3 Easy Steps to Personal Mastery and Emotional Health

How should you handle anger, sadness and jealousy? Hint: Learn not to fight them.

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By R. Michael Anderson

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How do you handle your negative emotions? What do you do when you get angry, sad or jealous?

Related: The Physical and Emotional Truths of Entrepreneurship

Many people fight these feelings, believing that mastery of oneself means being in total control at all times. They try to cover up their emotions and pretend they don't exist. They do their best to push them right out of their consciousness and act like nothing ever bothers them.

But this isn't healthy. It doesn't work, and it holds us back both professionally and personally. Distancing ourselves from our emotions leads to feelings of loneliness and disconnection from life. What's more, when we push aside our emotions, the only place to push them to is the subconscious, where they lurk in the background and threaten to surface at the worst possible moments. "Out of sight, out of mind" does not apply here.

The simple truth is that our emotions are what make us human. Getting in touch with them is key to achieving personal mastery. And it takes only a small shift in thinking to transform our relationship with negative emotions and lead a happier, healthier life.

We can accomplish that in three easy steps:

1. Become aware.

Start by slowing down. None of us has ever become more aware of what's going on inside ourselves by multitasking. So, sit somewhere quiet with no distractions, or go for a walk in nature -- without your music player or cellphone. Breathe. Scan your body for discomfort. Take inventory of your feelings. Listen to yourself and be honest about what you're feeling. You might be surprised at how quickly you can tune in.

2. Embrace your feelings.

When you grasp a deeper awareness of what's going on inside yourself, accept the feelings. Let yourself be okay with the fact that you're experiencing them. It's been proven that accepting your emotional state is the quickest, most healthy way to move through it. The truth is, it's okay to be angry. Tell yourself, "Right now I'm pissed off -- and that's fine." Sadness, too, is a natural human emotion that helps us process unpleasant events. Remember: Everything is temporary. A short, powerful phrase that helps is, "This too shall pass."

Related: A Fitbit for Your Employees' Emotional Health? It's Already Happening.

3. Move into positivity.

After you have fully accepted your current state, move yourself into a more positive mental space. We can do a lot to impact our feelings and present state of mind. For starters, instead of flat-out rejecting the unhappy thoughts, replace them with positive ones. Some quick ideas to get you started:

  • Write down everything positive you've accomplished in the last week.

  • Work out or do some yoga.

  • Get together with someone who makes you happy.

  • Help someone out.

  • Treat yourself to something you haven't done in a while.

  • Book a vacation.

The more you do this, the easier it gets.

No one -- except maybe yourself -- expects you to be some kind of emotionless, stoical superhero. So, stop trying to be one. The fact is, personal mastery is not being "perfect" -- it's being true to your whole self, the good and the bad, and accepting all of it.

This is what we mean by authenticity. Who are the people you feel comfortable with and drawn to? These are likely the ones who are comfortable and honest with themselves. When we hide from our emotions, we fall out of alignment with ourselves. People pick up on that, so when you are more authentic, people trust you more. How much more effective would you be at work by instantly having tighter relationships with others?

Start being that leader people want to follow, the one who inspires trust and loyalty in everyone she meets. It all begins with accepting yourself, your feelings, your path. When we accept who we are -- emotions and all -- others will do the same.

Related: Emotional Intelligence Can Be Your Project's Most Critical Success Factor

R. Michael Anderson

Founder, The Executive JOY Institute

R. Michael Anderson is the founder of the Executive JOY Institute.

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