Do a quick replay of some of your life and work highlights from last week. Let your mind go back to different days and remember a few events. As you remember, ask this question:
During the events of the past week, did my emotions support or derail my effectiveness?
It’s likely that, for most of us, the answer is a bit of a mixed bag. Emotions are a source of great energy. Without emotion, action is flat and one-dimensional. Emotion infuses action with energy and desire. As you replay events from last week, you probably notice that you experienced and contributed positive and productive emotions to a number of moments. And that likely made a positive difference.
Of course it’s also true that emotions can turn dysfunctional and even destructive. When emotions are corrosive they affect the sender and the receiver. A negative emotion or attitude damages our ability to engage because it eats away at passion. It’s quite possible you can pinpoint a few situations last week where your emotions did not support the outcomes you desired. It may be they even became the chief obstacle.
A lack of emotional resilience and regulation impairs our ability to adapt–both as individuals and as tribes. Here are three ways you can increase your resilience and regulate your emotions during the moments you will face this week.
1) Own your emotional space and foster the emotions you desire
Situations affect us differently. A situation that angers you may not anger your colleagues. The reverse is also true. Emotional resilience grows when we own our emotional reactions. Though initial emotional reactions may–at times–be out of our control, owning our emotional space means that we notice those reaction as soon as we can. Once we notice them, and the initial upset is over, we do have a choice. What will we foster? The emotional space we foster after the reaction shapes our experience of and contribution to the moment. Not only are we less effective when we foster dysfunctional emotional states, but we reduce emotional resilience and increase the likelihood that our emotions will remain brittle and/or fragile.
2) Stay longer in the ambiguity of change
Resilience increases when we remain in situations that are uncomfortable. This does not mean we should remain in dangerous situations. Neither does it mean that all discomfort is good. However, change does produce emotional discomfort. This discomfort often surfaces due to our lack of control over situations we once believed were stable. When this type of emotional discomfort arrives, we may be tempted to prematurely end it by regaining a measure of control. We may leave the situation too soon. We may blame others in order to find a responsible party. We may grow apathetic or bitter. In all these situations we short-circuit the change process because the ambiguity is overwhelming. Active waiting in times of change can increase resiliency. We resist the temptation to bolt and embrace the potential for something better to come from the change.
3) Cultivate well-being
Overload, burn out and unhealthy stress make cowards of us all. When we don’t take time to cultivate our own well being, it is doubtful that we will increase our resilience. Though the “how” of our renewal is different–depending on our interests, personalities and backgrounds, the need for renewal is something we all share in common. Taking care of your whole person increases emotional resilience in general as well as specifically in the work you do.
When you have emotional reserves at work, you are able to handle the ambiguity of change in a more gracious way. It doesn’t mean the challenges will disappear. It does, however, mean, your ability to thrive in those challenges becomes more evident to you and those around you. Determining how you renew yourself, and sustaining that practice, enlarges your emotional and psychological capacity.
One caution: It is possible to use our own need for well being as a way to block the feedback of others. In the name of well-being we rationalize or justify our behavior and excuse our need for change. Sometimes well being includes the “hard to hear insights” of colleagues and friends.
What is one action you can take this week to increase emotional resiliency and regulation?