A recent conversation with a friend who also coaches highlighted some important observations of mastering your emotions and improving your life. We were talking about my Model and Method and how you can predictably and consistently create the emotions and motivations you want.
He described how he started putting this stuff into practice. He had learned techniques to change emotions — basically to choose new environments, beliefs, and behaviors. He hadn’t put them to use much when he noticed he had felt depressed for a while.
As many of us know, when you feel depressed, you often don’t want to change how you feel. You just want to wallow in your misery. Feeling other ways feels fake, like happiness means you’re ignoring how things really are. Depression felt right.
He decided to try the techniques anyway. Intellectually he knew he didn’t like feeling depressed. So he forced himself to go through the motions — choosing his environments, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with feeling upbeat.
After some time, he noticed his mood changed. He felt upbeat.
He noticed a few other things.
- When he felt happier, he also felt like that emotion felt more real — just as real as the depression felt.
- Likewise, he noticed that the depression he felt before seemed fake, like it was ignoring the beauty in the world and how capable he was in contributing to it. Anything besides happiness seemed just as fake as non-depression emotions seemed when he felt depressed.
- He also noticed he didn’t want to change his emotion. Happiness felt right.
Now, this friend is thoughtful, methodical, and scientific. He wasn’t satisfied with just one observation. So he did something few people would do: he went backward. He chose his environment, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with depression.
After some time, he noticed his mood changed again. He felt depressed, as he predicted. Moreover, he noticed the same three things about the renewed depression:
- The new emotion felt real.
- Any other emotions seemed fake.
- He didn’t want to change his emotion.
He concluded he never had to feel any emotion he didn’t want to. I felt gratified at having had such a similar experience myself, also concluding I never had to feel an emotion I didn’t want.
His experiment reinforced a conclusion I drew, which lies at the foundation of my work:
When your environment, beliefs, and behavior are consistent, your emotions follow. Whatever emotion you feel, you’ll also feel reward — the feeling that things are right. Reward makes you want to maintain things.
Since you can motivate yourself outside your emotions, by creating environments, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with the emotions you want, you can can create whatever emotions you want and eventually whatever lifestyle you want.
This conclusion, and the ability to act on it, is, to me, the foundation of freedom and creating the life you want for yourself. When you have that understanding and ability, you can lead yourself and others.
By the way, after making himself depressed again, my friend made his mood more upbeat again.