“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” CARL JUNG
I’d like to introduce you to a fellow named Walt. Walt is a good, decent human being who always tries to do the right thing. He has his life down to a science: everything in its proper place and in the correct order. Weekdays he arises at exactly 6:30, showers and shaves, gulps down some coffee, grabs his lunch pail filled with the requisite bologna sandwich and Twinkles, and runs out the door by 7:10 to spend forty-five minutes in traffic. He arrives at his desk by 8:00, where he sits down to do the same job he’s been doing for the past twenty years.
At 5:00 he goes home, pops the top on a “cold one,” and grabs the TV remote-control. An hour later his wife comes home and they decide whether to eat leftovers or throw a pizza in the microwave. After dinner he watches the news while his wife bathes their kid and puts him to bed. By no later than 9:30 he’s in the sack. He devotes his weekends to yard work, car maintenance, and sleeping in. Walt and his new wife have been married for three years, and while he wouldn’t exactly describe their relationship as “inflamed with passion,” it’s comfortable—even though lately it seems to be repeating a lot of the same patterns of his first marriage.
Do you know someone just like Walt? Maybe he’s someone you know intimately—someone who never suffers the depths of utter devastation or despondency, but also someone who never revels in the heights of passion and joy. I’ve heard it said that the only difference between a rut and a grave is a few feet, and over a century ago, Thoreau observed that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” As we move into the next century, this phrase is unfortunately more applicable than ever. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in the countless letters I’ve received since I wrote Unlimited Power, it’s the overwhelming prevalence of this kind of disassociation in people’s lives—something that just “happened” out of their desire to avoid pain—and the hunger with which they seize upon an opportunity to feel more alive, more passionate, more electric. From my perspective, as I travel around the world, meeting people from all walks of life and “feeling the pulse” of literally hundreds of thousands of individuals, we all seem to instinctively realize the risk of emotional “flatline,” and desperately seek ways to get our hearts pumping again.
So many suffer from the delusion that emotions are entirely out of their control, that they’re just something that spontaneously occurs in reaction to the events of our lives. Often we dread emotions as if they were viruses that zero in on us and attack when we’re most vulnerable. Sometimes we think of them as “inferior cousins” to our intellect and discount their validity. Or we assume that emotions arise in response to what others do or say to us. What’s the common element in all these global beliefs? It’s the misconception that we have no control over these mysterious things called emotions. Out of their need to avoid feeling certain emotions, people will often go to great, even ridiculous, lengths. They’ll turn to drugs, alcohol, overeating, gambling; they’ll lapse into debilitating depression. In order to avoid “hurting” a loved one (or being hurt by one), they’ll suppress all emotions, end up as emotional androids, and ultimately destroy all the feelings of connection that got them together in the first place, thus devastating the ones they love most.
I believe there are four basic ways in which people deal with emotion. Which of these have you used today?
1. Avoidance. We all want to avoid painful emotions. As a result, most people try to avoid any situation that could lead to the emotions that they fear—or worse, some people try not to feel any emotions at all! If, for example, they fear rejection, they try to avoid any situation that could lead to rejection. They shy away from relationships. They don’t apply for challenging jobs. Dealing with emotions in this way is the ultimate trap, because while avoiding negative situations may protect you in the short term, it keeps you from feeling the very love, intimacy, and connection that you desire most. And ultimately, you can’t avoid feeling. A much more powerful approach is to learn to find the hidden, positive meaning in those things you once thought were negative emotions.
2. Denial. A second approach to dealing with emotion is the denial strategy. People often try to disassociate from their feelings by saying, “It doesn’t feel that bad.” Meanwhile, they keep stoking the fire within themselves by thinking about how horrible things are, or how someone has taken advantage of them, or how they do everything right but things still turn out wrong, and why does this always happen to them? In other words, they never change their focus or physiology, and they keep asking the same disempowering questions. Experiencing an emotion and trying to pretend it’s not there only creates more pain. Once again, ignoring the messages that your emotions are trying to give you will not make things better. If the message your emotions are trying to deliver is ignored, the emotions simply increase their amperage; they intensify until you finally pay attention. Trying to deny your emotions is not the solution. Understanding them and using them is the strategy you’ll learn in this chapter.
3. Competition. Many people stop fighting their painful emotions and decide to fully indulge in them. Rather than learn the positive message their emotion is trying to give them, they intensify it and make it even worse than it is. It becomes a “badge of courage,” and they begin to compete with others, saying, “You think you’ve got it bad? Let me tell you how bad I’ve got it!” It literally becomes part of their identity, a way of being unique; they begin to pride themselves on being worse off than anyone else. As you can imagine, this is one of the deadliest traps of all. This approach must be avoided at all costs, because it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy where the person ends up having an investment in feeling bad on a regular basis—and then they are truly trapped. A much more powerful and healthy approach to dealing with the emotions that we think are painful is to realize that they serve a positive purpose, and that is …
4. Learning and Using. If you want to make your life really work, you must make your emotions work for you. You can’t run from them; you can’t tune them out; you can’t trivialize them or delude yourself about what they mean. Nor can you just allow them to run your life. Emotions, even those that seem painful in the short term, are truly like an internal compass that points you toward the actions you must take to arrive at your goals. Without knowing how to use this compass, you’ll be forever at the mercy of any psychic tempest that blows your way.
Many therapeutic disciplines begin with the mistaken presupposition that emotions are our enemies or that our emotional well-being is rooted in our past. The truth is that you and I can go from crying to laughing in a heartbeat if the pattern of our mental focus and physiology is merely interrupted strongly enough. Freudian psychoanalysis, for example, searches for those “deep, dark secrets” in our past to explain our present difficulties. Yet we all know that whatever you continually look for, you will surely find. If you’re constantly looking for the reasons why your past has hamstrung your present, or why you’re so “screwed up,” then your brain will comply by providing references to back up your request and generate the appropriate negative emotions. How much better it would be to adopt the global belief that “your past does not equal your future”!
