[This post is part of a series on The Method to use The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
This example illustrates my first by-the-book implementation of the Model and Method. I don’t pretend that the change was earth-shattering or bigger than it was because the magnitude of the change was not the point. The point was that the Method produced the results exactly as expected despite countervailing emotions and that I could repeat it on a bigger scale later.
That was the home run. To be able to make yourself feel how you want by living according to your values while being resilient to arbitrary mood swings improves your life. You could say call it the most important thing in life.
The situation before
One night a few years ago I had planned to have dinner with a friend, watch a World Series game, and go out for a few drinks afterward. My friend ended up having a cold that night and it rained, so the three strikes were that he couldn’t go out after dinner, the game was delayed, and there would be fewer people out that night because of the rain.
I don’t know about you, but when I plan to go out and have fun, I don’t like ending up at home instead. But after three strikes I know I can resign myself to watching television without feeling bad. In any case, I found myself walking home feeling resigned, an emotion I knew I prefer not to feel.
I realized, having developed a Method to bring about whatever emotion I wanted, this evening would be the perfect opportunity to test it. It wouldn’t be a double-blind controlled experiment, but my purposes didn’t demand that level of rigor. I only wanted to see if it would work for myself. Moreover, I recognized my emotional resignation improved this test, since it could show that the Method could work despite emotions motivating me in the opposite direction.
Know your emotional system
I already did the first step of knowing my emotional system by understanding the Model. Of course, the better you know it the better your results, but I knew it well enough the an experiment.
Understanding my current emotional cycle
The Method begins with awareness because planning or action without awareness can easily create counterproductive results. I began by assessing the emotional cycle that led to my feelings of resignation.
Environment: in the rain, my friend sick, few people out, no World Series game to watch
Beliefs: I had tried and things weren’t working, trying again was not likely to succeed, what’s the point?
Emotions: resignation, futility
Behavior: walking home, walking with my head down, wondering what else was on television
As the Model explains, my emotions involuntarily followed from the environment, beliefs, and behavior, so they depend on the voluntary elements of the emotional cycle. Though in general I can choose my environment and beliefs, anyone could say circumstances beyond my control led to a situation where walking home and watching television was my best option.
The Method is based in taking responsibility and creating circumstances for yourself. One of the most effective ways to bring about situations and emotions you want is to use the principle “Don’t look for blame but take responsibility for making things better to the extent you can.” Blaming the world might make me feel better in the short-term, but blaming others (or “the world” or “the universe”) leads me to believe I don’t have the power to do improve my situation.
Conceive of consistent environment, beliefs, and behaviors
As we’ll see, we want to pick environments, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with the emotions we want to bring those emotions about, consistent with each other to bring reward about, and consistent with what we will and won’t or can or can’t change.
I looked at what I could and couldn’t change and realized I could bring about emotions I’d prefer to resignation consistent with what I couldn’t change. In particular, I conceived of the following set of environments, beliefs, and behaviors that would be consistent with each other and myself.
Again, I don’t pretend the change to be earth-shattering, just that the Method worked as predicted, despite countervailing emotions, suggesting I could do it bigger later. What could improve your life more than the ability to make yourself feel better when you wanted through living consistently with your values?
Environment: at the places I would have gone with my friend, but by myself
Beliefs: that I can make friends anywhere on my own, that my social skill are that good (I didn’t grow up with great social skills so had to learn them through great challenge to be able to adopt this belief)
Emotions: friendliness, fun
Behavior: to go out and talk to people, tell stories, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company; to approach strangers and befriend them.
In other words, I decided to go out on my own and have the fun I would have had with my friend by myself.
I did what I planned. I walked to a nearby bar (environment) reinforcing beliefs that I had developed my social skills enough that I could talk to anyone and start a conversation we’d both enjoy (beliefs). I entered the bar and approached a few people and began conversations (behavior).
Within thirty minutes I felt friendly and outgoing and was enjoying myself – feeling exactly the emotions I anticipated. In fact, I couldn’t conjure up the feelings I had had just before that had motivated my to stay in. Though I had begun by using willpower, soon my emotions kicked in and motivated me without conscious mental effort.
I realized that with the Method working so much as I expected, I could use it to bring about whatever emotions and reward I wanted.
Again, we’ve all gone out when we weren’t in the mood but found ways to enjoy ourselves. I’m not calling merely going out and having fun a big deal. I’m calling the predictability and independence important.
Recognizing I had that independence and that with practice I could bring about the emotions I wanted through conscious effect and that I would be resilient to feeling how I wouldn’t want was the home run.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book