The Power of Emotion

“The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.” — Navy SEAL Creed

Most of the time we ladies assume that when it comes to understanding emotions that we have a leg-up, so to speak, on the guys.  It’s true that men and women are wired very differently and that for women, largely speaking, emotions dominate our existence.  Watch Mark Gungor’s Tale of Two Brains if you aren’t aware of the difference between the sexes.

A few years back I was doing research on warriors for a project I was doing and found myself reading the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. Ever since, I’ve had a fascination with Navy Seals and their outlook on life.  Their discipline for mental toughness is legendary.  Physically these guys are put through some of the toughest training on earth. The fact is if you ever find yourself in an extraordinary circumstance that requires you to be rescued out of a war zone, this is who you would want to show up.

Now, we civilians like to share our “war stories” that usually happen in the corporate halls of our businesses.  It’s true there is bullying, and really cruel people who can be found.  We may even like to boast of our physical endurance to travel around the globe and still conduct our business. But somehow, my story of endurance which involved an unexpected one hour power walk in 6-inch heels that ended with my feet bleeding while I smiled and presented to potential prospects like nothing was the matter – just doesn’t compare.

That said, the ability to control your emotion is something that I don’t believe is often talked about by women in the workplace.  Now before I begin, let me preface this by the fact that I don’t mind it when women cry – especially if it’s for the right reason.  Tears of joy? Bring it! What I am talking about is the “freak out” moment that I have witnessed by women at all levels when something hits the fan.

It usually look like this.  I’m working in my office and suddenly there’s a person standing in my door. They step inside, shut the door, and suddenly I am hearing about a “crisis”. A VIP in the  organization’s life, be it an executive, investor, or important client is not happy and if we don’t do something, immediately, the world is going to end!

I usually listen, and invariably I’ve had to get to the point where I need to give them a reality check. It usually goes something like. “Question for you.  Do you think when Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice is faced with a crisis that she tackles it like this? Or do you think she calmly calls a meeting to collect the information and then make an educated decision?”

I know, I’m Canadian and I’m using all these American references but bear with me. The thing is, for most women around the world, the Hillary and Condoleezza reference immediately resonate.  They “get” it. They usually laugh and say “This isn’t the White House.” to which I reply “Exactly, our issues are not near as big. So let’s just take a deep breath and deal with the situation for what it is.”

Let me give you one more scenario to understand the importance of learning to control  your emotions.  Picture yourself in the fight of your life and you’re losing to the bad guys. You are helpless and you need to choose someone who is going to fight their way in to the worst situation in the world to get your butt out of there.  You have 2 choices.  Both are great at hand to hand combat, excellent shots, and strong enough to throw you over a shoulder and get you to safety.  But one jumps out of their skin at loud sounds and looks uncomfortable when confronted. Given the same scenario the other person looks like they are out for a stroll in a park. Who are you going to pick to lead you to safety? Of course you’re picking the one who is calm and appears unaffected. Underneath they may be feeling a range of emotions but let’s be honest, we want to be lead by the person who is instilling confidence in us and jumping out of your skin at every sound does not instill confidence about the other person’s abilities. The same goes in the workplace.  If you are always in a state of “crisis” which can look like: gossiping about impending doom, stirring up “issues”, raising your voice,  etc. you are effectively reducing the confidence of others in you.

That is why becoming emotionally strong is critical to success. In the case of Navy Seals, that ability is the difference between life and death. In your life and in your work – it can be the difference between success and failure.  Here’s what the Navy Seal Master Chief Will Guild has to say about how mastering your emotions in a Men’s Health Magazine article. (Hint: It’s not what you think.)

1. Put Teammates First

“This is an exoteric responsibility—that is, ‘imparting to someone else’—and it’s missing from our culture. When you are acting exoterically, you are acting ethically. How do I treat others? How do I fit into the team? What is my responsibility? Ask yourself these questions, no matter your profession.”

