Navigating through the complexity of our daily lives can be difficult, but it would be a lot less overwhelming if we were better at recognising what it is we are feeling, why we are feeling it and what we should do next; for our own greater good. To do that we need to become more emotionally agile.
Our book summary on Susan David’s Emotional Agility will help you get a taste of how to do that, in the meantime we have taken some key learnings from the summary to get you started - a summary of a summary if you like. So, you can go back to work after your bank holiday with a new perspective and revived sense of purpose.
1. Accept all of your emotions good and bad
There is a lot of pressure to be positive and happy, especially in the workplace. Something a recent Doctor Who episode ‘Smile’ demonstrated to the extreme. The thing is, if we were truly meant to be happy all the time, why do some many perceived ‘negative’ emotions even exist? When you actually start to list the types of emotions there are you start to see that the majority are in fact seen as negative. Think about it. Yes there is joy, trust and anticipation but what about fear, anger, sadness and disgust.
Forced happiness can mask vital signals that will guide you towards a resolution. Fear for example, could be present to give you a warning. If you didn’t feel fear you might think it is a good idea to jump off that cliff. Negative emotions are not the problem, rejecting them is actually the greatest blocker to our emotional development.
2. Be present & break your bottling or brooding habits
Susan David’s theory is that we reject these emotions in one of two ways; bottling or brooding. Both of these techniques are damaging to our long-term emotional wellbeing and often cause issues in our relationships at work and at home. Instead we need to learn how to truly feel our emotions and become more agile, which can be achieved in four key steps:
1. Be present – truly feel your emotion and recognise what it is
2. Step back – to create distance and find clarity on what is happening
3. Take action – based on your own values and long term goals
4. Let go – accept your decision and move on
Every emotion is felt for a reason and it is only when we truly accept all of them as a guiding light through life that we truly learn how to live life to the full and remain true to our own personal goals and values.
3. Practice mindfulness to separate the thinker & the thought
Do you often go about your day mindlessly? Perhaps you frequently bump into things or accidentally put your wallet in the fridge or struggle to remember names after an important meeting. If this sounds familiar, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You are just so busy and focused on an upcoming task or caught up ‘brooding’ in your own thoughts that you have lost your connection to the present.
Being more present will help you gain perspective and distance from your inner thoughts and worries. Whether you have heard of ‘mindfulness’ and not had the time to find out more or dismissed the concept as hippy talk - it really doesn’t have to be complicated. Here is a simple exercise to get you started right now...
- Clear your mind and just breathe
- Choose an object in your eye line and focus on it for a moment
- During daily tasks such as brushing your teeth focus on each part; the smell, the sensation and texture
- Find a piece of music that you enjoy and really listen to it like it is the first time you discovered music
4. Recognise the difference between fear and gut feeling
Everyday we make decisions; some big, some small but most of them are emotionally driven. Often we validate our decision by saying that we have a gut feeling; and in some cases this could be true. However, the problem with this approach is that our emotions are not always reliable.
As we go through the ups and downs in life we start to collect old self-defeating stories that we replay when we need their comfort. “I am terrible at multi-tasking” or “I hate working with strong personalities in the office” for example. This then trickles into our daily decisions as we dismiss the talented candidate at interview for being a little too dramatic and avoid taking on a new project that could lead to a promotion because we don’t feel capable of stepping up. We are stuck on these old stories and need to learn how to become unstuck in order to deal with what is actually happening in front of us.
Do you really know how to differentiate a gut feeling from fear or an automatic response based on past experience? Next time you experience a rush of emotions at work try out those four-steps revealed in point 1 above. For example…
You have just been told that a project you were passionate about at work is no longer going ahead due to budgetary constraints - you feel angry. Your first instinct is to quit on the spot or walk off in a strop and start looking for jobs.
Instead, you take a moment to be present and realise that this scenario has triggered a memory in the past when you were undervalued and lost your job. You can then take a step back and see that in reality your employer has not got the budget and they value you enough to tell you in person. Now you just feel disappointed; you were excited about the project. Instead of getting angry you now decide to take action and simply express your disappointment, so you can move on.
Following the be present, step back, take action and move on steps will help you to differentiate a gut feeling from fear and gain enough clarity to address what is actually happening in front of you. You can then decide what action you will take and move on knowing that you made the best decision for you.
Embrace your emotions and thrive in the workplace
Navigating through the twists and turns life throws at us without allowing those emotions to leak into the workplace can be difficult, which is why we either suppress them until they leak out in destructive ways or continually worry until we lose sight of what is actually happening.
To make sense of the chaos we need to be more accepting of the emotions we feel with compassion and curiosity. Good or bad every single emotion is there to guide us. Once you allow yourself to sit with that emotion you can begin to decipher where it is coming from and gain a greater sense of self in the process.
This is just a taste of the key learnings in our 20-minute summary of Emotional Agility, which goes further into the key themes. In the summary you will learn more about these concepts and discover how you can reduce bad habits and make strides towards your biggest goals. You will also learn how to find a balance between comfort and challenge, and recognise repeating patterns that block your success in the workplace.
Our summary on Emotional Agility by Susan David reveals expert tips on how to manage your emotions in a way that is not only informative, but also compelling. With just the right balance of storytelling and factual research, Emotional Agility will help you to become more in tune with your reality and desires. You will learn how to use your emotions as a guide, so that you can take agency of your own life, and align your daily behavior and decision-making with what truly matters to you.