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4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life

4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life

No one would argue against the idea that our emotions trip us up often in life. The reason they have such powerful sway over us is not immediately clear. We have been conditioned in the West to believe that our decisions are made by our rational mind, so when emotions seem to take hold of our behavior, we simply cannot understand why.

While many people assume that reason arises from deliberate, conscious thinking, the truth is, people are more likely to feel before they think. Consequently, your decision-making process is quick, emotional, and subconscious. As Dan Hill in his book “Emotionomics” has pointed out, emotions are more likely to drive reason than reason is to drive emotions. Your behavior can be said to be driven largely by emotions. The Limbic system, the brain’s emotional center that evolved with the first mammals, is credited with turning sensory perceptions into emotional and physical responses.

We Are First and Foremost Embodied Beings

The awareness of our emotions arises from our body, at least this is where we feel them most. We are, therefore, not just embrained but embodied beings living on this planet. According to Willis Overton from Temple University, embodiment implies that behavior arises from the embodied person actively engaged in the world. Thus, the kind of felt relationship to one’s body one has is a precondition for behaviors that result in effective living. This implies that our behaviors, and the way we live, are directly related to our awareness of and ability to manage what is happening within our bodies.

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Interestingly, while most of us are taught ways to think at school, no one ever taught us how to effectively manage our emotions. No wonder then, that for most people, strong emotions that are defined both socially and personally as negative have a way of often rendering us incapacitated to life’s stresses.

4 Steps to Managing Your Emotions

We can never eradicate emotions from our inner landscape. As noted earlier, not only do they influence the way we think, but without emotions, life would seem dull. It’s not that there is such a thing as a bad emotion because all emotions are helpful when used within their appropriate context. However, we often suffer from misplaced emotions that have become habitual, which tend to do nothing but damage us if we allow them to take root.

If you want to be able to manage emotions that you know are holding you back from succeeding in life, you neither want to bottle them up nor indulge in them.

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Following are 4 proactive steps you can take to effectively manage emotions that tend to trip you up in life:

1. Recognize

Firstly, you want to be able to name the emotion you are having. Is it anger, loneliness, fear, jealousy, or happiness? It can also be simply recognizing when emotions seem to be jumbled up, and no single emotion stands out on its own. By naming the emotion, you are simply acknowledging the emotion itself, rather than the context in which it arose. This makes step two easier to accomplish.

2. Accept

This is probably the hardest step. Identifying and naming an emotion is hard enough; accepting it is often even more difficult. Too often, our ego wants to justify the way we feel. It is in this justification that a narrative is created around the emotion we are feeling.

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Seen from this perspective, it’s not so much that the emotion is causing us grief, but rather, the attachment to the story we generated around it. When you accept the emotion you are having, you are not suggesting it is either right or wrong, but rather, giving yourself the permission to have that emotion. Here, you don’t want to apply any censorship or judgment to the emotion you are having. In other words, you recognize the emotion, and you accept it without attaching a story or a reason as to why you are feeling the way you are. It simply just is!

3. Explore

This is where embodiment comes in. You want to explore the emotion you are having. You know what it is, you acknowledged it, but in step three, you look deeper into how you know what emotion it is. What are the symptoms, the physical effects of the emotion you are having? It is important here to be curious. You are not suggesting that either the emotion, or the subsequent symptoms, or physical effects are right or wrong; rather you are embracing the fullness of the experience you are having.

4. Observe

Now, take a step back from the emotion and its subsequent physical sensations and symptoms that it is creating. Simply continue with what you need to do in life. Don’t get entangled in a story about how you are feeling. Like all emotions, they are simply passing through you. Without identification to the emotion, you are able to continue with what needs to be done. In other words, allow emotions to take their course in your body and mind.

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With enough practice, you will find that you are more able to short-circuit the power your emotions have over you. You are not disavowing them, you know they exist, but by not creating a story around them, or a reason for them being there — and seeing them simply as transient, you begin to realize, that just because you are feeling a certain way doesn’t define the outcome of the experience you are having.

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Rodney King

Embodied Performance Coach

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why we procrastinate after all

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

So, is procrastination bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How bad procrastination can be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

Procrastination, a technical failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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