How can I develop emotional agility?
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Becoming resilient to pressures, strains and drains at work
In the modern world it can feel like we are constantly under pressure or under attack causing us to feel de-energised and emotionally drained. As leaders in our businesses this can be particularly damaging as we try to build profitable, productive high-performing teams. So where is this attack coming from and how can we mitigate the impact?
The answer to both these questions can be found by understanding what’s going on inside you and in your ability to be emotionally agile.
What are emotions?
At a very simplistic level, our emotions are a hard-wired reflex to triggers we get from the world we live in. We are bombarded with these messages every day e.g. from marketeers trying to sell us stuff, politicians trying to win our support and colleagues and loved ones trying to influence our behaviour.
Emotions are not unequivocal instructions that dictate our behaviour, they are data for us to absorb so that we can make decisions. Yes, they are ‘loaded’ with society’s expectations of how we should behave and because of this they are very persuasive. Despite this it is important we take ownership of our emotions rather than letting our emotions own us.
Let’s stay positive
A lot of people will tell you that positivity is the best tactic to avoid emotional pain. This isn’t true, it’s far too simplistic a strategy. Negative thoughts are like water they will always find the cracks and seep out. It is worth remembering that negative thoughts can actually be useful as a way of keeping us safe from harm.
Dealing with a range of emotions is just part of what used to be called the rich tapestry of life, that heady mix of life’s beauty and fragility.
So what is emotional agility?
It’s about how we deal with our inner world, in other words what’s happening inside your body and your brain. It’s about whether we have very rigid responses vs a more flexible way of thinking and therefore behaving. For example, can you forgive yourself for hurting someone’s feelings or are you more likely to agonise over it for days. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break, calm down and bring some rational thinking and focused intention into our lives.
We need to recognise our emotions and then label them appropriately. Stating that “I feel stressed out this week” could mean so many different things. Does this mean frustrated, angry, de-energised or something else. Pinpointing why you feel stressed and the likely root cause helps you to get clarity and find better strategies to deal with it.
Where do I start?
A good place to begin is to step back from yourself and use a little curiosity and compassion. How often do you say to yourself “It’s OK that I feel frustrated, I wonder why I am feeling this way?”
The uncomfortable truth is that the only person hacking your emotions is you! Look at the following list of 5 things we often get “hooked” up on, how many of these apply to you?
1. You just can’t let go even though it’s obvious your idea or viewpoint isn’t the right course of action to take
2. You know something is wrong, but you just can’t or won’t speak up
3. You take the path of least resistance most of the time (you justify it as there is no point in making life difficult for yourself after all)
4. You apply blind faith and rely on assumptions rather than looking for evidence before making important decisions or bold statements
5. You find yourself using unhelpful language that involves nit-picking, criticising and judging others
If I invest the time is it worth it?
That depends on you. If you want to be a better parent, friend or partner or if you want to become a more effective leader then yes it most certainly is. Life is unlikely to start sending us less information to process, most of us cannot escape the connected world we live in.
What we can do is ask ourselves 3 important questions;
a) Would I like to feel energised more often?
b) Would I like to feel more in control of my life?
c) Would I like to increase my confidence around any aspects of my life?
If the answer to any of these is yes, emotional agility is likely to be an important skill to learn. For more information on how to do this please get in touch, we would love to help.