“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.”