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I got an email from a client voicing his disappointment in his progress, and also in his inability to make efficient use of his time. Specifically, he was disappointed in his “inability to control his emotions.”
I thought my response might strike a chord with others as well.
I think you’re forgetting to take a couple of factors into account. The first is that no one can be productive all day every day. The goose and the golden eggs, right? Learn to recognize the symptoms of tiredness and overwhelm, and accept them. Yeah, yeah, push your limits, blah, blah, blah. That’s only a short term solution, one that ends in burn out. Sustainable progress is about discipline, and being attentive to the point of diminished returns. Once you get there, turn off your brain. It takes more discipline and control to do that than not, let me tell you.
Second, emotions are not there to be controlled. They’re sources of information to be interpreted. It’s only by disciplined use of the messages your emotions have that you can make the best decisions.
Look at it this way. If you were a general in the Roman army, and a messenger came into your tent to tell you that the second division had broken formation and was about to flee, what would you do?
Are you going to:
- kill the messenger for informing you that a division of your men are failing you?
- go out and shout at them? (er, sorry “rally the troops”)
- dispatch a different unit to help them so that at least the ones that haven’t fled have a formation to join?
Obviously, option one is just dumb. And yet, that’s essentially what you do when you ignore your emotions.
Option two, browbeating yourself into doing what you think you ought is not a very good plan, because of how humans react under stress. Please note, you are a human.
Option three, send help is the only effective response you have. If your subconscious is sending signals that point to trouble, whether it’s fear, frustration, boredom, anxiety, or anger, ignoring or bullying it in the name of maintaining control won’t work.
You have to figure out the reasoning behind the emotion. What’s triggering it? What can you do to correct the trigger. If you’re bored, why? Would racing the clock to get down be enough to mitigate that? If not, what would?
I know it’s a bit of a leap to go from buttoning down your emotional responses to listening to them, so don’t expect a change overnight. But ignoring them, while it sounds like such a good, sane, effective, reasonable choice on the surface, is fraught with all kinds of problems. Don’t shoot the messenger.