The only way to effectively use your emotions is to understand that they all serve you. You must learn from your emotions and use them to create the results you want for a greater quality of life. The emotions you once thought of as negative are merely a call to action. In fact, instead of calling them negative emotions, from now on in this chapter, let’s call them Action Signals. Once you’re familiar with each signal and its message, your emotions become not your enemy but your ally. They become your friend, your mentor, your coach; they guide you through life’s most soaring highs and its most demoralizing lows. Learning to use these signals frees you from your fears and allows you to experience all the richness of which we humans are capable. To get to this point, then, you must change your global beliefs about what emotions are. They are not predators, substitutes for logic, or products of other people’s whims. They are Action Signals trying to guide you to the promise of a greater quality of life.
If you merely react to your emotions through an avoidance pattern, then you’ll miss out on the invaluable message they have to offer you. If you continue to miss the message and fail to handle the emotions when they first turn up, they’ll grow into full-blown crises. All our emotions are important and valuable in the proper amounts, timing, and context.
Realize that the emotions you are feeling at this very moment are a gift, a guideline, a support system, a call to action. If you suppress your emotions and try to drive them out of your life, or if you magnify them and allow them to take over everything, then you’re squandering one of life’s most precious resources.
So what is the source of emotions? You are the source of all your emotions; you are the one who creates them. So many people feel that they have to wait for certain experiences in order to feel the emotions they desire. For instance, they don’t give themselves permission to feel loved or happy or confident unless a particular set of expectations is met. I’m here to tell you that you can feel any way you choose at any moment in time.
At the seminars I conduct near my home in Del Mar, California, we’ve created a fun anchor to remind us who is really responsible for our emotions. These seminars are held in an exquisite, four-star resort, the Inn L’Auberge, which sits right on the ocean, and is also near the train station. About four times a day, you can hear the train whistle loudly as it passes through. Some seminar participants would become irritated at the interruption (remember, they didn’t know about Transformational Vocabulary yet!), so I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to turn frustration into fun. “From now on,” I said, “whenever we hear that train howl, we’ll celebrate. I want to see how good you can make yourselves feel whenever you hear that train. We’re always waiting for the right person or right situation to come along before we feel good. But who determines whether this is the right person or situation? When you do feel good, who’s making you feel good? You are! But you simply have a rule that says you have to wait until A, B, and C occur before you allow yourself to feel good. Why wait? Why not set up a rule that says that whenever you hear a train whistle, you’ll automatically feel great? The good news is that the train whistle is probably more consistent and predictable than the people you’re hoping will show up to make you feel good!”
Now, whenever we hear the train pass, jubilation ensues. People immediately jump out of their chairs, cheer and holler, and act like silly maniacs—including doctors, lawyers, CEOs—people who were supposedly intelligent before they arrived! As everyone sits back down, uproarious laughter ensues. What’s the lesson? You don’t have to wait for anything or anyone! You don’t need any special reason to feel good—you can just decide to feel good right now, simply because you’re alive, simply because you want to.
So if you’re the source of all your emotions, why don’t you feel good all the time? Again, it’s because your so-called negative emotions are giving you a message. What is the message of these Action Signals?
They’re telling you that what you’re currently doing is not working, that the reason you have pain is either the way you’re perceiving things or the procedures you’re using: specifically, the way you’re communicating your needs and desires to people, or the actions you’re taking.
What you’re doing is not producing the result you want, and you have to change your approach. Remember that your perceptions are controlled by what you focus on and the meanings you interpret from things. And you can change your perception in a moment, just by changing the way you’re using your physiology or by asking yourself a better question.
Your procedures include your style of communication. Maybe you’re being too harsh in the way you communicate, or maybe your procedure is not even communicating your needs, and you’re expecting other people to know what you need. This could create a lot of frustration, anger, and hurt in your life. Maybe this Action Signal of feeling hurt is trying to tell you that you need to change your way of communicating so you don’t feel hurt again in the future. Feeling depressed is another call to action, telling you that you need to change your perception that the problems you’re dealing with are permanent or out of control. Or, you need to take some kind of physical action to handle one area of your life so that once again you remember that you are in control.
This is the true message of all your Action Signals. They’re merely trying to support you in taking action to change the way you think, change the way you’re perceiving things, or change your procedures for communicating or behaving. These calls to action are there to remind you that you don’t want to be like the fly who keeps banging himself against the window, trying to get through the glass—if you don’t change your approach, all the persistence in the world will never pay off. Your Action Signals are whispering to you (perhaps screaming!), through the experience of pain, that you need to change what you’re doing.
SIX STEPS TO EMOTIONAL MASTERY
I’ve found that whenever I feel a painful emotion, there are six steps I can take very quickly to break my limiting patterns, find the benefit of that emotion, and set myself up so that in the future I can get the lesson from the emotion and eliminate the pain more quickly. Let’s examine them briefly.
STEP ONE : Identify What You’re Really Feeling
So often people feel so overloaded they don’t even know what they’re feeling. All they know is that they’re being “attacked” by all these negative emotions and feelings. Instead of feeling overloaded, step back for a moment and ask yourself, “What am I really feeling right now?” If you think at first, “I’m feeling angry,” begin to ask yourself, “Am I really feeling angry? Or is it something else? Maybe what I’m really feeling is hurt. Or I feel like I’ve lost out on something.” Realize that a feeling of hurt or a feeling of loss is not as intense as the feeling of anger. Just in taking a moment to identify what you’re really feeling, and beginning to question your emotions, you may be able to lower the emotional intensity you’re experiencing, and therefore deal with the situation much more quickly and easily. If, for example, you say, “Right now I feel rejected,” you might ask yourself, “Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling a sense of separation from a person I love? Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling disappointed! Am I feeling rejected, or am I feeling a little uncomfortable?” Remember the power of Transformational Vocabulary to immediately lower your intensity. Again, as you identify what you’re really feeling, you can lower the intensity even more, which makes it much easier to learn from the emotion.
