Emotions are signals

Emotions can often be a tricky topic. Especially in a world that appears to place greater importance on thinking, facts, logic and reasoning. 

Instead of suppressing or controlling emotions, how about considering what they might tell us?

Because emotions can really be great points of insight and leverage for change.

As one of my favourite psychologists, Susan David explains in her HBR article on managing emotions:

“Our emotions can teach us valuable lessons. Let them shine a light on what you want to change, how you want to act in the future, or what is valuable to you.”

Emotions are rich data points. So what’s this signal tell us? 

For me, if I react to something a couple of times (or maybe a bit more when I’m on autopilot or in avoidance-mode), that’s usually a signal to pay attention. I have something to address or adapt. Or an opportunity to learn and grow (ouch!).

Another important question to ask is: how does my reaction align with my values?

Sometimes we don’t really know what our values are. Or we might have a sense, yet can’t articulate them.

If so, then consider these starter questions, which Susan David provides in her book Emotional Agility

  • Deep down, what matters to me?
  • What relationships do I want to build?
  • What do I want my life to be about?
  • How do I feel most of the time? What kinds of situations make me feel most vital?
  • If a miracle occurred and all the anxiety and stress in my life were suddenly gone, what would my life look like and what new things would I pursue?

Values are a little like a north star, guiding you.

Not something you can easily ask yourself when you’re swallowed by the heat of the moment. Better to explore when you can take a step back to create a little space and cool the jets. 

Though, when you do have this up your sleeve, it can really help move you through your day with more ease and purpose. And this can help you navigate challenging situations or make better choices and decisions.