If you’re anything like me, you have big emotional reactions to the things you love and make you feel good. But you also react to the things that you hate and make you feel bad. The things that try to tear you down.
I used to get spun out of control and it would take me days to get back to emotionally neutral if something attacked my self-esteem. Yes, my friends, that’s usually where it starts. It’s an attack on your self-esteem.
But I knew if I wanted to be successful, I had to get control of my emotions. Emotional intelligence is the ultimate form of mind control and if you want to shorten your reaction time to emotional triggers, then read on…
We all have reactions, and nine times out of 10, the things we’re struggling with are internal. It’s the battle of the two different mindsets. The mindset that tells you that you can do it and the one that says that you can’t. The mindset that feels happy one minute and then is overwhelmed with anxiety and doesn’t know how to lift the veil of depression the next. The mindset that tells you:
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m not pretty enough.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not fast enough.”
“I’m not rich enough.”
All of these thought patterns, if left unchecked, can damage your self-esteem. And your mindset has a direct impact on your emotions and self-esteem.
Remember, all of life is disciplined practice. If you want to get control of your emotions, you’re going to have to practice and rebuild your self-esteem.
When you get pissed off or someone dings your ego, that sting to your gut is usually a reminder to feel badly about yourself. If your reaction is to tear down the person who said the negative comment about you, that doesn’t serve you well. You have to rebuild your pride around the willingness to not make the uncomfortable sting that you’re feeling somebody else’s fault.
When properly reframed, you will realize that even though the messenger was trying to be hurtful and cruel, they had a good message. And it’s good because you can use it to actually move yourself towards your goals. If they remind you of something that you’re not good at. Great. You can train yourself to get better at anything. Just don’t lose sight of your goal, which has to be to shorten the time you feel badly about yourself. Because feeling badly about yourself does not move you toward your goals.
Don’t build your self-esteem around being right, good, or powerful; build it around identifying the right answer. The powerful answer. The potent and efficient answer — faster than anyone else.
Don’t be afraid to nakedly look at the things that you’ve failed to get good at thus far. Your very willingness to look at your weaknesses and turn them into strengths by improving and getting better should be something you feel good about.
What moves you towards your goals is turning that sting into a positive trigger. A trigger that starts the reminder that you’re building your self-esteem around something different.
What will your positive trigger be? That’s up to you to decide. You can use the habit formation techniques found in some of my favorite books as a starting point. But since you’re still reading this, I’ll throw out a few simple ideas:
• Watch a funny movie
• Force yourself to laugh out loud
• Hold a pencil in your teeth
• Stand up straighter
• Adopt a confident posture
Initially, forcing yourself to implement any of the above suggestions when bad feelings are triggered will feel awkward as hell. But believe it or not, the mere act of slightly forcing yourself into a smile by holding a pencil in your teeth will actually make you feel better. One of the most profound things that you’re doing when you choose a different reaction, beyond training your muscles, is building myelin in your brain.
Myelin links synapses together. And neurons that fire together, wire together. You get into these neuronal patterns that literally make you more mentally efficient, because the myelin allows the electrical signals to pulse between the two neurons much faster.
That’s one of the reasons why meditation is so powerful. You’re creating repeated patterns of serenity, of calmness, of being centered. And those repeated patterns create a highway to feelings that you can access in the midst of all the chaos to quickly get yourself back to center.
I still feel hits to my self-esteem and I’m going to guess that most of you do, too. But if I’ve got my head on straight, you will never see it register on my face.
Now that’s something that I had to practice. Like I said, it used to take days. Then I tried to get it down to a day. Then I tried to get it down to three hours. Then I tried to get it down to an hour. Slowly and methodically working my way back to shorter reaction times.
Quite frankly, the process is the same as it is for breaking any other record. If you want to set a record for the 100 meter dash, you’ve got to start tracking yourself. As you step up to the starting line at practice you have to ask yourself:
“Do I want to finish in record breaking time or not?”
“How much time can I shave off?”
“What exercises do I need to do to help me achieve my goal?”
Set limits each time you practice and remind yourself to do it in a shorter amount of time. Be honest and monitor how long it took.
If you said it was only going to take 1 minute and it took 15 minutes. Own it. Ask yourself, “Did I do better than last time?” If you did, great. Then you’ve actually made progress. Next time, let’s shave it down some more, and then shave it down some more until you get exactly where you want to be. Until you reach the point that it doesn’t even register on your face.
When you begin to learn about the brain and understand its workings. When you understand how to take control of the brain. When you master the autonomic nervous system. When you meditate. Finding focus, calm, and clarity in the middle of the storm. You will ultimately gain the skills you need in order to do what you want to do in life.
Originally published at medium.com