In the Uber-Human, Hyper-Efficient, Success-Driven world of business, little attention is given to emotions. (Have you noticed?) Instead, focus is placed on efficiency, strategy, action, and goals.
What happens, then, is that people who feel deeply or are sensitive find that this approach doesn’t work. We wonder if perhaps we just weren’t meant to be successful or efficient or goal-oriented. Or worse, that something is wrong with us.
Nothing is wrong with you. And yes, you can still succeed in business.
Here are some perspectives from my business journey that may help you navigate your emotions, and quit positioning yourself as the hapless victim of them.
Are Your Emotions the “Truth”?
I began doing healing work in my early 20’s when I healed bulimia without drugs or Western medicine. Energy healing, acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, retreats, meditation and other modalities…all contributed in some way to my wellness.
But at one point, I realized my emotions were often stuck in a default pattern.
I’d end up feeling the same old things, in spite of my progress. With no small amount of pride, I chalked it up to being more sensitive, authentic, and emotional than this cold cold world. (A Portrait of the Artist as a Drama Queen.) I got more and more drained by these patterns.
That’s when I learned about the “untruth” of emotions.
I was at a retreat. The leader offered the perspective that we don’t have emotions. Instead, we “do” emotions. She said that, yes, we might feel them. But we choose to DO them.
I got my biggest a-ha not from what the teacher said, but from how the person next to me reacted. This person rolled her eyes, and huffed, “Oh please.”
I saw myself in her reaction. I saw how vehemently I clung to “my truth!” I saw my own self-righteousness and attachment. In other words, “Don’t challenge my feelings! They’re my version of the truth that I want to hear! And that truth is that I’m sensitive and caring. And you aren’t!”
From that day on, even in my worst emotional attacks, I felt this little inner-observer watching me with curiosity, scratching her chin and thinking, “Hmmmm. Now, I’m doing insecurity. Now I’m doing fear. Now I’m doing hopelessness.”
So was I, in fact, “doing” these emotions?
85% of the time, I was.
The challenge, then, was how to choose differently.
Can You Choose Your Emotions?
When someone says that you can choose an emotion, it might piss you off at first. Emotions just are, aren’t they? Emotions happen!
It takes a high degree of awareness, attention and persistence, but you can choose differently.
I’ve actually made myself stop all activity until I was able to raise my emotional level even a notch. Sometimes this has required me to simply just take what Tara Brach calls a “sacred pause.” It means I sit still and breathe. When the stillness brings more calm, I will ask the question, “Is this feeling true?”
Other times, I have opted for an NLP technique, like focusing my eyes upwards and breathing. (This usually works best right when you catch the emotion or the thought coming on.)
And there have been times when I’ve just said to myself, “Nope! Not putting my energy there right now!”
How you make a different choice comes with practice. This is a process that takes time. (I can’t stress this part enough!) But it is possible.
Start with a sacred pause when you find yourself struck with a highly charged emotion. Sit quietly, hands on heart. Breathe deeply for at least 5 minutes. And then ask yourself, “Is this true?” That’s enough to create a pattern interrupt.
How Emotions Feed Your Ego
In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle teaches that some emotions serve only as food for the ego or “pain body.” The emotion may feel debilitating, but in actuality, it’s building you up. In the world of the ego, you become “morally superior” to the situation you’re reacting to. You inflate.
When you’re raging at the traffic, you make yourself “morally superior” to the traffic. If you furiously state that rich people are all greedy bastards and that wealth is achieved by unconscious people, then you become “morally superior” to wealth.
Even when you’re deflated in your emotions – guilt, for instance – you feed your ego. It gets to feed on the identity of being “wrong” or “less than” — which can evolve into being “more sensitive than the rest of the world.” (Which conveniently makes you morally superior. Hah!) Emotions can be tricksters. The ego’s smoke and mirrors.
My experience has taught me that many emotions keep us stuck (and safe). In business, for instance, if you want to raise your prices, you may have to deal with the emotions that come up if someone says no, or accuses you of being greedy. For many of my clients, that’s a huge pattern to work with.
You might not want to have to face all of those feelings, so you play it safe and don’t change your pricing. Or you don’t expand your business. The pattern locks in. Then you tell yourself you’re lazy. You label yourself a procrastinator.
But really you’re just staying safe.
You might say that you “can’t take” all that rejection. But what you really can’t take is what you’re telling yourself about all that rejection. Emotions can be powerful teachers.
Is it Emotion? Or is it a Story?
The biggest awakening I’ve had is recognizing how many of my emotions aren’t even emotions. They’re really just “stories.” When I sit quietly and allow an emotion to be there, I often enforce this rule: No Stories Allowed. (Stories can range from “Poor me” to “Why bother?” to “No one wants me” to “These idiots always screw everything up!” to “I’ll never get this right!”)
When I can sit with the emotion, allowing just the emotion to be there without the story that accompanies it, the emotion dissipates pretty quickly. This is good. It allows me to experience that energy without repressing it.
Emotions are really not that big of a deal when there’s no story to anchor on to them. Emotions just are.
The Real Lesson Behind Your Business and Your Intentions
One year, in late September, my client Tina called me in a panic. At the beginning of the year, she had done a goal-setting process I teach called The Commitment to Uplevel. She had set a goal to make $250,000 in her business by the end of the year. She was at $169,000 – nowhere close to her goal.
She was in the midst of an emotional attack of shame.
Let’s be honest. Most business coaches would tell you to get over it. They’d say, “Hustle!” Drive hard! And kick. that. goal’s. ass.
For some, this works. We’re a culture of achievers! We get shit done, right?
But with my sensitive clients, this is a surefire shame spiral. So I took a different path. I coached her about power and relationship.
I told her to remain connected to this goal. I told her that setting goals teaches us more about our relationship to those goals than anything else. In this case, she was learning about an old pattern of berating and shaming herself. I coached her to simply stay in relationship to her number and watch these patterns as they unfold. We created a marketing plan for the coming months – but it didn’t involve kicking anything’s ass or crushing some mysterious “it.”
Guess what? She chilled out. And a few amazing opportunities fell in her lap in October. She stayed present and took action. A few more prospects came her way in November. And by December 31, she hit $246K.
Was she bummed that she didn’t hit her exact goal number? Not at all.
The reason I encourage emotional types to set goals and really OWN their business is because of the great expansion that come with this territory. If you approach your intentions and your business with clarity and awareness, you get to see all of your resulting emotional moments for what they are: old thought patterns.
If you are sensitive and/or emotional, consider that you’re in business because it provides so many opportunities to break out of old patterns, to nurture yourself, to set boundaries, and to become clear.
In fact, some of my most “sensitive” clients have become the most “attractive” entrepreneurs because their sensitivity ultimately makes them better marketers, communicators, and leaders. They are authentic. People are drawn to them.
So, are you up for it? Are you willing to reframe your emotions so that you can expand into a higher level of relationship with your business? Do tell!