“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Aristotle (Greek Philosopher and Scientist)
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
Charles Dickens (Author, David Copperfield)
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”
Maya Angelou (Author, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)
Suddenly I was five feet in the air.
I sagged my hips down and flailed my arms but it was too late.
A few milliseconds later I crashed down on my head.
My body looked like a crumbled paper.
Another wrestler had thrown me for 5 points.
5-point throws are rare.
Unless you were wrestling me that day.
I was at my first freestyle-wrestling tournament.
Up until that point, I’d only wrestled in junior high and high school tournaments.
Which means I’d only ever wrestled collegiate-style.
Freestyle-wrestling was a lot tougher.
At least for me.
It was the one of the two styles used in the Olympics.
After I lost the match, I sat behind the bleachers inside the gym.
I was exhausted.
A few friends and coaches came up to me after the match and said “good job.”
I hate that phrase “good job.”
It means you suck but at least you tried.
Thanks but just tell me I suck.
One of the parents came up to me and tried to cheer me up.
He could see I was not happy with my performance.
He told me to just learn what I could from the experience and be grateful that I had the experience at all.
Be grateful that I lost?
I didn’t understand.
But I tried it.
For the next few weeks I focused on how lucky I was to be able to go to tournaments and compete.
I practice being grateful for my wrestling friends and for wrestling practice and for life in general.
It really did make me feel better and less helpless.
Then, when I stepped out on the mat to wrestle at the next freestyle tournament, guess what happened…
I got destroyed again.
This happened week after week until I realized that being grateful alone was a very bad strategy for getting better at something.
You also had to put in work.
You had to change your approach and constantly adapt to feedback.
It wasn’t until months later when I started focusing on how much I hated to lose that I started to win.
When I won, I was grateful. When I lost, I was angry.
Somehow this push and pull of emotions led to faster improvement than either one of them alone.
Why You Need To Be Both Grateful And Angry
Everybody wants you to be grateful for everything today.
Gratitude has become the automatic answer for everything.
You had a bad day—be grateful you’re alive.
You hate your boss—be grateful you have a job.
You’re about to default on your mortgage—be grateful you have a car to sleep in.
You’re on life support—be grateful you’re (probably) not dead.
Is there a limit to how grateful you should be in life?
Are you allowed to not be grateful sometimes?
After all, there are several advantages to being grateful.
For example, a report by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology concluded that gratitude has the highest connection to mental health and happiness of any of the personality traits studied.
Experiments reported in the in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that gratitude can increase both productivity and creativity.
In one study, participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to control subjects.
Gratitude is the key to success. Case closed. Right?
In a study published by Psychological Science, participants were shown objects they associated with a reward.
But some participants were exposed to angry faces first.
Those who were shown the angry faces were more motivated to achieve the rewards they saw next.
Anger inspires people to take action.
In another study published in Psychological Science, researchers studied participants’ outlooks on life after terrorist attacks.
The researchers found that those experiencing anger had a more positive outlook on life, expecting fewer attacks in the future.
This is in contrast to fearful participants who remained pessimistic about the future and expected further attacks.
Anger makes people optimistic.
Still not convinced that anger can be good for you?
A German study of 6,000 patients reported by CBS News found that people who express their anger openly live an average of two years longer than people who internalize their anger.
So which emotion is more empowering—gratitude or anger?
When To Be Grateful And When To Be Angry
When it comes to achieving your goals, there’s a strong case for both gratitude and anger.
Gratitude calms you and helps you stay consistently productive and creative.
Anger fires you up and helps you take control of your problems and power through obstacles.
Both focus your mind and both can lead to happiness and health if expressed correctly.
Without gratefulness, people become bitter, negative, and frustrated complainers. Without anger, people become apathetic, docile, and impotent pushovers.
There is value in both gratefulness and anger.
The key is choosing the right emotion to express at the right time.
This means controlling your emotions, not letting your emotions control you.
There’s a time to be grateful and a time to get angry.
By being emotionally intelligent, you can use both gratitude and anger to you advantage. Here’s how…
1. When you feel out of control—get angry.
You need to have control over your environment.
Without feeling some level of control, you’ll go crazy.
This control is what gives you a sense of certainty.
Imagine having no control over your health, finances, relationships, or surroundings all at once.
It wouldn’t be fun.
You’d be in a lot of pain.
This is why most people get depressed after a bad medical diagnosis, divorce, of job loss.
They start spinning out of control.
The key to getting back in control is getting angry.
Studies reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that angry people had a stronger sense of control and certainty than fearful people.
These people were also more willing to take risks to better their situation than fearful people.
