I’m convinced that managing emotions is the key to successful leadership and happy, healthy relationships in life. The research supports this—Emotional Intelligence is the key differentiator separating great leaders from run of the mill. When we talk about EI, we’re talking about self awareness, social awareness, relationship management and self management—this is the one that’s on my mind today.
Typically we see self management as the ability to manage positive and negative emotions so they help relationships and interactions, rather than get in the way. So, for example, tapping into hope when things look bleak is something you’ll want to cultivate. Managing your anger so it is expressed in a way that is useful, rather than destructive, is also something to learn. But what should we do when things are really awful? When our health is on the brink, when a loved one is ill or dies, or when tragedy strikes? Does self management mean “hold on, buck up, put on a game face and carry on?
I think not. Sometimes, it just helps to cry. Or scream or curse or stomp around—whatever you do when life just sucks.
Over the last few years I’ve had several people I love very much die, or get very sick, or face tragedies in their families. And I’ve been around a lot of people lately who simply hate their work and even their lives. They’ve been working so hard for so long, giving so much—the well is dry. It’s sad and it’s tragic to live that way. It hurts, plain and simple, to face these parts of life. And sure, I cry and grieve and rage at the unfairness of it all. For a minute. Most of the time, though, I tap into my feelings and find that little glimmer of hope, that spark of gratitude for what I had with them or the gifts they shared with me and others. I find something that’s fun or funny, or I tap into courage. I’m a stoic, so I can stay in this place for a very long time. Not a bad thing—until it doesn’t work anymore.
I’m coming around to truly believe that self management includes learning how to let it all out—the pain, sadness, rage, ridiculous exuberance when things are fabulous, whatever. You’re probably saying, “Great, sure, but I can’t because I am the responsible one, the man/mother/father/leader/, the one everyone depends on.” I get it. I’m that person too.
But maybe we need to take a long term view? Taking care of the very real emotions that go along with life’s tragedies—and the highs—means acknowledging and expressing how we really feel. Maybe self management means learning to do this every single day—so we’re not faced with the big breakdowns, the serious health problems, the blow ups that come after months and years of holding everything in.
So why not try it today? Check in with yourself. Feel. Really feel. Then do something about it. Tell someone. Have a good belly laugh, or a bit of a cry. Go for a walk and tap in—stay with your self and your feelings for a few minutes.
Who knows, it might help.