Identifying, facilitating, understanding and regulating personal emotions.
The life of an entrepreneurs is saturated with high intensity emotional experiences, be they positive or negative. More or less controlled, emotions put their mark on our actions and decisions, which can be an asset or an obstacle. Because of this fact, putting into practice and harnessing emotional intelligence in the professional environment brings many benefits. Although barely addressed by formal education, self-awareness (more in-depth addressed in Part I, Module 1 of this training course) is of vital importance.
In this module we will focus on those emotions that you are more prone to confront with as an entrepreneur. Mind, we don’t say these are the ONLY emotions you will be confronted with – just a starting point.
Moreover, although here we are talking about emotions by themselves, in reality, it is very difficult to make a clear distinction between them and thoughts, feelings or other more complicated aspects such as character and personality traits.
You may think it would be great to have a robot-like thinking ability, with no trace of emotion – then all your decisions will be perfectly rational and correct. Well, in fact you need those emotions to be a great entrepreneur. You need the energy they generate. Although often labelled as positive or negative - emotions are neither. They are messengers and they’re here to serve you. You need all of them as long as you harness and direct their energy constructively. Keep reading to find out why and how you can turn them into your best allies.
Common sense, and to some extent, specialized literature tends to clasify emotions as either positive or negative, based on if they're pleasureable to experience or not. In other words - do they 'feel good' or 'feel bad' (either on cognitive or physiological level). Simply labeling them as negative or positive most probably leads us to do whatever it takes to avoid those in the 1st cathegoy and experience more from those in the 2nd.
However, there are a few things to be taken into consideration:
Although there are similarities, emotions are profoundly subjective experiences. They can be influenced culturally or through education - or by self-learning- think about something you were scared to do and now enjoy doing because you know how to.
Another aspect is the behavioral aspect of the emotion - and the outcome of that.
There are things that feel bad - but in the end have a good outcome.
Things that feel good in the moment but have a bad outcome.
Things that both feel bad and have a bad outcome (you might want to stay away from these though).
Things that both feel good and have a good outcome (of course you want more of these).
The last two cathegories are quite easy to manage. But as an entrepreneur, you will very often meet the first 2 situations - so this is what you will need to master.
In the beginning chances are you will be confronted with frustration, disappointment, fear, hopelessness and what not. But great ideas come out of frustration. Doing those things other are afraid or too lazy to do will bring you closer to success.
Then the 2nd cathegory comes. Quitting might feel pleasurable on the moment. Or doing something that you know you will give you immediate releif - such as quitting a situation you find difficult.
Sometimes (or most of the times?) might be difficult to distinguish between the different types of situations and between of the different types of emotions.
What can help is to get some CLARITY - by asking yourself the following questions:
- How does this feel (physically)? Get aware of the physiological component. Do you have palpitations, are you breathing differently, feel tension in any part of your body, heaviness/lightness?
-What was the trigger (most usually one of your thoughts). Of course, the tought can be determined by some piece of information, something that someone said - but it is still a thought. Is this a habitual thing, does it come often, like it's automated. Or can you relate it to a specific situation.
-The behavioral component: what do you feel like doing? Is it in line with your values of long term goals? Is there any immediate danger? If not, in most cases, it's better not to act immediately, at the impulse of the emotion - but give yourself a little time to process it.
Without the pretense this is a complete approach, take a look at the emotions wheel below - which might help you with categorizing some of the most common emotions. However, mind that you might be experiencing mixed, ambivalent or multiple emotions at the same time.
Use this emotion wheel to get some clarity. If this one doesen't fit your needs or situation, feel free to create your own.
It is largely recognized that entrepreneurial activity is very emotionally loaded, and that emotions affect most of the core-tasks of an entrepreneur.
They affect aspects such as behavior, ability to identify opportunities, make decisions, as well as cognitive process such as attention, creative thinking, problem solving, error identification, motivation.
Entrepreneurs are not robots, heartless decision-making machines.
They do also feel fear, anger, joy, confidence and passion. However, what makes the difference between them and regular people is the way they use these emotions, and their ability to turn them into allies.
For example, when someone feels fear in a specific situation, they most likely avoid it as much as possible.
For an entrepreneur, fear can be a motivation factor to overprepare, put in more effort and do what they’re afraid of. ‘I’m afraid of it but I do it anyway’.
Anger, if properly managed – can be turned into proactive actions and have a protective role – you won’t be caught again in the same unpleasant situation that made you feel and react unproperly before.
Frustration can make an entrepreneur extremely creative and determined. When you have anything you need, you don’t have to put in too much effort to get things done, you might even get bored– but when you have to work with limited resources – your creativity will kick in to help you fill the gaps with what you have.
Frustration was at the basis of the greatest products and services – how many times have you heard ‘I couldn’t find this and that, so I decided to do it myself’.
Confidence can make you more convincing and persuasive – but beware – too much of it can have the opposite effect by making you entitled and unrealistic.
Entrepreneurial Passion is another type of ‘meta-experience’ or a more complex emotion. Research shows a correlation not only between the motivation that arises in the case of entrepreneurs that follow a previous passion and create a business out of it, but also that the entrepreneurial activity in itself create passion.
‘Passion is an emotional experience that arises and influences entrepreneurial outcomes; furthermore, entrepreneurial passion - both positive and intense - is an emotional meta-experience, which the entrepreneur constantly utilizes for the benefit of the venture’ (Cardon et al., 2005).