STEP TWO : Acknowledge and Appreciate Your Emotions, Knowing They Support You
You never want to make your emotions wrong. The idea that anything you feel is “wrong” is a great way to destroy honest communication with yourself as well as with others. Be thankful that there’s a part of your brain that is sending you a signal of support, a call to action to make a change in either your perception of some aspect of your life or in your actions. If you’re willing to trust your emotions, knowing that even though you don’t understand them at the moment, each and every one you experience is there to support you in making a positive change, you will immediately stop the war you once had with yourself. Instead, you’ll feel yourself moving toward simple solutions. Making an emotion “wrong” will rarely cause it to become less intense. Whatever you resist tends to persist. Cultivate the feeling of appreciation for all emotions, and like a child that needs attention, you’ll find your emotions “calming down” almost immediately.
STEP THREE : Get Curious about the Message This Emotion Is Offering You
Remember the power of changing emotional states? If you put yourself in a state of mind where you truly are feeling curious about learning something, this is an immediate pattern interrupt to any emotion and enables you to learn a great deal about yourself. Getting curious helps you master your emotion, solve the challenge, and prevent the same problem from occurring in the future. As you begin to feel the emotion, get curious about what it really has to offer you. What do you need to do right now to make things better? If you’re feeling lonely, for example, get curious and ask, “Is it possible that I’m just misinterpreting the situation to mean that I’m alone, when in reality I have all kinds of friends? If I just let them know I want to visit with them, wouldn’t they love to visit with me as well? Is my loneliness giving me a message that I need to take action, reach out more and connect with people?” Here are four questions to ask yourself to become curious about your emotions:
What do I really want to feel?
What would I have to believe in order to feel the way I’ve been feeling?
What am I willing to do to create a solution and handle this right now?
What can I learn from this?
As you get curious about your emotions, you’ll learn important distinctions about them, not only today, but in the future as well.
STEP FOUR : Get Confident
Get confident that you can handle this emotion immediately. The quickest, simplest, and most powerful way I know to handle any emotion is to remember a time when you felt a similar emotion and realize that you’ve successfully handled this emotion before. Since you handled it in the past, surely you can handle it again today. The truth is, if you’ve ever had this Action Signal before and gotten through it, you already have a strategy of how to change your emotional states.
So stop right now and think about that time when you felt the same emotions and how you dealt with them in a positive way. Use this as the role model or checklist for what you can do right now to change how you feel. What did you do back then? Did you change what you were focusing on, the questions you asked yourself, your perceptions? Or did you take some kind of new action? Decide to do the same right now, with the confidence that it will work just as it did before. If you’re feeling depressed, for example, and you’ve been able to turn it around before, ask yourself, “What did I do then?” Did you take some new action like going for a run or making some phone calls? Once you’ve made some distinctions about what you’ve done in the past, do the same things now, and you’ll find that you’ll get similar results.
STEP FIVE : Get Certain You Can Handle This Not Only Today, But in the Future as Well
You want to feel certain that you can handle this emotion easily in the future by having a great plan to do so. One way to do this is to simply remember the ways you’ve handled it in the past, and rehearse handling situations where this Action Signal would come up in the future. See, hear, and feel yourself handling the situation easily. Repetitions of this with emotional intensity will create within you a neural pathway of certainty that you can easily deal with such challenges. In addition, jot down on a piece of paper three or four other ways that you could change your perception when an Action Signal comes up, or ways that you could change how you were communicating your feelings or needs, or ways that you could change the actions you were taking in this particular situation.
STEP SIX : Get Excited, and Take Action
Now that you’ve finished the first five steps—identified what you were really feeling, appreciated the emotion instead of fighting it, gotten curious about what it really meant and the lesson it was offering you, learned from it, figured out how to turn things around by modeling your successful past strategies for handling the emotion, and rehearsed dealing with it in future situations and installed a sense of certainty—the final step is obvious: Get excited, and take action! Get excited about the fact that you can easily handle this emotion, and take some action right away to prove that you’ve handled it. Don’t stay stuck in the limiting emotions you’re having. Express yourself by using what you rehearsed internally to create a change in your perceptions or your actions. Remember that the new distinctions you’ve just made will change the way you feel not only today, but how you deal with this emotion in the future.
With these six simple steps, you can master virtually any emotion that comes up in your life. If you find yourself dealing with the same emotion again and again, this six-step method will help you identify the pattern and change it in a very short period of time. So practice using this system. Like anything else that’s brand-new, at first this may seem cumbersome. But the more you do it, the easier it will become to use, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself being able to navigate your way through what you used to think were emotional minefields.
What you’ll see instead will be a field of personal coaches guiding you each step of the way, showing you where you need to go to achieve your goals.
Remember, the best time to handle an emotion is when you first begin to feel it. It’s much more difficult to interrupt an emotional pattern once it’s full-blown. My philosophy is, “Kill the monster while it’s little.” Use this system quickly, as soon as the Action Signal makes itself known, and you’ll find yourself being able to quickly handle virtually any emotion.
