How Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Decide Whether to Go for Your BSN

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Are you on the fence about going back to school or not?  Maybe you have a list of pros and cons going on in your head or like some nurses, even have one on paper. Maybe you are worried about the time and money involved in going back to school or are afraid that you might not be successful. On the other hand, maybe you wonder if the best time to go for your BSN is right now, even with nagging questions in the back of your mind.  And maybe, not deciding, i.e. sitting on the fence is the most comfortable place for you.  Here you can keep the option open while not making a commitment either way.

How can emotional intelligence help your decision-making?

Daniel Goleman is the psychologist well-known for bringing the term emotional intelligence EI into mainstream culture with his ground-breaking book, Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More than IQ.  His model, which continues to evolve, involves personal and social competencies, each of which include a variety of traits that can be helpful in decision-making.  For instance, we can take a deeper dive into the concept of personal competence in an effort to decide about going back to school.

Personal Competence and the School Decision

There are three areas of personal competence; self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation.  

Self-awareness means that you know how you feel at any given moment and have a sense about both present and past causes of your feelings.  Try sitting quietly for a few moments and ask yourself what feelings you have about going back to school and not going back to school.  Don’t try to change or judge what you are feeling just notice.  

Once you have a sense on what you are feeling you can be curious about where the feelings are coming from.  Are there old messages that encourage or discourage you from taking a risk?   This may be trickier than it seems because sometimes what we feel about a current decision may have more to do with past experiences than anything else.  We may fear failure or even success and the fears are keeping us on the fence. The more you are aware of your feelings, the more you use them to guide your decision. Even if you have strong fears that are keeping you from taking action, now you’ll have a sense about what those fears are and use the awareness to take steps to separate the past from the present and the ‘shoulds’ from the ‘coulds’.  

Self-regulation refers to our ability to manage our feelings and how we respond to various situations.  If we are having trouble making a decision, there is a chance that our fears are paralyzing.  There may be very good reason for going or not going to school right now and either decision could be best.  Yet, if old voices or fears are dictating inaction, that could be a red flag that your self-regulation is hung up on the past and you might miss an opportunity to grow your career.  The truth is, if you made it through an Associate Degree or Diploma program, you are one smart dude.  With support and encouragement, a BSN could open up many doors for you in your nursing career.  However, honoring fears about time and money may give you a sense of relief in knowing this isn’t the best time to go back to school.  A psychotherapist or nurse career coach could be very helpful in discerning your next best steps and then taking action.

Motivation is the driving force behind our behavior and absolutely essential for successful return to school. This is the part of EI that speaks to your needs and desires.  So often nurses are grounded in meeting needs of patients and families.  Even meeting the needs and desires of your own family may take precedence over your own.  While sometimes this makes perfect sense such as with your children or at times with your life partner.  But, if you are not getting your needs and desires attended to also, this can lead to burnout or even the kind of apathy that contributes to errors. If the idea of going back to school is an exciting one to you, then there is a good chance you have the motivation for you need to be successful.  This will be extremely important in participating in career development of any sort.  If you can make the connection between your desire and an action step, you’ll be using your emotional intelligence in a healthy way.


Going back to school is a big decision and the more you understand your feelings, responses and desires, the more you’ll be able to move forward in the best direction for you at this time.  Keep in mind that lifelong learning is a given in nursing regardless of your degree and try to stay open to all ways of learning and growing.  


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