Emotional Control is Key to Winning

At the top level of sports there is very little difference between competitors’ physical skills; the winning edge is the ability to adapt and control personal emotions to support a top performance. An athlete who can regulate the intensity of his or her anxiety, disappointment and even passion is the one most likely to manage the competitive process and finish in the top tier.

Professionals and business leaders compete in a less obvious arena, but one that also pays dividends to the person who can adjust their emotional pitch and reactions to get the best from themselves and their team. Unregulated and uncontrolled emotions, particularly negative emotions, are poisonous to job satisfaction and consequently productivity.

The primary edge any professional office or business has is in the quality of our people. We cannot compete at the highest levels, let alone “win”, without our pit crew, our sail trimmers, our blockers and tacklers. Teams that have the most experienced, most client-sensitive, most capable people are bound to do better, while also reducing stress for the team leaders.

Unregulated emotions – outbursts or day-long “attitudes” – ruin productivity, demoralize your best people and will destroy your team and business. Take it from somebody with a low frustration threshold, there is nothing effective, nothing justifiable, nothing professional about polluting your team with your emotional garbage.

A possible starting place to help you control your frustration and refocus on how crucial employee fulfillment is to productivity and client satisfaction, might be to strive to be the “Best Place in Your Area to Work”. If you’re not aiming at a goal that ambitious, you’re likely handing some of the best employees as well as clients and their revenue to competitors who are.

Two clear next actions:

  • Either recognize that your people really are your most important asset, or set your best people free to work for a winning team that does realize that. And just maybe think about joining them, you’ll also probably be happier working for someone other than you.
  • Know, learn or remember that most people leave jobs because of the attitudes and style of their direct managers. Make a commitment to become a manager or leader who attracts and keeps the best people you can afford.

To make your office perform at a higher level (be a better place to work) get help learning to regulate your emotional pitch. Don’t allow setbacks or mistakes to turn into excuses to dump your frustrations on team members. Emotional regulation is a behavior you can learn. Every day we teach owners, leaders and key employees simple steps to improve their ability to control their reactions. This isn’t therapy, this is performance coaching, designed to help you achieve your goals.


Don’t Re-decide

It is very difficult to contain our impulsive tendencies when we’re buffeted by short-term conflicting emotions and temptations.

A clear, definite choice made when you are thinking and planning with care and then remade when you’re tired, hungry, feeling sexual appetite or irritated is a setup for failure. This re-choice is highly likely to be a short-term, impulsive reaction rather than based on consideration of your long-term best interests.

In answer to your sleepy self asking whether you need to get up right now or can snooze for 15 more minutes, the only answer you should give is a continually repeated reminder that “I already decided this is the time to get up, so get up!”

If you see the chocolate and think, “I can have one piece.” Start repeating, “I already decided to not have any sweets until after dinner, so keep moving.”

It is important to consciously refute the feeling that there is an opportunity to re-decide. The repetition of the thought “I’ve already decided!” helps to block the insubordinate thoughts, images and feeling that there is in fact an opportunity to re-decide.

The process needs to be very deliberate:

  • Make a clear, conscious and unequivocal decision
  • Think through the likely re-decision points (e.g., when the alarm goes off)
  • Decide what you’re going to say to block the insistent notion that there is an opportunity to re-decide
  • Start repeating the saying you’ve decided to use to block tempting thoughts
  • Act on your decision. Start before the re-decision pressure has a chance to take hold
  • Celebrate your willpower
  • Rededicate yourself to not re-deciding the next time

Re-decisions are a major factor in failure to stick to new behaviors. Any equivocations will sabotage your efforts. Be very clear and definite. Don’t look back!


One Approach to Procrastination

If one of your struggles is that you tend to procrastinate until a deadline is on top of you and forcing you to get things done, and you know this is hurting the quality of your work, causing stress to you and probably to your clients, boss or family, then how do you stop procrastinating about dealing with your procrastination?

This might be a fun puzzle if it weren’t so crucial that you find a way to initiate a change in your approach tasks. One of the common side effects of procrastination is that people in your life lose trust in you and get angry. As you well know, this is usually matched by your own anger at yourself. But even this pressure often doesn’t translate into motivation to get started.

