Henry Ward Beecher
“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.”
John C. Maxwell
“It is not hard work that drains off energy but emotional upheaval.”
Norman Vincent Peale
Rule over your emotions with an iron fist.
Mental toughness is a virtue. More than anything else, your ability to increase your happiness and manage your own emotions will determine your success in life. The first step to overcoming any obstacle is to face your feelings with clarity and resolve. Understanding your emotions will help you understand your actions and your options. Everyone is guided by their emotions. We like to pretend that we are supremely rational creatures but very often, our decisions come down to our emotional states. We are motivated one moment, discouraged the next. We feel successful and fulfilled in the morning, rejected and empty in the evening. Usually these emotional swings are slight, but every once in a while, life will throw us completely off balance. When this happens, you can either be a victim of your emotions or the master of your emotions. The key is to start seeing yourself as the monarch of your mental kingdom.
Reign over yourself. Mastering your emotions means making your emotional state the product of your rational decisions. Emotions are not magic. Most people believe that they have very little control over how they feel. When these people get in a mood, they stay there. As a result, they make emotional decisions, often having to spend large amounts of time and energy correcting these decisions later. It is far better to counteract negative emotions upfront. This will help you make choices based on logic rather than on whim. The goal is to consistently make rational decisions that result in positive emotions. Understand: logical decisions bring pleasure. Decisions driven by negative emotions bring pain. Stop making emotion-based decisions and start enjoying decision-based emotions. This will help you increase your happiness and find ways to enjoy life more. Learning to command your mood will enhance your self-awareness and ensure that you’re life is full of positive feelings and experiences.
Emotionally intelligent people live better lives. Negative emotions like anger, fear, guilt, and sadness have been shown to increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. This is because negative emotions increase the activity of your sympathetic nervous system, which promotes inflammation and elevates stress hormone levels. Negative emotions also narrow your attention, preparing you for one of two specific actions: attack or escape. On the other hand, positive emotions like cheerfulness and humor prevent stress-induced arousal of your autonomic nervous system. Positive emotions have been shown to boost your immune system, lower your risk of heart disease, and lengthen your lifespan. Most importantly, positive emotions broaden your attention, thinking, and behavioral repertoires. They make you more creative, integrative, open to information, and efficient. These cognitive effects are linked to increased dopamine levels in a part of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. As a result, you are able to “switch set”, or modify and adjust your efforts rather than get locked into a single way of thinking and acting. This mental flexibility is what allows certain people to find their way around problems quickly and productively. Instead of getting ruffled, these people lean into the silver linings of their obstacles and find solutions. Emotional intelligence is nothing more than your ability increase your happiness and fulfil your purpose in life simultaneously.
Get Curious And Get Confident
The battle is always in your head. The best way to rule over negative emotions is to build up your army of positive emotions. Positive emotions will open up your mind and help you make rational decisions. These decisions will direct you toward productive actions, which will, in turn, spawn more positive emotions. Start seeing negative emotions as action signals. Instead of fighting these emotions, let yourself feel them. Let yourself absorb and process them. Next: get curious, get confident, make a decision, and take action. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling right now?” and “Why am I feeling this way?” Once you answer these questions, take a moment to recall a time from your past when you felt badly. How did you overcome your negative emotions then? Use this past success to increase your happiness, boost self-confidence, and improve your self-esteem. Then, make a mental choice to counterbalance your negative mood with positive emotions and productive actions. Finally, take action. Do as many things as possible to generate enjoyment in your life.
A few years ago, I had a health scare that knocked me on my ass. A doctor told me point blank that I could only have 6 months to live. Immediately my world shrunk to the size of a quarter. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office after my appointment and staring at the wall. It was like I had lost my peripheral vision. I was terrified, but I wasn’t letting myself be terrified. Instead, I was frozen somewhere between feeling fear and fighting fear. It was only after several weeks went by that I let myself feel the fear of dying. My mind suddenly became free. New questions started pouring in like, “What am I really afraid of?”, “What is really important to me in this life?”, “What have I been putting off that I’ve always wanted to do?”, and “If I only had one day to live, how would I enjoy it?” I started recalling times from my past when I had been deathly afraid of something and was able to overcome it. I made a choice to live my life fully right now instead of worrying about the future. Then, I started taking action. I signed up for book clubs, Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes, and online business courses. I spent as much time as possible outdoors. I researched tips on healthy living and found new ways to eat healthy. I bought a pug and a motorcycle. And I started this blog. All of these fresh activities helped me boost vitality, increase happiness, and improve confidence. I made a rational decision to fill my life with as much excitement, purpose, vitality, discovery, wonder, humor, joy, and cheerfulness as possible. These positive emotions broadened my perspective and helped me overcome my fear.
Happiness Is Both A Decision And An Action
Bounce back with a vengeance. Resiliency is your ability to rebound from negativity. Studies show that psychologically resilient people experience positive emotions even in the midst of stressful events. Instead of succumbing to negative emotions, they squash them with positivity. Resilient people understand the benefits associated with positive emotions and use this knowledge to their advantage when coping with negative emotional events. You can achieve a positive state in the midst of hardship by recalling a time when you faced adversity in the past and were able to overcome it.
Always focus on your A-game. Always be positive. Of course, being positive doesn’t mean you live in Candyland. Positive people have real problems. They get pissed off. They bust people’s balls and break stuff. Positivity is not about jumping on a band wagon and running with a ra-ra crowd. It’s about being self-aware and accountable for your emotional state. Positive people experience the full range of human emotions. The difference is these people choose which emotions to express. They control their emotions with choices and actions.
Happiness is a decision. Happiness is also an action. Changing your emotional state almost always requires a physiological shift. In other words, you have to move. You have to smile, go for a walk, or engage in a conversation. Don’t wait until you are in a good mood to jump up and down and dance around. Instead, put yourself in a good mood by jumping up and down and dancing around. Motion creates emotion. Start using your body to bounce back from negative emotional states. Moving in the right way will help you increase your happiness, boost self-confidence, and improve your self-esteem.
Frailty is not sexy. No one admires weakness. They may admire your attempts to overcome weakness, but not the weakness itself. Understand: letting negative emotions get the better of you is weakness. Losing control, by definition, is weakness. Verbally abusing someone, crying under pressure, and freezing up are not decision-based actions. They are emotion-based actions. And actions based on negative emotions are always destructive. This doesn’t mean you never express negative emotions; it means you never let negative emotions control your actions. It also means you never use negative emotions to get sympathy. Being a victim of your emotions may get you attention, but it will never get you respect. After my health scare, I went through a phase where I felt entitled to special treatment. I was feeling sorry for myself and I wanted other people to feel sorry for me too. I wanted them to respect my negative situation. This perspective made my life extremely difficult. My narrow mindset limited my creativity and, as a result, new obstacles began to pile up. Using weakness as a crutch also invited weak-minded people into my life. The haters started to circle. Eventually, I took responsibility for the way I was feeling and actively began to change my emotional state. I put on my grown up pants and started to bounce back.
Second-hand resiliency does not exist. Only you can generate positive emotions and use them to rebound from negative circumstances. The most effective way to do this is to get curious, get confident, make a decision, and take action. Ask yourself why you are feeling negative emotions. Recall a time when you overcame these emotions in the past. Make a rational choice to change your state and start taking action to produce positive emotions. In my next post, I will discuss why you should stop overvaluing your image.