In the business world, an unspoken rule suggests that emotions have a detrimental impact on our ability to achieve. But how accurate is this assumption?
Here is my life experiment: the Emotional Log.
Approximately 6 months ago, I came across an app called How We Feel.
As someone who experiences a wide range of daily emotions, this log has been a game-changer. It became a habit to log my emotions, whether I felt low, elevated, or neutral, bringing me closer to grasping the WHATs and WHYs of my feelings.
Let´s dive into the insights of the 55 emotions I felt in a single month.
Shifting from Suppression to Exploration
First thing I learned is that embracing emotions opens doors to a whole new type of self-awareness, such that allows us a deeper look into our own behaviour. Our limited emotional vocabulary becomes evident when we pause to truly FEEL and NAME our feelings. When we stop suppressing, we can start exploring.
For instance, I learned the distinction between emotions like peeved and jittery, depressed and numb, tranquil and mellow, inspired and elated. After a month, I was able to notice the nuances between. This allowed me to reevaluate my behaviour.
Two insights were very surprising: 1) I realised that I often would give an emotion a WRONG LABEL, 2) I would subconsciously MASK one emotion with another.
Let's break this down. (1) Imagine a scenario where I had a disagreement with a colleague during a strategic meeting. Initially, I might label my feeling as annoyance due to opposition to my strategy. However, a closer look at the situation revealed that my colleague's arguments were valid, and the right label to my reaction derived from exhaustion. (2) The experiment also showed that in order to avoid public vulnerability, we might replace certain negative emotions with seemingly 'safer' ones. For instance, expressing anger is usually discouraged in a professional context. So I may label mine as restlessness, therefore running away from investigating the trigger at all.
The problem with getting used to MASKING negative emotions is that it deprives us of the ability to RECOGNIZE, EXPRESS and OWN them altogether.
Exploring the 4 Emotional Clusters
Emotions can be grouped into four categories by the level of ENERGY – high or low, and the perceived EXPERIENCE – pleasant or unpleasant.
The advantage of understanding where your logged emotions fall?
Noticing EMOTIONAL PATTERNS.
My Log shows that typically my days start on a positive note - with the green and yellow clusters reflecting positive emotions. However, as the day progresses, emotions from the blue and red clusters tend to dominate.
What's the underlying reason? This signifies an energy decline.
The key insight here is the profound impact a negative emotion can have, affecting the entire week. Throughout the month, I encountered 65% positive and 35% negative emotions. Yet, if you asked my overall feeling of October, I would probably PERCEIVE it as a stressful month.
Why? Mainly because MOST DAYS ended with negative emotions, which tend to persist in our awareness that the positive ones.
Emotions influence our Behavioural Patterns
Just as we brush our teeth daily out of HABIT, we tend to express specific emotions in response to familiar triggers, often without questioning them.
While workplace irritability may be linked to declining energy levels, various factors contribute to our daily mood: the weather, physical activity, nutrition, and sleep. My experiment showed me that emotions are interconnected and can also build upon each other, triggering a "cascading" effect; for example, disappointment can transition into apathy, and overwhelm can escalate to anger.
Therefore, allowing negative emotions to dominate our weeks undeniably hinders productivity. What is worse, it hinders our ability to enjoy our free time as well.
Win your Week with Life Design
What can you do to hack your mood and therefore improve your weeks? It's essential to break the negative emotional cycle as soon as we notice it.
Understanding your emotions offers further benefits in enhancing our Life Design and decision-making processes. Recognizing when your energy dwindles, allows your to strategically plan activities to counteract potential negative spirals.
Surprisingly, both negative and positive emotions, which are highly charged with ENERGY (represented by yellow and red), can motivate you to take action. This is excellent news because you can be equally productive when you're excited as when you're restless. It's all a matter of choice.
For instance, if I know that restlessness strikes around 5 pm, I plan an energizing activity: a 45-minute visit to the swimming pool. Besides getting instantly relaxed, I can effectively avoid the trap of negativity overall.
Lastly, your emotions are a unique guide for making better decisions. Many of the job and life dilemmas are more complex than a pro-con list can resolve. They fall into the category of “wicked problems”, going beyond the traditional problem-solving based on logic and facts, and demanding our empathy and intuition. Read More about Wicked Problems
Emotions, Leadership and Technology
In both my roles as an employee and a leader, I aim to approach conversations with colleagues and customers positively. I design my week to bring my best self to work. Yet, there are days when I feel pessimistic.
I never have full CONTROL over my mood.
Emotions are a fundamental HUMAN trait, and leaders are no exception.
A quote from a recent business webinar on the future of leadership has stayed with me: Employees would still prefer to be led by an imperfect human being than a flawless AI. So, no worries - neither you, nor your boss will be out of a job because of technology anytime soon. But digital tools like Emotional Logs can be useful to enhance your work experience.
Perhaps it's time to recognize the significance of emotions at work for what they truly are – our unique human skillset, improving decision-making and work-life balance.