What are the Emotional Olympics?
They are contests we all participate in every day. There’s the 100-meter dash in which our tempers flare up and we’re crossing the finish line before we even know it. There’s the 800-meter run in which some dysfunctional dynamic goes on and on and on until we have totally exhausted ourselves and can barely make it across the finish line. There’s the uneven parallel bars in which we fear what will happen if we don’t say whatever we have to say just perfectly—miss by an inch and we end up on our butts on the floor. And the 4X400 relay is the event in which we pass the problem from mother to son, son to mother, sibling to sibling, or in organizations from team member to team member.
Have you been watching the Rio Olympics this past week? I astound myself with what these young athletes are capable of doing with their human bodies. And not all of them are that young. One of the female gymnasts is forty-one years old. What’s so extraordinary is the amazing things we humans can do when we develop our skills, practice and focus. These athletes make one thing—their sport—the priority in their lives, and they develop true mastery.
What if your sport was emotional wellbeing and you were to master it? Can you imagine being highly skilled at working with your emotions? Helping other people work with their emotions? It is possible. It takes dedication—maybe not as much as that demonstrated by great athletes—but it must be a priority. Then we develop certain skills, practice those skills and stay focused.
When we do this we can live lives not of quiet desperation, but of continuous celebration.
My wife, Hannah, and I have gone from fighting twice a week to twice a year. We have gone from blaming one another for our emotional pains and insecurities to owning all of them and healing most of them. Some of the topics we used to dread talking about have now become humorous. Instead of turning away from each other during times of tension we now turn toward each other. Instead of me trying to control her, I now appreciate her for who she is—including our differences.
Emotional mastery is as valuable in the corporate boardroom as it is in the bedroom. All human beings—except for one whose name will go unmentioned—respond well to emotions that are maturely expressed, especially when the owner of those emotions uses Perception Language to express him or herself.
The process begins with two things…
There are just a few steps involved in developing emotional mastery. The process begins with two things. First we have to decide that this is a priority in our lives. Second, we have to establish some criteria in terms of what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable. Is it okay to be rude to your spouse or children? How often? How rude? Is it okay to lash out when you feel you’ve been hurt by someone? What do you do when you’re too tired to give a loved one attention? How will you respond to someone who disrespects a boundary that you have established? How much time do you choose to spend focused on the past, processing previous missteps?
All of these are valuable questions that we each need to answer for ourselves. And, over time, we need to reevaluate our answers because as we age and grow, our criteria age and grow as well. Some of what I thought was acceptable when I was fifteen is no longer acceptable to me. Some of what I thought was acceptable a year ago is no longer acceptable to me now. That includes some of the ways I treated people and some of the ways I let people treat me.
So, to begin, I need to decide how important is this stuff to me. When I say, “this stuff,” I mean the way I treat other people and the way I allow them to treat me. And, more specifically, what people? Is it equally important to me how I treat my wife and how I treat the UPS driver? Sadly, some of the people I work with treat the UPS driver better than they treat their spouses. Why is that? Why is it okay to treat my spouse poorly from time to time? Because she loves me. Because I can make up for it later. Because she puts up with it. Because I don’t have to hide my “dark side” from her. I’ve heard all these answers and many more. Only you can answer these questions for yourself, but that’s my point—answer them. What are your standards and expectations for personal conduct—yours and other peoples’?
How to navigate emotional waters
Next, I need some kind of model to help me navigate my life and my relationships. This is what Live Conscious provides. It is a comprehensive model. It provides tools and concepts to help me conduct myself better. For much of the past fifteen years my wife and I have been focused on teaching people to use Perception Language. It is a way of speaking that brings me into the present moment, eliminates blame, and helps me take responsibility for myself. In short, it helps me develop emotional maturity, which is a key to emotional well-being.
More recently, we are expanding our work to focus on Three Degrees of Consciousness. The first degree, safety consciousness, is addressed by using Perception Language, and the creation of a healthy personal narrative. These are ways that I make myself feel safer and more in control of my emotional responses. The second degree, heart consciousness, is addressed by learning the “ReDo,” and how to live with more gratitude and love in my life. The third degree, spacious consciousness, is addressed with a specific meditation practice. Accessing spacious consciousness minimizes the sense of urgency and angst in my life.
Having a model to rely on is helpful—essential—when we live in an uncertain world, because we need a way to find our bearings. Whether you use our model or you choose another isn’t the point—although we know of no other model that is as comprehensive, practical and effective. The point is to find a model that you enjoy using everyday so that you use it.
After you have a model to use for guidance, there is another step that is required to develop emotional mastery. It is to step back, wake up, go high, dive deep—or whatever you want to call it—it is the necessity to go outside of our ordinary lives so that we continually explore new frontiers.
We all acclimate to our lives and our relationships. We get stuck in “good enough,” or habitual patterns. The solution is novelty, new challenges, wake up calls. The same is true of athletes. If they didn’t have something to push them, which is what an event like the Olympics does, they would grow bored or stale and lose sight of their ideals. This is the purpose of our retreats (labs), to provide a place and enough time in which we step outside of our day-to-day lives, learn new skills, hang out with other people who share a commitment to personal growth, and inspire ourselves by being challenged to go deeper and do better.
If you want to take yourself to the next level—whatever that is for you—in terms of developing emotional mastery, come to our upcoming retreat where you will learn to slow down, connect, ask new questions and find new answers. You may even win a medal just for being you.