When you feel out of control, anger is more useful than despair.
Anger puts you back in the driver seat of your life and empowers you to take action.
2. When you feel envious—be grateful.
It’s easy to feel envious in today’s world.
Reality TV bombards you with show after show of rich celebrities living the good life and complaining about how many ostentatious parties they have to go to every week.
Facebook and Instagram bombards you with pictures of your friends supposedly partying and traveling 24/7.
Magazines, billboards, radio, TV, Internet—everywhere you look you see people doing things you want to do.
You might not want to do all of these things yourself, but still, somehow, you feel like you’re missing out.
Your best friend from college posts that he just bought a new luxury car.
Your colleague down the hall gets a big promotion.
It’s easy to let these things fire you up.
You might think that getting pissed off in these situations is beneficial.
You might think that anger and envy will somehow work together to motivate you.
But this isn’t how envy works.
When you get angry at what other people have, it damages you, not them.
This kind of envious anger is poisonous.
Envy is the gateway to bitterness.
When you’re envious, you’re focused on brining other people down.
Instead, you should be focused on bringing yourself up.
The first step to doing this is to focus on what you already have.
What have you already achieved?
How far have you come in the last 5 years?
By being grateful for what you’ve already achieved and how much you’ve already improved, you’ll reduce your envious feelings and reset your sights on achieving more.
3. When you’re about to lose something—get angry.
Envy is bad, but competition is good.
Envy is driven by a desire to hold other people back.
Competition is driven by a desire to move forward.
There are two ways to improve your position in life, by pushing other people down or by pulling yourself up.
Which type of person are you?
The key to being competitive without being envious is staying focused on improving your skills and applying your strengths.
Don’t waste your time wishing ill of other people.
Don’t waste your time trying to exploit other people’s weaknesses.
Instead, work to be better than your best competitor. Work to leverage your strengths against the competition.
Take on worthy challenges and surround yourself with worthy competitors who will make you better.
When these competitors try to take something from you, get angry.
Whether you’re negotiating a contract, vying for a promotion, or trying to get in line at Chipotle before the van full of volleyball players, anger will motivate you to take stronger action.
Experiments published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that anger is a useful tool for getting what you want.
In one experiment, participants were asked to negotiate with each other.
Participants who negotiated with an angry person made larger concessions and fewer demands than those who negotiated with a happy or neutral person.
More than any other emotion, anger will power you through known obstacles and known competitors.
When you have a problem and you know the solution, get angry, lower your shoulder, and power through.
But what about when you don’t know the solution?
4. When you can’t think of a solution—be grateful.
Gratefulness sparks creativity.
When you feel stuck or don’t know where to start, the best strategy is to rest and make a list of things you’re grateful for.
In particular, taking a moment to be grateful will increase blood flow in your cerebral cortex, which drives creativity, and your hypothalamus, which regulates your body’s homeostasis.
Gratitude is like a giant reset button.
It will take you back to the drawing board in your mind and allow you to see new possibilities.
When you’re angry, this doesn’t happen.
Instead, you see one possibility that you want to happen RIGHT NOW.
This is useful in many situations but not when you’re faced with a new problem that you don’t know the answer too.
When up against known problems, get angry. But when up against unknown problems, be grateful.
5. When you’re being ridiculed—get angry, then be grateful.
Gratitude is not an effective counterattack.
Letting people walk all over you will not stop the pain and stress you’re experiencing in negative situations.
Instead, you have to fight.
You have to get angry.
Contrary to popular belief, getting mad and standing up for yourself reduces stress in your body.
Experiments performed at Carnegie Mellon University and reported by ABS News found that anger expression and stress levels are inversely proportional.
In the study, participants were told they were asked to count backward from 6,200 by increments of 13 while their stress responses were measured.
During the exercise, researchers taunted the participants, corrected them, and told them to go faster over and over again.
Participants who displayed the highest levels of anger also displayed the lowest levels of stress.
Anger gives you a sense of power in maddening situations.
The key is to use that anger to drive you forward, by taking productive action.
Then, once you better your situation, be grateful for the challenges you faced.
Be grateful for the pain you went through because it made you stronger, more intelligent, and more self-confident.
Be grateful for what you learned.
By letting anger power you through difficult events, and leveraging gratitude to re-center you after the event is over, you will make rapid progress toward your goals. Remember, there is a time for anger and a time for gratitude. When you feel out of control, get angry, but when you feel envious, be grateful. Likewise, when you’re about to lose something get angry, but when you can’t think of a solution or don’t know where to start, be grateful. Do this and you’ll live a more confident and focused life.
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