Personal Growth

7 Steps for Controlling your Emotions

When you find yourself in a tough situation, the ability to master your emotions can mean the difference between success and failure. Here are seven steps for managing your emotions:

1. Know it’s your job

It’s healthy to recognize that stress emotions are normal, and even inevitable for most of us. However, it is important to know that it’s your job, and yours alone, to direct your emotions.

2. Practice mental push-ups

Most of us are so unfamiliar with the practice of directing our thoughts that we believe we have no choice but to feel the emotions we’re experiencing. Emotionally strong people do mental workouts where they break from their stream of consciousness so they can make choices about their thoughts, and therefore their emotions. Meditation is one such workout where you choose an object of meditation, and choose to only think about that object. If other thoughts flow in, you re-direct your thoughts to the object of meditation. This workout strengthens your ability to choose your thoughts.

When you choose your thoughts, you notice that all emotions – happiness, joy, contentment, or focus, fear, anxiety, stress, and anger, begin with your thoughts.

3. Notice your FIST

When bad things happen to you, you will sometimes get immediate stressful thoughts. We’ll call these thoughts FISTS, which stands for First Stress Thoughts . The more negative your FISTs, the greater your resulting fight or flight response, which disables your problem-solving ability. FISTs happen so quickly that you get the impression they are the only way to think about certain events.

4.Replace your FIST with a CAR

Reality is more complex than any of us can comprehend, and there’s no way to determine the “correct” interpretation of events. However, you can know whether your FIST sends you into a fight or flight response or helps you focus on finding useful solutions. If your FIST clouds your thinking, replace it with a CAR: Calming Alternative Reaction. One popular CAR when dealing with angry people is to ask yourself, “What is this angry person afraid of?” Often the person has a fear underlying their anger. This CAR takes the focus off of you, driving you towards helpful solutions.

5.Re-wire your brain

Write your CAR on a sticky note and set a reminder on your device so that you read it frequently. Over time, this replaces the FIST with a CAR in your brain.

6.Develop a contingency plan

When the Navy Seals prepare for a maneuver, they take the following steps:

i)Determine the problem
ii) Determine a solution
iii) Imagine all possible problems with that solution
iv) Determine solutions to those problems
v) Repeat #3 and #4 indefinitely.

For you, the bigger the problem, the more it makes sense to spend time with contingency planning.

7.Prepare your team

It’s not sufficient that you are calm and have a plan. Your team needs to know what the plan is. If they don’t know your plan, they may interpret your calm and methodical behaviour as your misapprehension of the danger. As a result, they may take matters into their own hands. You must communicate your plan, or plans, to your team so they can work with you.

If you take responsibility for your emotions and practice meditation, focus on your CARs, and develop contingency plans (possibly with your team), you will find you are able to remain unflappable in situations that would unnerve others. This will make you one of the most valuable employees on the team.


Mike Labun

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Learning

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