The Method, step 1: understand your current emotional cycles
[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.]
The Method’s zeroth step was a once-per-lifetime step. Once you understand your emotional cycle once, you can remember it all your life.
Step 1 begins the preparation for each situation: to understand your current emotional cycle. That means understanding its elements — the relevant environments, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors — and your constraints — what you can and can’t change and what you will and won’t change.
For the elements, I recommend writing them out. Below are three examples of the elements to situations in my life when ripe for applying the Method.
Example 1: Before running a marathon
Before I first considered training for a marathon, the following elements roughly described the elements of my relevant emotional cycles.
- Environments: Gym, bars, in front of tv
- Beliefs/Perceptions: It’s superhuman, you have to be a born runner
- Emotions: Futility, anxiety
- Behaviors: Making excuses, running short distances or not running
The cycle probably looks familiar to anyone not in the physical condition they want. Now I recognize a situation like this as ripe for transforming. I could easily change the belief that running a marathon was superhuman with the overwhelming evidence of how many people run it. The conflicted emotions imply I could improve my reward a lot.
A friend running the marathon before me ended up changing my belief. He and I had similar ages and body types. I tend to believe that barring some obvious impossibility, if someone can do something I can too.
Example 2: Becoming more entrepreneurial
The following elements describe my situation while in graduate school, before my friends approached me with the idea of starting a company.
- Environments: Labs, campus, other graduate students, professors
- Beliefs/Perceptions: Einstein, Newton, academia was special, money crass
- Emotions: Curiosity, dedication
- Behaviors: Debugging, publishing, experimenting
Without their suggestion, starting a company would have been difficult with a situation as above.
Example 3: Improving public speaking
Here is another situation probably familiar to many, ripe for transformation.
- Environments: In audience, reading books
- Beliefs/Perceptions: It’s scary, you have to be born with it
- Emotions: Fear, anxiety, pressure
- Behaviors: Watching, thinking, sweating, heart racing
Looking back now, I relate that fear and anxiety with other transformations that have enriched my life tremendously, which makes it feel more like anticipation.
You can write situations like these out for yourself to understand your life better. Soon I’ll show what do to with the information, but awareness alone helps.
Next is the issue of what you can and can’t change and what you will and won’t change. The next step will be to conceive of how to change your situation so you need to know your limits.
If you see your boss as a problem but for some reason you can’t change your job, you have to factor that constraint in. Maybe you have religious constraints or family obligations you won’t change. You probably know your constraints, but clarifying them helps.
I wouldn’t worry about having too many constraints. Rarely will they prevent you from feeling reward. On the contrary, they tend to give us direction and focus.
One way inspirational figures inspire us is by doing things we wouldn’t think we could with less than we have. Frederick Douglass taught himself and others reading, writing, and rhetoric while constrained significantly as a slave. Victor Frankl found meaning and purpose while in Auschwitz. Abraham Lincoln became President though born with no material advantages. Mohandas Gandhi led a nation without using violence.
Such people teach us what we are capable of, often not despite their constraints but by using them.
For the time being our goals are not yet to liberate a nation, but to learn how to lead and manage ourselves and others.
This exercise summarizes the above and has you perform step 1.
Next: the key part of steps 0 and 1: awareness
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