2016 has been a year that many will remember in many different ways – from the deaths popular entertainment icons, to Brexit, to the election of a new US President. Courtesy of social media these events are no longer just moments in history but increasingly meaningful and emotional personal experiences; and of course it rarely seems to be the “happier” emotions engaged.
Like all emotional experiences, we make them our own, we personalise them. Yet are they really ours? We may have an opinion about the next President of the United States, but should this be bouncing around within our personal emotional systems. Even if we bring the scenario closer to home, the appointment of a different line manager or a new next door neighbour, are these really emotional events? Yet, if we are honest how much time and energy do we expend on them, how often do they become emotional?
Our emotions are in many ways evolutionary calls to action, specific instructions such as, to flee, to eat, to procreate – and so on. These calls to action often generate their own physiological and bio-chemical reactions, such as when preparing the body to flee from danger. Any subsequent act of flight generally releases these states; but what if there is nowhere to flee, or actually no reason to flee. Where is the necessary release – sometimes we then just get stuck in the emotion.
Social media has definitely increased the complexity here, bringing others emotional journeys seemingly into our own. How often does a post or comment generate some kind of emotive outburst?
Stephen Covey talks of circles of influence and circles of concern. The circle of concern is that world around us – road traffic, politicians, the weather, employers, those that speak different languages or practice other religions, whereas the circle of influence is that space where can affect change or action.
If we were to choose objectively where we could focus our energy – remembering we are not connected to an infinite source, would we select that circle of influence? Not as often as you might think it would appear. Sit down and look at your average day – look at where the things that have consumed your energy actually lie. See how much of your time lies outside of your “influence” and then see if you can recall what impact those things had on you in the moment. Those concerns constrain us, they can seem like very heavy burdens – loads that we have chosen to bear but seem never to be able to put down, they drain our spirit and erode our time. And for what?
As for the influencing, this is an engaging space, a space within which we can achieve, and from which we can develop and grow. These are the events and activities which enrich us. These are the events which offer us little neuro-chemical treats such as a dopamine release. This is where we feel good. This is where we can be our best.
With each event that we experience – be it in the workplace, the home, or somewhere in the wider world – we face a choice, is it actually ours to engage with – if it is not, then it sits outside in that wider circle and we can choose to leave it there.
These choices sit at the gateway to our emotions and sharpening our awareness of what is not within our influence is like training the gatekeeper. What changes would we all make to our personal and professional lives if we were to effectively monitor who or what we chose to let in.
Director, Passe-Partout Consulting Ltd
phone: 01634 919848
mobile: 07973 185124
address: Kits Coty Farm, 87 Salisbury Road, Aylesford, Kent ME20 7EW