This is a guest post by John, a digital nomad and freelance writer, specializing in leadership, digital media and personal growth.
Emotions make us who we are – as individuals, and as human beings.
Emotions are at the heart of everything we do. They affect what we want to do and how we choose to do it.
What gets you up for work each morning? Chances are, you are striving for some combination of feelings including happiness, security, fulfillment, maybe even excitement.
Yet the vast majority of us neglect our emotions as a matter of habit. Processing a feeling becomes as much a part of the day as running to the store to buy some terrible plastic-wrapped sandwich to fill that hunger-hole. It doesn’t give you the nutrition you need, and it’s no way to pass your time.
Likewise, if you don’t take care over your emotional life, you don’t get the chance to appreciate it – nor to use them it help you succeed.
What we’re identifying here is a lack of emotional intelligence, or EQ: your level of empathy for others, sensitivity towards your own feelings, and responsibility towards dealing with whatever you find there.
So how can you face up to your emotions, appreciate them, and get them working for you?
The short answer is: mindfulness.
Unlike the sandwich you eat without really tasting it, the friend you hear without really listening, or the commute you make on auto-pilot, mindfulness is the opposite of habit, the opposite of jadedness.
Instead of letting your emotions rush past you, slow down and listen to what they say about where you are in life.
Feel their effect not just in your mind and heart, but in your muscles and on your skin. Ask yourself if it’s an emotion you’d like to repeat, and how you can do so.
If it’s a negative emotion, don’t brush it under the carpet. Look for the deeper reasons.
Did you lash out because you’re insecure about your talents? Are you bored at work because you’re not investing yourself in your tasks? Is there a way your employer or contractor can give you more autonomy, more chance to express yourself?
Next, think about ways to manage your emotions.
Again, a mindful approach can be a much more useful way to deal with your feelings rather than giving into them, or pushing them down out of sight (where they’re bound to spring back up at you when you least expect them).
So if you’re angry, take deep breaths and taste the air instead of striking out.
If you’re worried, think to yourself about all the people you’ve seen today, in the street, on public transport, wherever you’re working. What are their problems, and what were the problems of their grandparents and great, great, great grandparents?
And while we’re at it, how about that bee that’s buzzing in the window? Putting your feelings in a wider perspective can help you to look at your emotions objectively, to control them, and to understand where they’ve come from and where they could take you.
Finally, think about how you can utilize the energy that each emotion gives you to help you improve and to reach success.
Take that anger or frustration to the gym and have a good workout while your motivation is charged.
Take a task that is making you feel inadequate and underprepared, and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Use your vulnerability when you’re feeling shy to reach out to someone with honesty and humility. And use that boredom as a chance to regroup and think about what excites you and how you can get more of that into your life.
Here’s an infographic on how to be emotionally intelligent: