There is no better example than the Olympic games to remind us that the difference between a gold medal and no medal is usually mere tenths of a second. Emotional fitness and mastery is a lot like that. Sometimes the difference between getting a deal done, nurturing or ruining a relationship or simply enjoying or lamenting a pleasant evening at home comes down to the smallest differences in our actions and attitudes.
There have been times that I’ve been on the losing end of all the examples listed above. In many cases I simply hadn’t put in the work to develop my Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI) to the level it needed to be. In other cases I was simply ignorant.
So what’s the secret to gaining a competitive edge with your emotional fitness? Shifting your model and perspective on what your emotions mean to you.
When emotions are viewed as “positive” or “negative”, we often do whatever’s necessary in order to experience pleasure and avoid pain. And what seems to be a good decision in the moment to escape the pain may not turn out so well later on.
So what’s the alternative model? It’s this: view emotions as pleasant or unpleasant information signals to be acted upon.
Take disappointment and frustration for example, the two emotional states I’m challenged by the most. When I viewed them as positive or negative as I had in the past, I hated the way they felt and would usually do whatever I needed to do to get rid of them. The results? Sometimes it worked, and sometimes things got worse.
Now, viewing them as unpleasant bits of information, I’ve been able to actually learn something and take informed action:
- Disappointment- it let’s me know I’m not getting the result I expect and I need to revisit my expectations and make sure they align with the reality I’m dealing with.
- Frustration- it let’s me know what I’m doing isn’t working and I need to change my approach in order to achieve what I want.
The other advantage of this model or “secret” is the freedom to fully experience my emotions regardless of their nature and know that once I act they’ll soon pass.
The ability to shift assumes a basic level of emotional fitness and being able to name the emotion you’re experiencing in the moment. If you can’t or that’s a new concept, that may be where you may need to start. If you can, then look for and welcome opportunities to practice regularly and often.
What emotions sabotage you the most and how would shifting your perspective give you a competitive advantage?
Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.