Messaging out in the world typically centers around being positive, that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place in our life. Research, however, has proven that attempting to minimize or ignore thoughts and emotions only amplifies them.
Author, psychologist, and executive coach Susan David introduces a concept that she terms “emotional agility,” defined as: “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings so that you can respond optimally to everyday situations.” In contrast to this ability is “emotional rigidity,” or the tendency to “get hooked by thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that don’t serve you.”
As Susan David states, "Emotional agility is not about ignoring difficult emotions and thoughts; it's about holding them loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to make big things happen in your life." The ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to success. Emotional agility helps to alleviate stress, reduce errors, increase innovative, and improve job performance.
Susan David presents a four-step model to building greater emotional agility:
1. Show up and face your emotions with curiosity and acceptance. Even though you may be tempted to ignore the uncomfortable ones, face them anyway, this clears the way for positive change.
2. Step out and detach from your emotions. This detachment will enable you to feel more autonomous over your actions and decisions. See them for what they are, simply emotions, not who you are. In doing so, label them as accurately as possible, this will help you to better understand their causes and what to do about them.
3. Walking your why. Use your core values to drive you forward. When deciding on what action to take, ask yourself whether this decision reflects your core values and long term goals.
4. Moving on. In moving forward, make small, purposeful adjustments to align your mindset, motivation and habits with your core values. Make sure that these adjustments are connected to who you want to be in your life.
As Susan David says, “We reach emotional agility…through a series of tiny steps in everyday moments over the course of a lifetime.” Being aware and intentional with our choices and remembering that we can always choose again.
To learn more about emotional agility consider Susan David's book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life.