Do you live or simply exist? 4 truths about emotions

The future is uncertain, you know that. Nothing can be predicted, there are simply too many variables in any situation. Will Mr Trump press his bigger button? Will a crisis happen and cause a global slowdown? Will a forgotten school friend call today? I don’t know. Do you?

There are some certainties of course. Today the sun will rise and set and you will feel emotion, probably many times. What the feelings will be, or have been, I have no clue, but you will feel emotions, and the better able you are to understand them the better leader, friend, parent, child and colleague you will become.

Feelings allow one to experience life. The depth to which happiness and sadness etc is felt accords to the level that one feels life has been lived, not simply passed by. Okay, a lot of feelings are uncomfortable but then a lot of feelings are wonderful. If you want the latter, then the former occurs too. The more you allow yourself to feel the more meaningful and thus successful, your life will be.

If you are like a growing number of Westerners however you will categorise feelings into good or bad. Great leaders know there are no good or bad feelings. There are just feelings that sometimes feel pleasant or unpleasant.

To say an emotion is bad or good is like saying a colour is bad or good. Think of the colour blue. Is that bad or good? I bet you would say, its neither. Yet, if we have a black and white colour palette with red highlights and our designer slots in blue, then blue is not fit for purpose and we could say it is bad. But if you are to look out the window and see the sky is blue, then you would likely think it is good as it means there will be no storms for a while. Emotions are the same. It is only when an emotion does not seem to fit the purpose that it could be considered bad, and even then I put it to you that ranking is inappropriate as emotions are there to protect us and not fit a colour palette, they are always fit the purpose, though maybe are not convenient.

A good leader and happy man or woman have all learned how to make emotions fit times that are convenient. They know that emotions are simply compassionate friends, whose sole goal is to act as guide in the quest for good health, happiness and love. The trouble is, uncovering their teaching is not always straightforward. Indeed when the emotion is anger, or hurt, or frustration or another pain, it can be hard to dwell within it long enough to find its source.

As you know, the tricky thing with emotions is working out why you are feeling as you are. Its tempting to push an unpleasant feeling away, but to do so only keeps it inside, building strength so that when a situation next arises that suits it appearance, it will come out stronger. This could be problematical.

The weekend papers reported the results of uncontrolled anger at the Liberal love in on Rottnest Island. Neither Mr McGrath nor the Liberal party have come out of that situation unscathed. It was not a matter of blood and murder charges, but it was a blotch that was not needed. Anger is a useful emotion. It helps us stay alive, but in many situations it is not fit for purpose and can cause injury to us and others. A public display of anger at Rottnest, and the airing of fury in a client negotiation are rarely appropriate. Its better to investigate the feelings when emotions are cool not revel in them, in the heat of the moment.

Putting aside emotions for a moment doesn’t mean ignore them. Strong unpleasant emotions need to be understood. The body / mind uses pain to warn of problems. An unpleasant emotion is simply a warning sign that a value has been crossed. Its the body’s way of saying “investigate this issue. If you don’t you fix it, your life will not be as happy, healthy or loving as it could be”. Pain exists to highlight a problem that needs fixing. Repressing emotion is like ignoring a festering sore, it will continue to grow and grow until you pay attention. Rescheduling your investigation is okay, repression is not.

Successful leaders know that emotions are simply data. By watching them rise and fall, within the situations that cause them, life becomes easier.

  • Firstly they see that all emotions eventually pass away, even the really unpleasant feelings. Nothing remains static. With this knowledge even dreadful storms can be weathered
  • Secondly they become aware of the triggers that cause good, bad and neutral feelings. In time they craft their day to best suit their needs.
  • Thirdly, knowledge expands outwards. Great leaders become aware that everyone feels, by taking note of how others react to their actions. They begin to understand why some people trust them more than others. They feel less alone and exposed and grow in compassion
  • Fourthly, leadership ability improves. Aware leaders bring the appropriate emotion to each situation: Complex decisions need neutral emotions, sadness is useful when assisting a staff member in grief, and happiness is desired when a friend is celebrating.

So today when an emotion arises, rejoice in it, learn from it. When the time is right ask it “What are you trying to tell me?” then listen well. It may take a few inquiries before the answer is clear but keep going until it feels right.

Remember the body and mind want you to take action, so make sure you do so, then watch the future unfold. Be patient and enjoy.


Jennifer is a business and executive coach who helps leaders turn their strategies into remarkable results. 

She assists executives and business owners to achieve goals such as improved profit, productivity, leadership skills, business value. Her services are Business and Executive Coaching, Group Facilitation and advising on Board Governance. Her straight forward process help leaders achieve results without delay.

 To find out how she can help you, call +61 439 520 182 or email.