The Secret to Managing How you Feel
Sometimes I feel jazzed. Other times I’m just dopey. I come alive while I’m doing something. Lying in bed drains my vitality. The less I do, the less I feel like doing.
Feelings follow actions.
The things you feel are consequences of the things you do.
Feeling grateful is the result of acting with gratitude.
Feeling kind is the result of doing something useful for others without expecting payment.
You aren’t a victim of feelings. You create them.
The secret to managing feelings is creating them.
Will Durant summarized Aristotle when he wrote, “You are what you repeatedly do.” I’m shifting the focus of that statement. You feel in alignment with what you repeatedly do.
Behaviors drive feelings:
The physical act of smiling when you aren’t happy increases happiness. If you don’t believe me, walk around with a big grin on your face. It’s a silly illustration, but it’s still true.
The act of standing like Wonder Woman with your hands on your hips boosts feelings of confidence. (Youtube)
Actions drive feelings.
Suppose you’re a pro at feeling grumpy. The problem isn’t the feeling. It’s your lack of doing. Grumpy people aren’t doing what they think should be done. Usually they want someone else to do it.
Over a hundred years ago, noted psychologist William James wrote, ”We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble.” Not everyone accepts these observations, but it would serve you well to practice the truth behind them, even if it feels weird.
Suppose you want to feel vitality today. Act like results depend on you. Do something that matters. Waiting for permission to act is an invitation for exhaustion and frustration.
How do actions drive feelings for you?
How might leaders leverage the idea that actions drive feelings?
“How might leaders leverage the idea that actions drive feelings?”
Carefully, perhaps? If that’s the case, what actions you get people to take could raise or lower moods. Pity the guy who has to get people to do something everybody hates.
Thanks Mitch. Now that is a challenge. There is some research I’ve been reading on the value of an underdog identity. Maybe that applies.
Underdog identity. THERE’S an intriguing consideration. Looking forward to your path/writing/perspective on this.
Thanks Daniel. I’m actually coaching a leader who has leveraged this approach to bring out the best in his team. Stay tuned.
Yes. Feelings are consequences. I totally agree. They follow actions. And we can encourage ourselves as the Psalmist does when he speaks to himself. “Why so bowed down, O my soul? Hope in God.” We can choose to feel differently. Thanks, Dan. I needed this today.
Thanks Pete. I need this most days. 🙂
When I wake up breathing, I will have a great Day! And God gives me opportunities every day to pay him back for all he has done for my Family and me by giving me opportunities to train, help, hug and compliment other people, including my work Team, for what they have accomplished and what they need. I am so fortunate working my career in insurance loss control and living my life!
Thanks Samuel. Nothing like a positive attitude for fueling our own energy and the energy of others. Best
Yes–our thoughts and behaviors can trigger our feelings. But sometimes the situation we are in simply produces a strong emotional reaction. When my mother was in the hospital, I felt helpless. When a certain song comes on the radio, I might feel optimistic and energized.
“The secret to managing feelings is creating them.”
How do you make people feel valued and important?
Ask them questions about important issues and listen. Give them your full, undivided attention.
Involve them in important decisions.
Thanks Paul. It seems that solving many leadership challenges includes listening and creating space where people feel heard.
Some days I feel like you’re directly linked to my brain, this is one of them . . . how do you do that?
Thanks Laurie. Now that would be creepy if I could. 🙂
You have always surprised with your gems of the unique POV just keep going……
Thanks for the good word, Hitansu. Onward and upward.
It can become a bad habit. Feeling grumpy, lying on the couch too long, etc. results in lack of motivation and can lead to major depression. When my day is full, I feel fulfilled! Thanks for affirming that we are not alone. It is comforting to know that others get into the same ruts but that through change in behaviors you can overcome.
Thanks Elizabeth. This is so true. We might unintentionally slip into de-energizing habits. Procrastination is one of them.
Generally speaking, thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to actions. But that cycle can be forcibly reverse engineered. You are describing the concept of “activation” which is basically forcing yourself to take action (or being forced by someone else, like your boss) even when your feelings are pushing you toward a different action. This creates cognitive dissonance when your thoughts (I don’t want to get out of bed!!) don’t match your actions (I’m up and moving). Research tells us that your thoughts will change to match your actions. Feelings are the thing in between your actions and your thinking. Interestingly, I think this reverse-engineered cycle forms the essential building blocks of culture – “people like us, do things like this.”
Thanks Jackie. I find it fascinating that thoughts will change to match your actions.
Yes. You can be a more caring person by actually caring more. You can feel more active by being more active.
When asked how I am, I always respond “Excellent.” Even when I was walking around the office with an ice pack on my head due to a minor case of shingles (the ice dulled the pain).
Thanks Jennifer. I hope the shingles are in the past. They’re no fun.
It’s like my wife taught me. You can choose to focus on the bad or choose to focus on the good.
The shingles was years ago and was a mild case. And I made sure to get the shingles vaccine to avoid a repeat.
Everyone has their troubles, and no one needs me adding to their load. Not even me. Saying “Excellent” not only keeps me from launching into a litany of woes, it also makes me find at least one example of why things are, in fact, excellent.
Thanks for the reminder. That is such an important message.
Thanks for the good word, Gary. Cheers
Love this post Dan! Makes me think of “lex orandi lex credendi”
…”the law prayer is the law of belief” or what we pray we believe. Many Church Fathers spoke to the importance of putting physical habits/disciplines/actions in place in order to shape how we feel and react to things and that such disciplines/actions actually shape who we are become.
Eager to see some content on the underdog research. I think there is something there for most people.
Thanks Josh. Wonderful insight. I can’t help but feel the importance of simply taking responsibility for our actions instead of allowing circumstances or emotions to control us.
“I come alive while I’m doing something….The less I do, the less I feel like doing.”
There is much wisdom in your post, but that particular quote brought back memories of my high school football coach. I played offensive tackle (back when tackles also served as receivers on some plays), and it was our practice to run back to the huddle after every play. In one game against a superior opponent, I had been really been getting my tail kicked all night and was slow in getting up from a particularly big pileup after a play. The coach came out to make sure I had not been injured, He asked me if I was hurt, and I replied, “I just need to rest a minute.” He then said, “Get up and just walk back to the huddle, you can rest on the way.”
I have thought of those words often over the years when I was tempted to stop working on some hard task but resolving instead to keep slogging ahead and “rest on the way.”
What do you make of mental illness, Dan? I’m thinking especially of “mood disorders” such as Anxiety and Depression? To what extent are they the fault of those experiencing them? How might your model and advice help us, and how might they harm us?
I’m glad you asked, wretchlikeme. I shy away from mental illness.
My reading indicates that a behavioral approach to these issues is often useful. But that’s as far as I dare to go.
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