THE TEN ACTION SIGNALS
With the six steps alone, you can change most emotions. But in order to keep yourself from even having to use the six steps, you may find it useful to have a conscious understanding of what positive message each of your major emotions or Action Signals is trying to give you. In the next couple of pages, I’ll share with you the ten primary emotions most people try to avoid but which you will instead use to drive yourself to action. Reading this list of Action Signals won’t give you instant mastery of your emotions. You’ve got to use these distinctions consistently in order to reap their benefits. I suggest that you reread this section several times, underlining the areas that are especially significant for you, and then write down the Action Signals on a 3 x 5 card you can carry with you everywhere, reminding yourself of the meaning the emotion really has for you and what action you can take to utilize it. Attach one of these little cards to the sun visor in your car, not only so you can review it throughout the day, but so if you get stuck in traffic and begin to “boil over in rage,” you’ll be able to pull out the card and remind yourself of the positive nature of the messages you’re receiving. Let’s begin with the most basic call to action, the emotion of …
1. DISCOMFORT. Uncomfortable emotions don’t have a tremendous amount of intensity, but they do bother us and create the nagging sensation that things are not quite right.
Boredom, impatience, unease, distress, or mild embarrassment are all sending you a message that something is not quite right. Maybe the way you’re perceiving things is off, or the actions you’re taking are not producing the results you want.
Dealing with emotions of discomfort is simple:
1) Use the skills you’ve already learned in this book to change your state;
2) Clarify what you do want; and
3) Refine your actions. Try a slightly different approach and see if you can’t immediately change the way you’re feeling about the situation and/or change the quality of results you’re producing.
Like all emotions, if not dealt with, uncomfortable feelings will intensify. Discomfort is somewhat painful, but the anticipation of possible emotional pain is much more intense than the discomfort you might be feeling in the moment. You and I need to remember that our imagination can make things ten times more intense than anything we could ever experience in real life. In fact, there’s a saying in chess and in martial arts: “The threat of attack is greater than the attack itself.” When we begin to anticipate pain, especially intense levels of it, often we begin to develop the Action Signal of.
2. FEAR. Fearful emotions include everything from low levels of concern and apprehension to intense worry, anxiety, fright, and even terror. Fear serves a purpose, and its message is simple.
Fear is simply the anticipation that something that’s going to happen soon needs to be prepared for. In the words of the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.” We need either to prepare to cope with the situation, or to do something to change it. The tragedy is that most people either try to deny their fear, or they wallow in it. Neither of these approaches is respecting the message that fear is trying to deliver, so it will continue to pursue you as it tries to get its message across. You don’t want to surrender to fear and amplify it by starting to think of the worst that could happen, nor do you want to pretend it’s not there.
Review what you were feeling fearful about and evaluate what you must do to prepare yourself mentally. Figure out what actions you need to take to deal with the situation in the best possible way. Sometimes we’ve done all the preparation we could for something; there’s nothing else we can do—but we still sit around in fear. This is the point when you must use the antidote to fear: you must make a decision to have faith, knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare for whatever you’re fearing, and that most fears in life rarely come to fruition. If they do, you may experience . . .
3. HURT. If there’s any one emotion that seems to dominate human relationships, both personal and professional, it’s the emotion of hurt. Feelings of hurt are usually generated by a sense of loss. When people are hurt, they often lash out at others. We need to hear the real message hurt gives us.
The message the hurt signal gives us is that we have an expectation that has not been met. Many times this feeling arises when we’ve expected somebody to keep their word and they didn’t (even if you didn’t tell them your expectation that, for example, they not share with someone else what you talked with them about). In this case, you feel a loss of intimacy with this person, maybe a loss of trust. That sense of loss is what creates the feeling of hurt.
1) Realize that in reality you may not have lost anything. Maybe what you need to lose is the false perception that this person is trying to wound or hurt you. Maybe they really don’t realize the impact of their actions on your life.
2) Secondly, take a moment and reevaluate the situation. Ask yourself, “Is there really loss here? Or am I judging this situation too soon, or too harshly?”
3) A third solution that can help you get out of a sense of hurt is to elegantly and appropriately communicate your feeling of loss to the person involved. Tell them, “The other day when X-Y-Z happened, I misinterpreted that to mean that you didn’t care, and I have a sense of loss. Can you clarify for me what really happened?” Simply by changing your communication style and clarifying what’s really going on, you will often find that hurt disappears in a matter of moments. However, if hurt is not dealt with, it often becomes amplified and turns into . . .
4. ANGER. Angry emotions include everything from being mildly irritated to being angry, resentful, furious, or even enraged.
The message of anger is that an important rule or standard that you hold for your life has been violated by someone else, or maybe even by you. (We’ll talk more about this in Chapter 16 on rules.) When you get the message of anger, you need to understand that you can literally change this emotion in a moment.
1) Realize that you may have misinterpreted the situation completely, that your anger about this person breaking your rules may be based on the fact that they don’t know what’s most important to you (even though you believe they should).
2) Realize that even if a person did violate one of your standards, your rules are not necessarily the “right” rules, even though you feel as strongly as you do about them.
3) Ask yourself a more empowering question like “In the long run, is it true that this person really cares about me?” Interrupt the anger by asking yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can I communicate the importance of these standards I hold for myself to this person in a way that causes them to want to help me, and not violate my standards again in the future?”
For example, if you’re angry, change your perception—maybe this person really didn’t know your rules. Or change your procedure—maybe you didn’t effectively communicate your real needs. Or change your behavior—tell people up front, for example, “Hey, this is private. Please promise me you won’t share this with anybody; it’s really important to me.” For many people, consistent anger, or the failure to be able to meet their own standards and rules, leads to …
5. FRUSTRATION. Frustration can come from many avenues. Any time we feel like we’re surrounded by roadblocks in our lives, where we are continuously putting out effort but not receiving rewards, we tend to feel the emotion of frustration.
