When I was growing up, I wanted so badly to be "famous." That seems like a fairly typical dream for any teenage girl, right? Sure, it was a "normal" fantasy, but it wasn't necessarily the best use of my energy. The problem underlying this early career dream was that I programmed myself to look at success purely through the lens of possession, what I would have: money, clothes, fabulous parties and friends — a luxurious lifestyle all around.
But I never considered how I would feel, and the importance of happiness and fulfillment when considering the meaning of success. Of course, I always assumed, on some level, that I would be "happy." I mean, why wouldn’t I be?
But this assumption is dangerous, especially in light of our culture's emphasis on money and possessions. Think about it: so many of us say, “Well, I'll be happy when I get that raise ... when I finish this project ... when I move across the country ... when I meet my dream partner." Too often we think of happiness as conditional on these external markers of "success."
As I grew up, I luckily began to understand that my emotions were so much more important than my possessions — and by extension that my possessions certainly wouldn't confirm my happiness. Sometimes, I'd get the things that I wanted, and then wonder: why doesn’t this feel right?
So today, I’m going to show you a three-step framework you can follow to use how you feel to get the kind of success in life that suits you.
1. Get curious.
If you’ve ever heard yourself think or say, “I get restless when I’m alone”, this first step is especially important. So often we’re told to push emotions away or that it’s a waste of time to understand them — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If there’s anything to change your mind, it’s that the further away you push how you feel, the more control unhealthy habits or beliefs will have over your life.
So your first step is to simply get curious about what’s going on with you. Why do you feel anxious or happy today? What happened in that meeting that made you feel angry? Instead of thinking, “Oh, no! It's that feeling again!” instead think, “Hmm. what’s going on here? Let me take a few minutes to find out.”
2. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend — no matter what.
When you first start understanding the kind of emotions you’re feeling, it’s easy to get mad, annoyed, or frustrated and want to push them away. “Ugh, I’m so silly for being angry by this. I shouldn’t let it bother me.”
But consider a radical, but simple alternative: what if we talked to our thoughts like a friend would?
You could gently ask, "Hm, why do you feel that way?” rather than berating yourself or becoming guilty for allowing feelings anger or frustration to arise.
What this kind of talk does is relieve so much of the stigma of having uncomfortable or negative emotions, and allows you to talk to yourself with compassion. Doing this lets you see it like a friend or outsider would, and therefore come up with healthy ways to deal with it. The result? You're much better equipped to actually deal with challenges that are going on.
3. Find a solution.
After being curious and talking with yourself, the last step is to find a solution for what’s going on. If you’re feeling sad, maybe you need 20 minutes of alone time. If someone bothered you, maybe it’s time to figure out what you’ll say to that person so you can express how you feel. And sometimes, all a thought or emotion needs is a little attention and the solution is just to let it be there vs. trying to "fix" it.
The incredible benefits of this step-by-step process of cultivating emotional intelligence is that you’ll find that you’ll learn to be in better control of your emotions, rather than letting them controlling you. This is something that "success" will never be able to provide for you.
Just imagine having a particularly long or busy day — but feeling that you handled it well instead of lashing out or getting so stressed you couldn’t think. Or being able to handle conflict with grace because you’re not in your head, stewing with anger. And even better than that, imagine feeling confident that whatever direction you choose to go in life should not be based on what people think you "should" do — but on decisions that align with what you want, and who you are.
Felicia has a few gifts just for MindBodyGreen readers who want to use their emotional awareness to develop their personal magnetism.