[This post is part of a series on 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.]
Continuing to look at elements of the Model in more depth, after perception and belief comes emotion.
Emotions lie at the core of the Model, as they should, since emotions, awareness of them, and the ability to bring about the ones you want lie at the core of the life you want.
The Model simplifies emotions to include all motivations — anything that influences your behavior. You can find many lists of emotions online — Wikipedia lists a few, for example. I include simple motivations and feelings like hunger, thirst, and fatigue as emotions for consistency, since they motivate. As far as I know, all languages and cultures have words for similar motivations with limited variations and exceptions.
I often refer to emotions as wiring, as if how your neurons connect determined all your motivations. The computer metaphor generally works, but misses some points. Unlike a computer’s circuitry, for example, your wiring changes, and for several reasons. It changes as you grow from baby to child to adult. This change, of course, happens whether you want it to or not. Your wiring also changes from external things like trauma and diet, again, whether you want it to or not.
Most importantly, your wiring changes with experience — what we call learning. This blog is most concerned about this change, especially when you voluntarily choose what you learn.
That your brain changes and that you can choose to change it amazes some people. I prefer to look at it less romantically. When people say things like doing X or Y rewires your brain — you can almost hear them oohing and aahing as if they’re saying something deep or incredible — they miss that everything you do rewires your brain. You inevitably rewire it all the time.
Also, emotions include not just ones that motivate animated or prominent behavior, like anger, love, and rage, but also those that motivate subtle behavior, like calmness, satisfaction, and comfort. People who say someone excited is “emotional” miss that someone sitting still is acting just as much on their emotions. We are always acting on our emotions.
Emotions have characteristics, like how they feel, whether they last a long time or not, their intensity, and so forth. I’ve noted before how calling emotions positive or negative tends to hurt your ability to manage them, which lowers your ability to live the life you want. referring to their characteristics instead is more precise and doesn’t activate the problems that evaluation does.
Emotions’ characteristics stem from the origins of emotions, so tomorrow’s post will cover the origins of your emotions.
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