Controlling your emotions (by choosing your favorite ones)

Controlling your emotions might sound like an impossible task, but it’s not.
illustration of different emotions

Controlling your emotions (by choosing your favorite ones)

What emotion do you feel the most during the day? Is it peace, joy or happiness? For most of us, that's not the case. While we may not want to admit it, we are far more likely to feel frustrated, bored, anxious or overwhelmed. 

But why is that? Is it because we’re simply at the mercy of our emotions? Or have we inadvertently trained ourselves to feel negative emotions more often? 

Controlling your emotions might sound like an impossible task, but it’s not. By focusing on our emotional states and thinking differently about how we respond to events in our lives, it’s actually possible to generate more positive emotions than negative ones, regardless of the situation at hand. 

Here’s how.  

What’s your emotional “why not”? 

In life, we tell ourselves many things that aren’t true. One big lie we tell ourselves is that we can’t help but feel whatever emotion takes hold of us at the moment. The truth is, while there’s validity in experiencing every emotion, we are lying to ourselves about which emotions we like to feel.

For instance, you might think you like to feel happiness, peace and joy on a regular basis. But which emotions do you immediately choose to sit with and magnify each day? When someone speeds past you on the highway, is your first thought, “They’ve got somewhere they really need to go - I hope they get there!”? Or is it: “What a jerk - people are such annoying drivers.”?

It's usually the latter. We experience annoyance immediately, because we’re used to experiencing it… and a part of our brain probably likes to be annoyed. It feels normal, comfortable and regular. The same goes for boredom, anger, irritability, suspicion, greed and jealousy. These emotions come naturally to us because a part of us likes to feel them. 

Unfortunately, when we give negative emotions the ability to roam free in our minds, we stop holding ourselves accountable for feeling good. We say: “I can’t help the way that I feel, so I won’t try.” That’s what an emotional “why not” is — it’s abdicating responsibility for our own emotional state and using it as our reason to be unhappy.  

In truth, we do have some degree of control over our emotions, even if we can’t control how others act. That’s good news, because it means with training, we can rewire our brains to respond with the emotions we like more often, and the emotions we don’t like less often. 

Use emotions you don’t like to understand which emotions you want more of 

During Frame of Mind Coaching™ sessions, clients will often start conversations by talking about what they don’t enjoy in their lives. Conversations like these usually end up with clients talking about how things would be better if they could just change the one “thing” that’s frustrating them.

The good news is that they can change that thing. In fact, knowing what you don’t like in life is the key to figuring out how to change it — because what you want is the opposite of what you don’t. For instance, if you’re currently in a relationship with someone who exhibits many qualities that upset you, looking for the opposite qualities in someone else will probably point you toward a relationship you enjoy.  

Once you start to focus on things you’d rather experience, you’ll be able to invite those things into your life with greater ease and regularity. This works for our emotions as much as it does anything else. 

What negative emotions have you been experiencing a lot of lately? Has experiencing those emotions been entirely out of your control? Could you choose to feel different emotions instead? What would that look like?

Think about which emotions you’d rather feel. What emotions are the most rewarding to you? The most fulfilling? What emotions ultimately bring you greater peace of mind?  

Once you know which emotions you’d rather regularly experience, start thinking about ways to reinterpret the situations that are upsetting you. Can you see a way to be happy, inspired, curious, creative — or any other feeling you want to feel — even if you haven’t previously felt that way? 

That’s the key to feeling more of the emotions you want to feel. 

Harness your emotions to become a better leader

What kinds of emotions do leaders feel most often? Some of them might include feeling excited, optimistic, happy, thoughtful, creative, passionate, grateful, rewarded and more. If you can come up with a list of emotions you think a great leader should experience regularly — and then choose to experience those emotions — you’ll be well on the path to improving your mindset as a leader. 

Need more advice like this? Talk to our bench of top-tier professional coaches.

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