Many of my coaching clients talk to me about how to better handle emotions in the business context. They feel that only hard facts, rational argument and objectivity are important. But centuries of philosophical thought and new psychological studies points to the opposite.
Emotion is central to our thinking, and for Aristotle it was part of what makes us truly human. According to his work ‘Rhetoric’ we use emotions all the time in responding to things in the world… emotions for Aristotle are not irrational but that they should be aligned with our judgements to aid better decision-making.
Being fundamentally emotional beings was reiterated on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 17 May. According to author, New York Times columnist David Brooks one of the most important things we can do is to learn to attune to people, to develop the skills to read the emotional signals of others. This is fundamental in order for us to better collaborate, face challenges, and share ideas but also to fulfill each other’s emotional as well as intellectual needs. This is critical if teams of people are to be successful.
So often I spend time with people who, a) think that what they feel is all there is, and b) think that they cannot change something they feel is out of their control. Note how ‘thinking’ is intertwined with ‘feeling’. Brooks argues that our emotional life and our intuition (and how we develop these in life) are more important for fulfillment than academic ability and IQ.
Take heart, by choosing the kind of environment you want to be in you can change the way you feel and think about things. Change your environment to change your behaviour, which in turn, changes your mindset.
I think about my childhood growing up in care homes, which was both highly regimented and disciplined, but with all too rare high spots of blissful freedom. Us kids could roam free in the woods or on the cliffs and coves of Babbacombe, Torquay after we’d done our myriad chores. Years later when I finally made it to university in my ‘30s, I discovered a world where I could really start to leave behind the pejorative labels of ‘mixed-race, illegitimate, bought up in care, and pregnant at 16’ etc. My mind-set became much more confidant as I realised that my past need no longer constrain my future.
As human beings we are much more adaptable than we realise, regardless of age or gender. We just need to consider the very possibility of change and to commit to taking action to enable some of those changes to take place. For all of you feeling stuck by what’s happened in the past, consider this from Brooks, “… if you change your behaviour, if you [for instance] develop a love for music… that behaviour literally wires and grooves your brain so you become much better at seeing the world in a different way.”
So… what actions will you take to ‘rewire’ your world and the way you feel and behave in order to support your own success?
- Make a list of the sorts of activities or situations that would release your creativity or support your ambitions, include the sorts people you’d like to ‘hang out’ with from time to time.
- Have a plan to start some new activities, or push your own mental and emotional ‘comfort zones’, and aim to meet with people who can support your efforts.
- Remember there are no shortcuts, but it’s a worthwhile alternative to doing nothing, feeling stuck and frustrated!
 Read his new book ‘The Social Animal’