The Method: step 2, understand your current emotional cycles
EDIT: I modified how I present the Method slightly. Please see the new version of this page and the updated series on implementing the Method.
The Method’s first step was a once-per-lifetime step. Once you understand your emotional cycle once, you can retain it all your life.
Step 2 begins the preparation for each situation.
The main part of understanding your current emotional cycle is to understand the elements — the relevant environments, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. The other part is to know 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’d like to be. 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 identify 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 outside parameters.
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. Personally, I won’t eat meat. You probably know your constraints, but clarifying them helps.
Few constraints prevent you from feeling reward. 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 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.
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