2. Second-Guess Yourself

“We all have monkey brains. We think terrible things sometimes. Quitting, abandoning something important to us. But don’t let that disturb you too much, because it happens to everyone. Really, who you are is your second or even third thought.”

3. Allow Yourself to Fear

“Some people become afraid, and they find it overwhelming. When that happens, reach out to family, friends, or colleagues. Fear is a shared experience—you’ll get a lot of energy from the people around you. Being okay with being afraid is the first step to overcoming it.”

4. Control Your Emotions Physically

“Ask a family member or friend to study your posture when you’re happy or content. Then practice it, over and over. Your psyche will follow your body. You can literally control your emotions this way.”

5. Break Big Goals into Small Targets

“How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time. Don’t wake up Monday morning and say, ‘Four days and 16 hours till Friday.’ Instead, wake up and say, ‘Two hours till breakfast.’ And then, ‘Three hours till lunch.’ Try to stay in the present.”

6. Have Faith in Yourself

“This is the most crucial part of mental toughness. It’s something I tell all the SEALs. Have faith that you’ll figure it out. You are a lot stronger physically and mentally than you think you are.”

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The Power of Struggle

Be honest. Are you waking up this morning and dragging yourself into your workplace? Deep down you know you are intended for so much more than what you are presently doing.  Or perhaps, you don’t have a job and you are faced with another daunting day filled with trying to find a job – any job – and deep down you wish you could be so lucky as to be in a job you don’t like. Or maybe, you just found out yesterday that you have a critical illness and literally you are starting the fight of your life.

Struggle. It’s the one thing we are all guaranteed to experience in life, and the one thing most people try to avoid.  Have you ever actually read the definition of struggle?  It means “to progress with difficulty”.

The interesting thing about struggling is that there is little else in this world that can produce such positive effects in your life – if you allow it to do its work.  There’s this great song by Mary Mary and in it the lyrics say:

“Can’t be mad at the things you been through cuz they built your muscle
Now you’re stronger than you ever been they can’t stop your hustle”

Take a moment to reflect on that.  Do you remember when you were a teenager and certain life events felt like “the end of the world” – and now you look back and laugh because you’re now an adult and have had to face so much more? We begin learning this lesson from the time we are children over, and over, and over. Yet, when difficulty comes our way we still ask “Why me?”

Well, here’s the good news. You’re not special.  lol.  The universe is not conspiring against you to bring only “you” a struggle.  Life is struggle for anyone who has breath in their lungs.  You can take that to the bank.  The question is not “if” life will bring you a struggle but “when” or more accurately “how often”.

Each and every time you are provided an opportunity to grow.

Whether it is learning how to interact with the difficult people in your life in a way that brings respect to the situation, making lifestyle changes to improve your health, or learning a new skill to change your future – each and every opportunity to transform has struggle at its root.

What this means is that whatever difficult moment you are facing today, is an opportunity for you to become strong.    As you walk into a job you hate, a conversation you dread, a gym that intimidates, or a terrifying doctor’s appointment – determine to look for the lessons in what you are facing. Look back and see how it is building your muscle in that area.

Over the years I began referring to my various life challenges as my “training ground”. Whenever I was faced with a fight of some kind I would take a deep breath and say to myself, “Well, how else am I going to learn?” Then I’d make the decision to view the situation as a challenge to overcome. I’d determine who my coach would be to help get me through – a trusted friend or mentor – because it’s important to have someone in your corner who has more experience than you and can guide you. (By the way, this applies whether you are 8 or 80. There is always someone with more experience.)  In the midst of the fight, when it got really difficult they’d pull me aside, give me a pep talk, point out my strengths, show me where I was making any mistakes, make me take a drink of water, pat me on the shoulder and say “Now get back in there.”

The result? I can handle things today that I never could have just a few years ago. I look back on situations that were difficult at the time like an adult looking back on their childhood – and I’m grateful – because I’ve learned a great deal. The ladies of Mary Mary put it this way:

“It’s alright to crawl before you walk it’s alright to walk before you run
But if you wanna get what you never got gotta do something that you never done”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!