Could you survive a shark attack?

“Being totally positive all the time isn’t normal.” — Toughness Training For Life, by Jim Loehr, Ed.D.

Monday, 7:25 a.m.
Boulder, CO

What would you do if you were suddenly confronted by a great white shark while surfing off the coast of California? Would you freeze and become the victim of a shark attack? Or, would you, like Butch Connor who survived just such an attack, control your fear, fight back, and eventually make it to shore?

We can control our emotions, and yet too often we let them control us. We can control our emotions, through our body and our mind. If we feel low, we can get up and go for a walk. Moving our body helps clear our low feelings. If we feel sad, we can remember a happy time and our mood will change. All we need to do is smile, think a happy thought and our body chemistry changes automatically. To do this on cue is often referred to as Emotional Toughness.

Emotional Toughness does not mean we are hard, or insensitive, or cold. Emotional Toughness means we control our emotions, rather than the other way around.

When we control our emotions we make better choices and have greater influence over our lives and the lives of others. We are seen as role models for others and we are looked up to. We can even survive a shark attack.

So what are EMOTIONS?

Emotions are messengers. They give information. How we interpret that information is what gives emotions meaning. We can interpret the information anyway we choose. We can view it as negative, neutral or positive. The meaning we give our emotions, is what gives them power. If we control the meaning, we control our lives.

Emotions are biochemical reactions that stem from both positive and negative physical and mental stressors. A hard day at the office can create a high level of mental and physical stress that we often feel as fatigue, or malaise, or let down. If we succumb to these feelings, we may try to block them out with alcohol or drugs or other destructive habits. Or we may try to suppress them, only to have them manifest themselves later as illness, such as ulcers, arthritis or even cancer.

On the other hand, we can choose to be aware of our emotions and listen to what they are trying to tell us. So first, we must learn to be aware of our feelings. Then we must try to understand what they are telling us. This is how we become emotionally flexible.

Many people have one or two “go to” emotions. These emotions feel comfortable and give a person a sense of self-control. Unfortunately, this fixed mind-set does the opposite; it actually decreases our options. Emotionally flexibility, on the other hand, creates opportunities. If your normal reaction is to defend yourself any time someone offers you constructive criticism or advice, then you lose the opportunity to learn and grow. It is natural for us to want to defend ourselves, but often that immediate reaction only creates misunderstanding and problems.

An emotionally flexible person understands that how she sees the world is not how everyone sees the world. So she adjusts how she acts based on other peoples behavior. In doing so she often finds common ground from which to create positive outcomes.

An emotionally inflexible person, who can only respond with anger or cynicism or unbridled optimism for example, cannot adjust her response to the behavior of other people. As a result she often finds herself pigeonholed. She can only get so far ahead and can only relate to certain people. She is limited by her inflexibility.

To become more aware of our emotions and how we avoid them, we must ask ourselves questions. The next time you become emotionally charged, take a moment to inventory your body. What is it telling you? How are you breathing? Fast or slow; shallow or deep? Area you sweating? Is your stomach clenched? What’s your immediate reaction? How do you avoid your emotions?

Answering these questions will help you become emotional flexible, a key to Emotional Toughness and surviving shark attacks.

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