have this moment.

8. Live in the present and make the correct choices this moment: The past is gone. The future is yet to come. This moment is all that you have. So keep doing all the important and non-urgent things now. You have the ability to make a choice every moment. Make the choice to serve and make others happy. This will make you happy. Happiness has little to do with wealth. If you have enough to live on and be contented, you can be cheerful and happy. Money cannot buy happiness.

The Ghost of the Future: Tim, the boy dies because his dad did not have money to treat him. Scrooge is shown what happens after his death and sees how nobody likes him or cares for him. He then decides to change. He gives a raise to Tim’s father and becomes Tim’s second father. He stops being miserly and spends time with others. He has realised that money is not everything.

9.  Leave a legacy the world is proud of: .Live in such a way that people are inspired by your life and want to do the things you have done and change the world for the better. Be kind and thoughtful of others and this will remain long after your life has passed.

10. Change yourself for the better: Scrooge decides to change after he realises that money is not everything and love and relationships are the most important things in life. Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value and significance.

We can see that initially Scrooge has very low emotional intelligence. His awareness of himself is bad and he cannot create happiness despite his wealth. But the Ghosts make him more aware, he controls his emotional destiny and becomes full of empathy and service. He shows us that emotional intelligence can be developed, if we want to. These ten lessons can be a first step on the path.

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