The message of frustration is an exciting signal. It means that your brain believes you could be doing better than you currently are. Frustration is very different from disappointment, which is the feeling that there’s something you want in your life but you’ll never get it. By contrast, frustration is a very positive sign. It means that the solution to your problem is within range, but what you’re currently doing isn’t working, and you need to change your approach in order to achieve your goal. It’s a signal for you to become more flexible! How do you deal with frustration?
1) Realize that frustration is your friend, and brainstorm new ways to get a result. How can you flex your approach?
2) Get some input on how to deal with the situation. Find a role model, someone who has found a way to get what you want. Ask them for input on how you might more effectively produce your desired result.
3) Get fascinated by what you can learn that could help you handle this challenge not only today, but in the future, in a way that consumes very little time or energy and actually creates joy. Much more devastating than frustration, however, is the emotion of…
6. DISAPPOINTMENT. Disappointment can be a very destructive emotion if you don’t deal with it quickly. Disappointment is the devastating feeling of being “let down” or that you’re going to miss out on something forever. Anything that makes you feel sad or defeated as a result of expecting more than you get is disappointing.
The message disappointment offers you is that an expectation you have had—a goal you were really going for—is probably not going to happen, so it’s time to change your expectations to make them more appropriate for this situation and take action to set and achieve a new goal immediately. And that is the solution.
1) Immediately figure out something you can learn from this situation that could help you in the future to achieve the very thing you were after in the first place.
2) Set a new goal, something that will be even more inspiring, and something you can make immediate progress toward.
3) Realize that you may be judging too soon. Often the things you’re disappointed about are only temporary challenges, very much like in the story of Billy Joel in Chapter 2. As I’ve said, you and I need to remember that God’s delays are not God’s denials. You may just be in what I call “lag time.” People often set themselves up for disappointment by having completely unrealistic expectations. If you go out today and plant a seed, you can’t go back tomorrow and expect to see a tree.
4) A fourth major solution to dealing with disappointment is to realize that a situation isn’t over yet, and develop more patience. Completely reevaluate what you truly want, and begin to develop an even more effective plan for achieving it.
5) The most powerful antidote to the emotion of disappointment is cultivating an attitude of positive expectancy about what will happen in the future, regardless of what has occurred in the past. The ultimate disappointment that we can experience is usually expressed as the emotion of…
7. GUILT. The emotions of guilt, regret, and remorse are among the emotions human beings do most to avoid in life, and this is valuable. They are painful emotions for us to experience, but they, too, serve a valuable function, one which becomes apparent once we hear the message.
Guilt tells you that you have violated one of your own highest standards, and that you must do something immediately to ensure that you’re not going to violate that standard again in the future. If you recall, in Chapter 6 I said that leverage is accessed when someone begins to link pain to something. With enough pain linked to a behavior, that person will eventually change it, and the strongest leverage is the pain we can give ourselves. Guilt is the ultimate leverage for many people in changing a behavior. However, some people try to deal with their guilt by denying and suppressing it. Unfortunately, this rarely works. Guilt does not go away; it only comes back stronger. The other extreme is to surrender to and wallow in guilt, where we begin to just accept the pain and experience learned helplessness. This is not the purpose of guilt. It’s designed, again, to drive us to action to create a change. People tail to understand this and often feel so remorseful about something they once did that they allow themselves to feel inferior for the rest of their lives! That is not the message of guilt. It’s there to make sure you either avoid behaviors out of your certainty that they’ll lead to guilt, or, if you’ve already violated your standard, it’s there to induce enough pain within you to get yourself to recommit to a higher standard once again. Once you address your old behavior that you feel guilty about, though, and you’re sincere and consistent, then move on.
1) Acknowledge that you have, in fact, violated a critical standard you hold for yourself.
2) Absolutely commit yourself to making sure this behavior will never happen again in the future. Rehearse in your mind how, if you could live it again, you could deal with the same situation you feel guilty about in a way that is consistent with your own highest personal standards. As you commit beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll never allow the behavior to occur again, you have the right to let go of the guilt. Guilt has then served its purpose to drive you to hold a higher standard in the future. Utilize it; don’t wallow in it! Some people manage to beat themselves up mentally and emotionally because they are constantly failing to meet standards that they hold for themselves in virtually every area of life. As a result, most of these people experience a feeling of…
8. INADEQUACY. This feeling of unworthiness occurs anytime we feel we can’t do something we should be able to do. The challenge, of course, is that often we have a completely unfair rule for determining whether we’re inadequate or not. First, understand the message inadequacy is giving you.
The message is that you don’t presently have a level of skill necessary for the task at hand. It’s telling you that you need more information, understanding, strategies, tools or confidence.
1) Simply ask yourself, “Is this really an appropriate emotion for me to feel in this situation? Am I really inadequate, or do I have to change the way I’m perceiving things?” Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that in order to feel adequate, you have to go out on the dance floor and outdo Michael Jackson. This is probably an inappropriate perception. If your feeling is justified, the message of inadequacy is that you need to find a way to do something better than you’ve done it before. The solution in this case is also obvious:
2) Whenever you feel inadequate, appreciate the encouragement to improve. Remind yourself that you’re not “perfect,” and that you don’t need to be. With this realization, you can begin to feel adequate the moment you decide to commit yourself to CANI!™—constant and never-ending improvement in this area.
3) Find a role model—someone who’s effective in the area in which you feel inadequate—and get some coaching from them. Just the process of deciding to master this area of your life and making even the smallest amount of progress will turn a person who’s inadequate into a person who’s learning. This emotion is critical, because when someone feels inadequate, they tend to tall into the trap of learned helplessness, and they begin to see the problem as being a permanent one with themselves. There’s no greater lie you could tell yourself. You’re not inadequate. You may be untrained or unskilled in a particular area, but you’re not inadequate. The capability for greatness in anything is within you even now.