Emotional Regulation can be defined as the ability through which individuals influence the emotions they experience – including when, how, and they way they express them. This process can either be consciously controlled or automatic. It refers to any type of emotions, positive or negative, and it has to do with the way we influence their intensity, the way we use them or control them.
Three main behavior-related components influence the process of emotional regulation:
Initiation of actions triggered by emotions
Inhibition of actions triggered by emotion
Modulating responses triggered by emotions
As an entrepreneur, you will be confronted with thousands of situations triggering various emotional responses, most often negative. It is highly important to be able to take conscious control, identify the triggers and modulate your response (internal – the way you feel, and external – the way you react, behave and what you say) to the situation.
As an entrepreneur, you will need to learn and develop your own effective ways to quickly recover from the effect of negative emotions and stressful situations. In the tough world of business, we are taught to think that even having emotions, not speaking of expressing them, is a sign of weakness. This, in many cases leads to suppression of emotions, of bottling up, and not even being aware of them anymore. However, suppression is not a desirable solution as research shows that, beyond the negative impact on our health, it creates stress and lowers our cognitive and creative ability.
There are 2 more effective ways to facilitate your own emotions:
Reappraisal – consists in cognitively reframing an upsetting situation/event to reduce its negative impact
Labeling – consists in expressing (even in private) the respective emotions, identifying them and their components and naming them (remember the emotions wheel?).
- works as scheduled; it can be programmed either actively, through your conscious thought choices – or passively – information taken from the environment;
-doesn’t know the difference between a real situation or a imagined one. In other words, if you think or imagine a dangerous situation, for example, it will react as if it was real.
-depending on the information received and stored, we react involuntarily to stimuli and situations;
- stocking statements like “I can’t sign this contract” or “I can’t achieve the objective.” will determine the outcome – most of the time what’s in your subconscious will manifest in reality;
-intentional programming, by “inserting” positive statements, influences the chances of success – these statements can be a veritable antidote against stress.
Regarding the business environment, the misinterpretation or the wrong perception of gestures, words or even the presence of the person we are discussing / negotiating with or of the collective / employees, generates negative impulses and blockages in the brain, improper decisions, inappropriate reactions. These can lead to loss or reduction in the company's business success chances.
Check out the video below.
Self-awareness, adjusting you mindset
You will be able to remove negative thoughts.
You will be able to set achievable and measurable goals.
You will learn to identify and control the influence of the triggering factors.
Visualisation. Meditation. Goal setting.
Why this activity is important?
At subconscious level, the information received, thoughts (most of the time automatic), memories and triggering factors generate reactions and involuntary decisions which might not be optimal for your business success. However, by focusing on the clarity of a desired outcome, you will increase your chances of reaching it.
Description of the activity
Take a piece of paper and write down a list of 10 major past experiences.
Draw an arrow from each one and at the end of it write the main motivation. Was it a negative or a positive one? Why do you labeled it as either negative or positive? What emotion/s accompanied each one? Do you see a recurrent negative/positive emotion in the list?
Identify items with negative impact from the list and write them on a separate page. Develop the description of the emotion/emotions you identified. Find the trigger thought that created the emotion.
Change the meaning of each one by turning the negative into the positive (e.g. I can't because in I can because).
Highlight the expected final result – write it down as a measurable objective.
Create a long-term calendar to track your progress.
Self-awareness, creative visualization
You will be able to focus on the desired outcome and the emotions accompanying it.
You will be able to gain more clarity and take steps to improve your results.
Self-reflection, mindfulness and visualization. You will need to allocate at least 30 minutes and find a quiet place where you won't be distracted.
Why this activity is important?
Mental rehearsal is a techniques often used by high achievers in various fields, including athletic training. It will help you program your mind for success and also to get clarity on what you can do to improve the desired outcomes.
Description of the activity
The method itself is simple – however, it will take some will power to keep your focus and not let yourself distracted by automatic/negative thinking patterns and other stimuli.
Sitting in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for at least 30 minutes, choose an upcoming event in the near future that is important for you and you are not sure about the outcome: it could be an exam, a speech, presentation, negotiation.
Try to relax physically and mentally, and start visualizing the situation, with as many details as possible (where, who else is there, what are you wearing, sounds, temperature). See yourself as you are there, in the middle of the situation (don’t visualize yourself from the outside, it doesn’t work). See yourself as calm, confident, and performing as you would ideally want to. See the positive reactions of the other people. Feel the contentment/happiness of the desired outcome being reached.
Slowly get out of the meditative/relaxation state.
Take a piece of paper and write down the following:
- How do you feel right now?
- What was the most difficult part of the visualization (that took the most will power – maybe some negative thoughts interfered, or you couldn’t keep your focus). This part is probably where you will need more clarity so you can be better prepared for the real experience.
- What measures/actions can you put in place to be better prepared for the real experience.
- What were the negative thoughts that interfered with your visualization.
- Visualization helps a lot – but it does not replace real preparation/training. You can’t just go unprepared and expect to perform well at an exam just because you did a visualization exercise. It will help you with gaining more clarity about what you can do to be better prepared, and maximize the results you can get by programming your mind for a state of calm and positiveness.
You can take charge of your own emotions and use them as your allies to reach your objectives.
Feeling like you've already improved your ability to manage your own emotions? Take this test and check it out!
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