When it comes to business, do you discount feelings or associate them with weakness? Does the word conjure up the image of someone crying or being “emotional”? Maybe you believe that to succeed as a leader, you should suppress your feelings. Show only confidence and a stiff upper lip.
Debbie King would argue that the opposite is true. King is a business mindset coach and author of the new book, Loving Your Business. She argues that feelings can actually be leveraged to drive meaningful action for your business by motivating you to create results.
Consider, she says, how courage can spur you to take initiative. Empathy can earn your employees’ loyalty. Confidence can inspire people to trust you. The point is clear: feelings are the rocket fuel for your business.
By learning how to identify positive feelings and create them on purpose, you can generate the actions that help you achieve your goals. Becoming aware of negative feelings like frustration and overwhelm is also important because you can use them as a trigger to ask the question, “What am I focusing on, and will this produce the result that I want?”
Feelings Give You Feedback
Think about a time when you were angry or frustrated at work. You probably tried to swallow it and act like everything was fine, right?
There are many reasons that we as leaders downplay our feelings: it seems unprofessional to get emotional, they’re fleeting, or they make us seem vulnerable. It’s true that you probably don’t want to pick a fight or break down crying in the office, but feelings can have strategic value when you learn to leverage them.
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King says to think of it like a pilot flying an airplane.
The pilot uses the data from their instrument panel as feedback, and the data tells the pilot what course corrections are needed. The pilot doesn’t feel bad when they’re off course, they simply make corrections based on the data. If they don’t have the data, or if they ignore it or reject it, the plane could veer wildly off course. A flight is essentially a series of adjustments, and so is your life.
Our feelings are like that instrument panel on the plane—they provide feedback telling us where we’re heading by pointing to what we’re thinking. When we have negative feelings of anxiety, doubt, or overwhelm, it’s a sure sign that our thoughts have gone off course. We’re thinking about what we don’t want, rather than focusing on our destination. Take a cue from our pilot. Don’t react. Don’t freak out. In fact, don’t take any action at all until you understand the data.
Action taken from negative feelings will not get the results you want. Before you make a course correction, notice how you feel by labeling it, and then identify the thoughts creating that feeling.
This approach is useful because monitoring every thought you have isn’t realistic. You can, however, train yourself to pay attention to feelings of anxiety, frustration, worry, doubt, or overwhelm. Use your feelings as the cue to identify what you’re thinking.
For example, imagine you want to scale your company but feel anxious about it. That feeling is your cue to examine your thoughts. You realize you’re thinking I don’t know how to scale. This feeling of uncertainty can lead you to doubt your ability to succeed, drive you to take on too much work too fast, or spend money on misguided solutions.
Instead, when you have the thought I don’t know how to scale, tell yourself, “It’s the trajectory that matters most. I’ll try one thing at a time, do my best, evaluate the results, and keep iterating.”
Now, you’re feeling focused, which drives you to strategize and plan your scaling effort. You’re more likely to succeed because your thoughts and feelings are aligned with the outcome you want.
Turn Feelings into Massive Action
Action creates results, and King says the fastest way to get the results you want is to align your thoughts and feelings with what you want to achieve.
The next time you’re feeling anxious, angry, or afraid, don’t discount or suppress your feelings. Notice the feelings and use them as a signal which tells you whether you are on or off course.
Train yourself to use feelings as a prompt to ask, “What am I thinking?” You’ll notice when you have a negative feeling, it’s preceded by a negative thought. Once you see the connection, it becomes clear how your thoughts create feelings and feelings drive actions. It’s all connected, and it’s under your control.
Decide how you want to feel—how you believe you’ll feel when you get a specific result in your business. Then choose thoughts that make you feel that way now—before you take action. Aligning your thoughts and feelings this way is the rocket fuel that powers the engine of your actions, enabling you to get further, faster, with less effort.