We all want a fully functioning heart and mind so why shouldn’t we want the same for our emotional state? Emotional fluency is the ability to sense, translate and effectively apply the power of emotions in a healthy and productive manner. Yet most of us have more training in how to use our car or computer than we do in how to use our emotions in work and life.
Of course, there’s no perfect formula of spreadsheet for solving the mysteries of life. Even so, the world and our emotions are filled with relationships, and that’s what Emotional Equations is about: the relationships between your emotions and how they can help you better understand yourself, your purpose and your relationships with others.
After using Emotional Equations, you will find that your emotions will no longer get the best of you. Instead, your emotions will represent the best in you.
[Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness]
Think of something that makes you anxious. The economy? Parenting? Public speaking? Regardless of the cause, much of anxiety’s potency comes from your anticipation of an event or experience that hasn’t happened yet. We tend to overestimate a perceived danger and underestimate our ability to handle what may come.
There are two variables in the anxiety equation: what you don’t know (uncertainty) and what you can’t control (powerlessness). Typically, the combination is combustible: the more uncertain your feel, the more powerless you feel. Yet if you can influence one of the variables, so that you can reduce it closer to zero, you can significantly reduce your anxiety quotient. Feeling certain about something yet powerless to affect it may not be comfortable. In fact, you may feel resigned, but you’re less likely to feel anxious. Similarly, feeling uncertain yet powerful means that you’re comfortable with your ability to respond to whatever is thrown at you, and that means your anxiety dissipates.
Working Through the Equation
1. When anxiety strikes, create a balance sheet of what you know and what is within your influence. First, unravel the sense of mystery about what you don’t know. Is this situation as uncertain as you think it is? Are you overestimating the danger associated with this mystery or the importance of the event? Then explore whether you are truly ill equipped to address the experience. If you are, what resources can you tap into to help you feel a little more powerful? Make a list of your strengths, your coping skills and the resources available to you. You may be surprised by how much certainty and influence you actually have.
2. Create a ‘worry period,’ and indulge in worry as much as you want during that time. For example, give yourself thirty minutes of worry time in the morning and afternoon. During that time, focus all your attention on worrying. Make lists of all the potential things that can go wrong, all the collateral emotions that are stemming from this anxiety, and how your life feels awful as a result. Then, once you’ve finished your worry period, banish those anxiety thoughts from your brain, knowing that you’ll have another space for them in a few hours – or tomorrow.
3. Think extreme. Anxiety is like a game of dominos. ‘Catastrophe cascading’ is when you take an idea and let it turn into something worse through a domino effect. Let’s say you’re scared that your date on Saturday night will reject you. So take yourself through the dominos. Let’s say the date goes badly. What’s next? Your date tells his friends. People make fun of you. No one else asks you out. You spend the rest of your life alone. Once you’ve created that scenario, ask yourself, ‘Is this the worse-case scenario, and what’s the probability of each domino falling?’ When you become conscious about how extreme anxiety thinking can be, you realise how lacking in logic it is.
4. Use ‘paradoxical intention’ as a means of dissipating your anxiety. Viktor Frankl believed that one means of coping with anxiety is to detach from it. Instead of trying harder, just let it go. For example, if you have insomnia and get anxious about your lack of sleep, ‘paradoxical intention’ would suggest that you get up when you wake up in the middle of the night rather than trying harder to fall back to sleep. By restaging the relationship you have with sleep, you short-circuit the habitual anxiety response that typically makes the situation worse.
Even in good times, anxiety can be a habit and can turn anything into just another burden. One other element that could be added to this equation would be to put parentheses around ‘Uncertainly’ and Powerlessness’ and multiply the sum by ‘Severity of Consequences.’ There are some things in life that are worth worrying about, and there are others you just need to let go. My best advice is to focus on what you do know and can influence: your body and your mind. Reduce your caffeine, sugar and alcohol intake, and eat foods that provide you with healthy fuel. Physical exercise is one of nature’s remedies for stress, and getting plenty of bed rest allows your body to rejuvenate itself.
When the world is uncertain and overwhelming, breathe, and miraculously, you may find that your mind moves from a war zone to a refuge.
Chip Conley founded Joie de Vivre Hospitality (JdV), what was to become America’s second largest boutique hotelier, at the age of twenty-six. An accomplished author and international speaker, Conley’s book Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow forged new ground at the crossroads of psychology and business. To find out more, visit www.chipconley.com or www.emotionalequations.com.
Emotional Equations is available to buy now from all good bookshops. You can also download this title as an ebook from all the major ebook retailers, so you can read it on your Kindle, iPad, Kobo or Sony Reader.
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