When we begin to feel that problems are permanent or pervasive orwe have more things to deal with than we can possibly imagine, we tend to succumb to the emotions of …
9. OVERLOAD OR OVERWHEIM. Grief, depression, and helplessness are merely expressions of feeling overloaded or overwhelmed. Grief happens when you feel like there is no empowering meaning for something that has happened, or that your life is being negatively impacted by people, events, or forces that are outside your control. People in this state become overwhelmed and often begin to feel that nothing can change the situation, that the problem is too big—it’s permanent, pervasive, and personal. People go into these emotional states whenever they perceive their world in a way that makes them feel like there’s more going on than they can possibly deal with, i.e., the pace, amount, or intensity of sensations seems overwhelming.
The message of being overwhelmed is that you need to reevaluate what’s most important to you in this situation. The reason you’re overloaded is that you’re trying to deal with too many things at once, and you’re trying to change everything overnight. The feeling of being overloaded or overwhelmed disrupts and destroys more people’s lives than just about any other emotion.
1) Decide, out of all the things you’re dealing with in your life, what the absolute, most important thing is for you to focus on.
2) Now write down all the things that are most important for you to accomplish and put them in an order of priority. Just putting them down on paper will allow you to begin to feel a sense of control over what’s going on.
3) Tackle the first thing on your list, and continue to take action until you’ve mastered it. As soon as you’ve mastered one particular area, you’ll begin to develop momentum. Your brain will begin to realize that you are in control and you are not overloaded, overwhelmed, or depressed, that the problem is not permanent, and that you can always come up with a solution.
4) When you feel that it’s appropriate to start letting go of an overwhelming emotion like grief, start focusing on what you can control and realize that there must be some empowering meaning to it all, even though you can’t comprehend it yet. Our self-esteem is often tied to our ability to control our environments. When we create an environment inside our minds that has too many intense and simultaneous demands upon us, of course we’ll feel overloaded. But we also have the power to change this by focusing on what we can control and dealing with it a step at a time. Probably the emotion that most people fear the most, however, is that feeling of disconnection, also known as …
10. LONELINESS. Anything that makes us feel alone, apart, or separate from others belongs in this category. Have you ever felt really lonely? I don’t think there’s anybody alive who hasn’t.
The message of loneliness is that you need a connection with people. But what does the message mean? People often assume it means a sexual connection, or instant intimacy. Then they feel frustrated, because even when they do have intimacy, they still feel lonely.
1) The solution to loneliness is to realize that you can reach out and make a connection immediately and end the loneliness. There are caring people everywhere.
2) Identify what kind of connection you do need. Do you need an intimate connection? Maybe you just need some basic friendship, or someone to listen to you or to laugh or talk with. You simply have to identify what your true needs are.
3) Remind yourself that what’s great about being lonely is that it means, “I really care about people, and I love to be with them. I need to find out what kind of connection I need with somebody right now, and then take an action immediately to make that happen.”
4) Then, take immediate action to reach out and connect with someone.
So there’s your list of the ten Action Signals. As you can see, every one of these emotions is offering you empowering messages and a call to change either your false and disempowering perceptions or your inappropriate procedures, that is, your communication style or actions. To fully utilize this list, remember to review it several times, and with each repetition, look for and underline the positive messages that each signal is giving you, as well as the solutions you can use in the future. Almost all “negative” emotions have their basis in these ten categories or are some hybrid of them. But you can deal with any emotion in the way we discussed earlier: by going through the six steps, getting curious, and discovering the empowering meaning it’s offering you.
“We must cultivate our garden.” VOLTAIRE
Think of your mind, your emotions, and your spirit as the ultimate garden. The way to ensure a bountiful, nourishing harvest is to plant seeds like love, warmth, and appreciation, instead of seeds like disappointment, anger, and fear. Begin to think of those Action Signals as weeds in your garden. A weed is a call to action, isn’t it? It says, “You’ve got to do something; you’ve got to pull this out to make room for better, healthier plants to grow.” Keep cultivating the kinds of plants you want, and pull the weeds as soon as you notice them.
Let me offer you ten emotional seeds you can plant in your garden. If you nurture these seeds by focusing on feeling what you want to feel every day, you will hold yourself to a standard of greatness. These seeds create a life that flourishes and fulfills its highest potential. Let’s explore them briefly now, and realize that each of these emotions represents an antidote to any of the “negative” emotions you may have been feeling previously.
THE TEN EMOTIONS OF POWER
1. LOVE AND WARMTH. The consistent expression of love seems to be able to melt almost any negative emotions it comes in contact with. If someone is angry with you, you can easily remain loving with them by adopting a core belief such as this marvelous one from the book A Course in Miracles: all communication is either a loving response or a cry for help. If someone comes to you in a state of hurt or anger, and you consistently respond to them with love and warmth, eventually their state will change and their intensity will melt away.
“If you could only love enough, you could be the most powerful person in the world.” EMMET FOX
2. APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE. I believe that all of the most powerful emotions are some expression of love, each directed in different ways. For me, appreciation and gratitude are two of the most spiritual emotions, actively expressing through thought and action my appreciation and love for all the gifts that life has given me, that people have given me, that experience has given me. Living in this emotional state will enhance your life more than almost anything I know of. Cultivating this is cultivating life. Live with an attitude of gratitude.
3. CURIOSITY. If you really want to grow in your life, learn to be as curious as a child. Children know how to wonder—that’s why they’re so endearing. If you want to cure boredom, be curious. If you’re curious, nothing is a chore; it’s automatic—you want to study. Cultivate curiosity, and life becomes an unending study of joy.
