You can only control your own life.

“The daily challenge of dealing effectively with emotions is critical to the human condition…” — Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

Monday, 7:35 a.m.
Boulder, CO

I imagine that most of us have let our emotions get the better of us at one time or another. I know mine have. At such times we often feel utterly out-of-control. Sometimes it even feels like our emotions take over without warning. At other times, we feel the surge of emotions coming on like a wave and yet seem helpless against them.

How would it change your life if this were the exception rather than the norm? Just because it happened in the past, doesn’t mean it needs to happen in the future.

Emotionally strong people have learned to sense and read their emotions. They have also discovered strategies for not letting their emotions take over and run the show. Emotionally strong people don’t necessarily have strong emotions, or even no emotions, it just means they are familiar with their emotions and how to work with them to get what they want.

Remember EMOTIONS are MESSENGERS.

They alert us to feelings of imbalance in our life. This can be physical imbalance — not enough exercise and too much work. It can be an emotional imbalance — unfulfilled needs or dissatisfying relationships. Whatever the imbalance, we learn about it through our emotions. By discovering what our emotions are telling us we can make more informed choices.

Here are some benefits of becoming friendly with your emotions:

  • You’ll make friends more easily, because you won’t be concerned about what people think about you. You’ll be secure in who you are as a person.
  • You’ll be more trustworthy. When we are comfortable with ourselves we don’t need agendas when relating with other people. As a result, you will commit to what you can commit to and say no to the rest. In that way everyone knows where you stand and will respect you more because of it.
  • You’ll be more proactive. Proactive people create their world. Even though you’ll be confronted with the same difficulties and opportunities that face everyone, you’ll handle them differently. You won’t react or overreact.
  • You’ll have more peace in your life.

Even though the benefits may seem like they are enough to motivate you, it is rarely that simple. Our emotions have millions of years of programing behind them. They have survived intact for a reason. In order to counteract their fight-or-flight response, you need to develop your own emotional muscle.

Here are FIVE ways to develop emotional strength.

  1. Become mentally and physically strong. When we feel good physically we tend to have a better outlook on life. We have more confidence. The two feed off one another in a positive feedback loop. The beneficiary of this exchange is our emotions. We tend to have less negative emotions when we are physically and mentally strong.
  2. Learn to say, “No.”
  3. Write a personal mission statement. This has been mentioned before, with good reason. A personal mission statement helps clarify who you are and what is important to you. When making decisions you can use your personal mission statement as a compass to tell you if you are still on course or not.
  4. Map out your exit (or avoidance) strategies. We all have favorite ways to avoid dealing with our emotions, good and bad. Common ones are drinking or exercising or distracting ourselves with television or reading. None of these are bad in and of themselves, but when used to avoid facing emotional issues, they become crutches. Knowing your exits can clue you into when you are avoiding something.
  5. Purposefully put yourself in emotionally challenging situations, but only after mapping out exactly how you plan to behave. It’s easy to be Mr. Nice Guy when everything is going OK. It’s not as easy to stay calm when confronted with a disgruntled customer or angry teen. This is when we need a plan on how to act, or our emotions WILL get the better of us.

If you’ve come this far, then you’re ahead of 90% of the people you interact with everyday, so don’t stop now.

Here are three things you can do right now to begin developing emotional strength:

  1. Make a list of things that are important to you (e.g., kindness, friendship, family, giving back to the community, strong relationships with the key people in your life). Now put them in order of importance. A list of five to ten is great. When a big decision comes up weigh it against this list. You’ll be amazed at how many things you used to do that had nothing to do with what’s important to you.
  2. Next, list three things that get you upset and how you typically try to avoid them.
  3. Finally, make a point to put yourself in at least one uncomfortable situation, each week, that you would normally try to avoid.

If you actually do the things I am suggesting, you will be on the road to improved emotional strength. Remember, an emotionally strong person doesn’t get tunnel vision and therefore can see more while the rest of us see are seeing red. And that’s all the advantage you need.

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