Exercising Your Emotional Agility

“The current times are hard. They are something that was completely out of the scope of anything that we ever believed possible. And our thoughts and emotions play a large role in how we make it through these days.

As I work with my clients, I can observe a broad range of emotions. Some are embracing what is ahead and others feel the grief for what our ‘normal’ lives used to hold for us. The forecasts give us an outlook that make it seem that ‘normal’ will be gone for an extended period of time, if in fact it will ever return.

All of these emotions are absolutely ok to have, serve its purpose and are our personal ways of processing what is currently going on and happening to us.

This situation, however, is also giving us the opportunity to enhance our emotional agility. How we see the current situation is mainly rooted in three factors: Our beliefs, our experiences and our assumptions.

As we can’t change the circumstances, being able to adjust our frame of reference and to choose how we react to this situation, is where our personal power lies.

But how do we actually create emotional agility? And what actually is emotional agility? In order to keep us going, we might choose to ignore how we think and feel about the current situation. And that in fact, can make those negative thoughts even louder.

Emotional agility means you can accept, understand, and manage your thoughts in a productive way. Research by Frank Bond, Professor of Psychology and Management at London University, (among others) shows that emotional agility can reduce stress, improve work quality, and boost creativity.

In other words, you are not sweeping your emotions under a rug, you are observing the clutter and neatly organizing it before moving on.

Easier said than done? Here are four steps on how you can gain emotional agility that were developed by Dr. Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist:

  1. Identify negative feelings
    Do you find yourself having a thought over and over again? Maybe it is a thought that we will never return back to ‘normal’ or that the current situation does not allow you to move forward the way you want to. Or maybe you keep blaming yourself for how you handled a situation in the new remote environment.

Identify those thoughts and feelings and reflect on them. Is there a pattern? Or do they feel like a déjà vu?

  1. Separate facts from thoughts
    Acknowledge that those thoughts might be unhelpful or sometimes even untrue. Start labelling those thoughts for what they really are – thoughts. For example, ‘I managed this situation badly’ becomes ‘I am having the thought that I managed this situation badly.’

This creates a more objective view of the situation and can help in reducing stress.

  1. Make acceptance your goal
    Accept the presence of your negative thoughts. This is not the time to try to control or change your thoughts just yet. Just take a moment to reflect.

Why are you thinking about a situation the way you do? What is important for you in this situation that maybe makes you think about it the way you do? For example, if you are not happy the way you communicated as a leader in the remote environment, good communication might be important for you which makes you feel out of alignment, creating those thoughts.

  1. Take action
    Once you have identified where your thoughts and emotions are coming from, you’re now ready to take action that aligns with your values. Question whether your next steps help towards a long-term solution and if those next steps are good for you and those around you. Maybe your next step is to have a conversation with your team how to better communicate in the remote environment and implement those steps together with your team.

And my personal favourite, is the simple question: ‘What is the opportunity?’ Whenever I find myself in a rut with my thoughts and feelings, I ask myself this question.

It helps me re-focus from everything that is not working and pulling me down, to all the opportunities and learnings this situation and other situations are undoubtedly creating for me.

If I can be of any assistance, in filtering out these opportunities for you, as always, please do not hesitate to contact me at [email protected]

I can’t wait to see you on the other side of this!

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