4. EXCITEMENT AND PASSION. Excitement and passion can add juice to anything. Passion can turn any challenge into a tremendous opportunity. Passion is unbridled power to move our lives forward at a faster tempo than ever before. To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli, man is only truly great when he acts from the passions. How do we “get” passion? The same way we “get” love, warmth, appreciation, gratefulness, and curiosity—we decide to feel it! Use your physiology: speak more rapidly, visualize images more rapidly, move your body in the direction you want to go. Don’t just casually sit and think. You can’t be filled with passion if you’re slumping over your desk, breathing shallowly, and slurring your speech.
5. DETERMINATION. All of the above emotions are invaluable, but there is one that you must have if you’re going to create lasting value in this world. It will dictate how you deal with upsets and challenges, with disappointment and disillusionments. Determination means the difference between being stuck and being struck with the lightning power of commitment. If you want to get yourself to lose weight, make those business calls, or follow through on anything, “pushing” yourself won’t do it. Putting yourself in a state of determination will. All your actions will spring from that source, and you’ll just automatically do whatever it takes to accomplish your aim. Acting with determination means making a congruent, committed decision where you’ve cut off any other possibility.
“Determination is the wake-up call to the human will.” ANTHONY ROBBINS
With determination, you can accomplish anything. Without it, you’re doomed to frustration and disappointment. Our willingness to do whatever it takes, to act in spite of fear, is the basis of courage. And courage is the foundation from which determination is born. The difference between feeling accomplishment or feeling despondency is the cultivation of the emotional muscle of determination. With all that determination at your command, though, be sure you can also break your own pattern and change your approach. Why smash through a wall if you can just look a little to your left and find a door? Sometimes determination can be a limitation; you need to cultivate . . .
6. FLEXIBILITY. If there’s one seed to plant that will guarantee success, it’s the ability to change your approach. In fact, all those Action Signals—those things you used to call negative emotions—are just messages to be more flexible! Choosing to be flexible is choosing to be happy. Throughout your life there will be times when there are things you will not be able to control, and your ability to be flexible in your rules, the meaning you attach to things, and your actions will determine your long-term success or failure, not to mention your level of personal joy. The reed that bends will survive the windstorm, while the mighty oak tree will crack. If you cultivate all of the above emotions, then you’ll surely develop . ..
7. CONFIDENCE. Unshakable confidence is the sense of certainty we all want. The only way you can consistently experience confidence, even in environments and situations you’ve never previously encountered, is through the power of faith. Imagine and feel certain about the emotions you deserve to have now, rather than wait for them to spontaneously appear someday in the far distant future. When you’re confident, you’re willing to experiment, to put yourself on the line. One way to develop faith and confidence is simply to practice using it. If I were to ask whether you’re confident that you can tie your own shoes, I’m sure you could tell me with perfect confidence that you can. Why? Only because you’ve done it thousands of times! So practice confidence by using it consistently, and you’ll be amazed at the dividends it reaps in every area of your life.
In order to get yourself to do anything, it’s imperative to exercise confidence rather than fear. The tragedy of many people’s lives is that they avoid doing things because they’re afraid; they even feel bad about things in advance. But remember: the source of success for outstanding achievers often finds its origin in a set of nurtured beliefs for which that individual had no references! The ability to act on faith is what moves the human race forward. Another emotion you’ll automatically experience once you’ve succeeded in cultivating all the above is …
8. CHEERFULNESS. When I added cheerfulness to my list of most important values, people commented, “There’s something different about you. You seem so happy.” I realized that I had been happy, but I hadn’t told my face about it! There’s a big difference between being happy on the inside, and being outwardly cheerful. Cheerfulness enhances your self-esteem, makes life more fun, and makes the people around you feel happier as well. Cheerfulness has the power to eliminate the feelings of fear, hurt, anger, frustration, disappointment, depression, guilt, and inadequacy from your life. You’ve achieved cheerfulness the day you realize that no matter what’s happening around you, being anything other than cheerful will not make it better.
Being cheerful does not mean that you’re Pollyanna or that you look at the world through rose-colored glasses and refuse to acknowledge challenges. Being cheerful means you’re incredibly intelligent because you know that if you live life in a state of pleasure—one that’s so intense that you transmit a sense of joy to those around you—you can have the impact to meet virtually any challenge that comes your way. Cultivate cheerfulness, and you won’t need so many of those “painful” Action Signals to get your attention! Make it easy for yourself to feel cheerful by planting the seed of…
9. VITALITY. Handling this area is critical. If you don’t take care of your physical body, it’s more difficult to be able to enjoy these emotions. Make sure that physical vitality is available; remember that all emotions are directed through your body. If you’re feeling out of sorts emotionally, you need to look at the basics. How are you breathing? When people are stressed, they stop breathing, sapping their vitality. Learning to breathe properly is the most important avenue toward good health. Another critical element to physical vitality is ensuring that you have an abundant level of nerve energy. How do you do this? Realize that day to day you’re expending nerve energy through your actions, and as obvious as it sounds, you do need to make sure that you rest and recharge. By the way, how much sleep are you getting? If you’re regularly logging eight to ten hours of sack time, you’re probably getting too much sleep! Six to seven hours has been found to be optimum for most people. Contrary to popular belief, sitting still doesn’t preserve energy. The truth is, that’s usually when you feel most tired. The human nervous system needs to move to have energy. To a certain extent, expending energy gives you a greater sense of energy. As you move, oxygen flows through your system, and that physical level of health creates the emotional sense of vitality that can help you to deal with virtually any negative challenge you could have in your life, So realize that a sense of vitality is a critical emotion to cultivate in order to handle virtually any emotions that come up in your life, not to mention the critical resource in experiencing consistent passion. Once your garden is filled with these powerful emotions, then you can share your bounty through . . .