If life were a sport and you were critiquing yourself for missing critical shots because you didn’t keep your eye on the ball, I’d be pointing out that your focus on past mistakes is taking your attention away from the current situation, taking your “eye” off the ball again. Drop the self-critique, get a bit of help with your technique and try again.

The best hitters in baseball look for, and can see, the stitching on the ball as it comes at them at up to a hundred miles an hour. Looking for this detail pulls their attention to the ball; just looking in the direction of the ball doesn’t allow them to see the tiny changes in directions that they need to see in order to connect with the pitch. Golfers watch the dimples on the ball as it sits on the tee.

To get started on a project, focus on the details of getting started. What project will you start? Schedule in your calendar when you’re going to start it. What small, discreet aspect of the project will you do? Define it and plan on doing just that much. What exactly will your next action on the project be? Write it out very simply as a task.

Think about teeing up the project – choose which one you’re going to work on.  Keep your head down, your eye on the ball and hit it just well enough to move it down the course and keep it in the fairway – do a small piece of it.  Now you’re ready for the next shot – concentrate on the new swing no matter whether you’re in the rough or on the course.

For you baseball fans, what you’re looking for is a single, not a home run; don’t over reach. Just connect with the pitch. Basketball aficionados, take one step and move the ball down the court. Every foot closer to the basket increases the odds of a score. Tennis players, make a solid smooth hit and get the ball across the net and into the court. Now set up for the next shot.

What do you need to get done? Right now schedule a time to work on it, and resolve to treat it like an important meeting. What is the first little step to getting the project started or moving it ahead? Write it down on your task list.

Procrastination can be head faked that easily.

8 Tips For Controlling Temptations

Self-control is a predictor of success. Research shows that children who learn to control their impulses do better in school, college, work and relationships. But adults who never perfected their self-control can make significant and life-changing improvements with a few simple techniques and practice. Picture this:

You’re ready to head for bed, emotionally and physically wound down. Just a few simple routines to complete and you can drift into the mysterious state called sleep – check the doors, turn off the lights, brush, floss and settle into the embrace of your bed and sleep.

As you shuffle through the kitchen one last time, the image of a bowl of ice cream snaps into your mind. Wouldn’t the creamy, sweet, cold taste of a small bowl of chocolate be delightful? If you slow your steps, you’ll likely open the drawer for the ice cream scoop.

It is possible to learn to effectively resist. Try picturing something else. Focus on images of your bed or an experience you had of stepping on a scale whose numbers stopped short of where they were previously. Too hard? Picture a great play from the last game you watched or some other really good experience. Just know that if you stare at the freezer, you are more likely to indulge.

Have you had the experience of walking away from temptation and having the image weaken and lose its urgency? Try it as an experiment; walk away and see what happens over the next few minutes. Focus on paying attention to your reactions and the process of learning instead of the treat.

Controlling your impulses can be learned, whether it’s to stop putting junk food in your mouth or quieting your frustration with employees, colleagues or clients. Maybe you’ll never find it easy, always have to push to keep your focus, even fall off track sometimes when you’re tired, but you can develop improved strength and technique with desire and practice.

Eight Quick hints:

  • Use distractions to pull your attention away from temptations
  • Don’t re-evaluate previous decisions when you’re under the influence of temptations
  • Develop an unbending pattern of behavior until you’re past thinking about a temptation
  • Understand that developing will power (self-control) is a process of learning and practice
  • Dump the old notion that your abilities or attitudes are set – they aren’t, you can learn new ways
  • Notice, celebrate and savor small bits of progress
  • Have a support person or group who you feel accountable to – who bolsters your self-control
  • Live for the changes that you’re working on and practice them into being

Multiple past failures to grow your self-control simply mean you haven’t yet found the right approach. It’s discouraging, but learning is often a process of gaining knowledge from failures until you start getting a hint of which directions are successful. Try getting a new perspective (a coach’s point of view) and more emotional support. Remind yourself, “With practice I can learn this.”

Want a more complete primer on how to improve self-control and self-discipline? We help people develop new habits and behaviors; it’s what we’ve been doing for over 30 years. Change takes practice and support, but the actual process is simple. Contact us for a presentation on all the latest research and how to implement it in your office or life.

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