top of page

Backpacking & EI Part 2: Self Management

Daniel Goleman is generally seen as the “godfather” of Emotional Intelligence. He wrote several books on EI and did many of the studies on the importance of EI in the business world. My study and workshops are based on his work and his definitions of the components of EI. Self-Management is the 2nd component (skillset) in Goleman’s EI.

·      Using the awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and directing your behavior positively.

·      Manage your feelings.

·      Staying in control of feelings and impulses.

·      Momentary self-control in order to pursue larger goals.

Marc Brackett, Director of the Center of Emotional Intelligence at Yale University, and the author of the book Permission to Feel says that “expressing our feelings may be the most daunting of all, because it’s the moment you open yourself up to criticism or rejection.” He goes on to say, “regulating our emotions is the final and most daunting step to master, but it’s the one that lets us truly own our feelings and grow beyond them.”


Backpacking takes significant Self-Management. It’s all built on the base of Self-Awareness. Knowing your strengths and limitations is paramount to a successful trip. My fear of heights comes into play so many times on a backpacking trip. From challenges like crossing a small creek over a log to walking over a suspended bridge to hiking past a previous washout that takes most of the trail away. Every one of those situations can create anxiety for me. My team needs to be aware of my fear and I need to know how to manage it. Taking many deep breaths to help to calm myself is my go-to. In the end, I must trust my abilities to get through those situations, whether the fear is real or perceived. Knowing and watching my team get through those challenges with ease helps extend that confidence to myself. Additionally, visualizing how I will handle those situations allows me to rely on that in real time.


When hiking the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier, I was well aware of the trail being washed out at a certain location. The trail was reduced to 12-18”, barely room to place your feet for about 100 yards. The drop off was enough to make me fear that the fall would produce significant injuries. Cortisol was raging through my veins. I was in flight or fight and I really wanted to get out of there. Unfortunately, for me, the way forward was the only option. Turning around would add another 5+ miles and the rest of my team managed that crossing with ease. I was faced with some peer pressure and a lack of confidence in my balance. Putting one foot in front of the other, I started confidently until I reached a point on the trail where I had to face into the wall of the mountain and walk sideways because there wasn't enough space. The side of the pack was pushing me off the trail toward the depths of the washout. Sweaty hands and all, I made it with the encouragement of my team and momentarily overcoming my fears. Most of that fear was more perceived than real, but, in my mind, I was in fear for my life.


Leading and working with others can produce similar responses. As I look back on my career, I know the things that kept me up at night were almost always about people. Either having difficult discussions or trusting that the people I led would do the right things. Most of the time, those fears were perceived and not real. It’s the stories I made up in my head.  It’s the lack of a trusted connection or relationship that led me down that path. I was not in control of my emotions, and I didn’t perceive a strong enough relationship that kept me up at night mulling over a number of scenarios that never actually happened. In the end, it all seemed to work much better than I had thought. I needed to trust my team and believe in my abilities to work those things out and continue to build on surviving those situations.

Understanding triggers and how they show up as sensations is a key to recovering quickly from a hijack. The brain perceives hijacks as a threat, which narrows focus and the ability to reason. Reactions are instinctive. The amygdala is central to these responses and takes control of the CEO of the brain (the prefrontal cortex). Knowing triggers will help a leader understand how to respond and recover.


I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Daniel Goleman, “if your emotions aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

Next up: Part 3 - Social Awareness


Recent Posts

See All


Pacey Consulting & Coaching
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
bottom of page