10. CONTRIBUTION. Years ago, I remember being in one of the toughest times in my life, driving down the freeway in the middle of the night. I kept asking, “What do I need to do to turn my life around?” Suddenly an insight came to me, accompanied by such intense emotion that I was compelled to pull my car off the road immediately and write down one key phrase in my journal: “The secret to living is giving.”
There’s no richer emotion I know of in life than the sense that who you are as a person, something you’ve said or done, has added to more than just your own life, that somehow it has enhanced life’s experience for someone you care about, or maybe someone you don’t even know. The stories that move me most profoundly are about people who follow the highest spiritual emotion of caring unconditionally and acting for others’ benefit. When I saw the musical Les Miserables, I was deeply moved by the character of Jean Valjean, because he was such a good man who wanted to give so much to others. Each day we should cultivate that sense of contribution by focusing not only on ourselves, but on others as well.
Don’t fall into the trap, though, of trying to contribute to others at your own expense—playing the martyr won’t give you a true sense of contribution. But if you can consistently give to yourself and others on a measurable scale that allows you to know that your life has mattered, you’ll have a sense of connection with people and a sense of pride and self-esteem that no amount of money, accomplishments, fame, or acknowledgment could ever give. A sense of contribution makes all of life worthwhile. Imagine what a better world it would be if all of us cultivated a sense of contribution!
THE TEN ACTION SIGNALS
1. DISCOMFORT 2. FEAR 3. HURT 4. ANGER 5. FRUSTRATION 6. DISAPPOINTMENT 7. GUILT 8. INADEQUACY 9. OVERLOAD, OVERWHELM 10. LONELINESS
THE TEN EMOTIONS OF POWER
1. LOVE AND WARMTH 2. APPRECIATION AND GRATITUDE 3. CURIOSITY 4. EXCITEMENT AND PASSION 5. DETERMINATION 6. FLEXIBIUTY 7. CONFIDENCE 8. CHEERFULNESS 9. VITALITY 10. CONTRIBUTION
Plant these emotions daily, and watch your whole life grow with a vitality that you’ve never dreamed of before. Here, for review, are the ten Action Signals and the ten Emotions of Power. I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of learning to use the negative emotions for what they are—calls to action—and committing to cultivate the positive emotions. Do you remember the 3″ x 5″ card you created on which you wrote down all the messages and solutions your Action Signals are giving you? Review it frequently throughout the day. As you view it even now, you may notice that the positive emotions we’ve just covered are great antidotes to the Action Signals. In other words, if you’re feeling uncomfortable emotion, then love and warmth will make changing that emotion much simpler. If you’re feeling fearful, then a sense of gratitude wipes that emotion out. If you’re feeling hurt and then get curious about what’s going on, that replaces the sense of hurt. If you’re feeling angry and you turn that emotional intensity into directed excitement and passion, think of what you can accomplish! Frustration can be broken through with the use of determination. Disappointment can be dissolved by being flexible in your approach. Guilt disappears the minute you become confident that you’re going to stick to your new standards. Inadequacy departs when you’re feeling cheerful; there’s simply no room for it. A sense of overload disappears with a sense of personal power and vitality. Loneliness melts away the moment you figure out how to contribute to others. I’d now like you to do an assignment that will fully associate you to the simple and powerful tool of emotions.
1) Over the next two days, any time you feel a disempowering or negative emotion, follow the six steps to emotional mastery. Identify what category it belongs in, and recognize its value in giving you the message that you need. Discover whether what needs to be changed are your perceptions or your actions. Get confident, get certain, and get excited.
2) Action Signals serve an important function, but if you didn’t have to feel them as often, wouldn’t that be preferable? In addition to the Emotions of Power, cultivate global beliefs that help minimize your experience of the negative emotions. For example, I’ve eliminated the feeling of abandonment (loneliness) from my life because I’ve adopted the belief that I can never really be abandoned. If someone I love ever tried to “abandon” me, I’d just follow them! (Other empowering beliefs include, “This, too, shall pass”; “Love is the only must in my life; everything else is a should”; and “There’s always a way, if I’m committed.”)
Utilize these Emotions of Power daily, and use the six steps to emotional mastery to transform your Action Signals into positive action. Remember: Every feeling that you have—good or bad—is based on your interpretation of what things mean. Whenever you start to feel bad, ask yourself this question: “What else could this mean?” It’s the first step toward taking control of your emotions. What I hope you’ll take from this chapter is an appreciation of all your emotions and a sense of excitement that they’re all providing you with a chance to learn something to make your life better, literally at a moment’s notice. Never again do you need to feel that painful emotions are your enemies. They’re all here to serve you as a signal that some kind of change is needed. As you refine your ability to use these Action Signals, you’ll start handling them up front, when they are small, rather than waiting until they turn into full-blown crises. For instance, you’ll handle a situation while it’s still annoying, not infuriating—like handling a weight problem when you notice the first extra pound rather than waiting until you’ve added another thirty.
Over the next couple of weeks, focus on enjoying the process of learning from all of your emotions. You can experience the whole kaleidoscope at any moment you choose. Don’t be afraid—ride the roller coaster! Experience the joy, passion, and thrill of all the emotions, and know that you’re in control! It’s your life, your emotions, your destiny. One thing I have found is that although someone may know how to do something, they might still not apply what they know. What we really need is a reason to use the power of our decisions, to change our beliefs, to get leverage on ourselves and interrupt our patterns, to ask better questions and sensitize ourselves to our vocabulary and metaphors. In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, we need to develop .. .
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