The Secret to Controlling Your Emotions

I’ve said this before, but I think it bears repeating with the explosion of mental health issues we’re seeing at work.    I’m not a psychologist, and I understand that there are issues that need deeper dives to work out with a counselor or therapist.

That said, here are the 3 basic levers you can use to control your emotions and attitude at home and at work:

  1. The words you use: When you feel low, what kind of words are coming out of your mouth?  You know what kind of words they are; they’re negative and self-critical and defeatist and hopeless and full of despair/anger/complaint.  Here’s the secret: your words are a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    Allowing yourself the luxury of speaking in these ways without restraint is like praying for everything bad to happen to you. It messes with you mentally and puts you on a bad path.If you change your words and say positive things, even if you don’t feel them, you’ll feel your emotions begin to follow.
  2. What you focus on: When you’re low, what are you focusing on?  Bad things.    The negative behaviours of others.  The difficult parts of your life.  Outside circumstances that you can’t control.When you focus on these problems, they have a toxic effect on your attitude. It is a discipline, but when you choose to focus on better things, you’ll feel your emotions begin to follow.
  3. What you’re doing with your body: When you’re low, what posture are you in?  Likely you’re slumped in your chair, or sitting on a couch, or shuffling around like you’ve suddenly become ancient.    The truth here is that it’s hard(er) to feel down when you’re active.   When you’re out for a walk or run, you start to feel better.

I think that gaining control of and learning to manage your own attitude is likely the most important life skill you can master.  John Maxwell recently said that ‘the difference between successful and unsuccessful people is their perception of – and response to -failure.  In other words, their attitude.

An older friend told me about his journey to mastering his attitude.  He struggled with these things as a younger man, and as he aged, he developed the habit of not allowing himself to wallow in discouragement.

Say good things about your life.  Focus on noble, inspiring thoughts (not the news), and the biographies of people who overcame in spite of difficulty.  Get active.  Go for a walk at lunch.  Your emotions are a servant of your will, not a victim of your feelings.

“Your attitude determines your altitude”

-Zig Ziglar

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