(Susan David, Harvard Business Review) – We often hear tips and tricks for helping us to “control” our emotions, but that’s the wrong idea: strong emotions aren’t bad, and they don’t need to be pushed down or controlled; they are, in fact, data. Our emotions evolved as a signaling system, a way to help us communicate with each other and to better understand ourselves. What we need to do is learn to develop emotional agility, the capacity to mine even the most difficult emotions for data that can help us make better decisions.
What’s the function of the emotion?
To make the most of that data, ask yourself what the function of your emotion is. What is it telling you? What is it trying to signal?
Consider the example of Mikhail, who found himself in a perpetual cycle of stress because of the never-ending onslaught of tasks at work. As he more precisely defined his emotions, he realized what he was feeling wasn’t just stress: he felt a more general dissatisfaction with his work, disappointment in some of his career choices, and anxiety about what the future held for him. Once Mikhail recognized and accepted these emotions, he was able to see what they were signaling to him: he had started to question whether he was on the right career path.