Building emotional fitness

How to build emotional fitness and create useful habits

1. Pay attention to your internal dialogue (self-talk)

The way that we talk to ourselves determines what we focus on. What we focus on determines how we feel. How many times a day do you ask yourself a question that limits your intelligence, ability or skill? Instead of asking questions like “why does this always happen to me”? or “why can’t I learn how to do this”? ask questions like “how can I learn to do this task without necessarily liking it”? “what actions would I need to take to become better at this task”? “what one action can I take today that will move me one step closer toward the achievement of my goal”?

Our brain acts just like a computer – when we ask a question, it fires off an answer. Ask better questions and get better quality answers.

2. Pay attention to your internal images

The way we imagine things to feel will have an impact on the outcome. We walk around with a set of emotional scales constantly weighing things up and we will do whatever makes us feel better – including getting out of taking action! The brain will create an excuse, a justification and a rationale to get you out of doing something you don’t feel like doing and it will come up with a set of excuses until you find one that seems believable and helps you to feel better about your choice.

Instead of focusing on images like getting out of bed at 6am to go to the gym, putting on your gym clothes and doing work on the treadmill, focus on the completion of the task. Imagine and visualize the end result. See yourself leaving the gym, having $30,000 in the bank or wearing a size 12 dress.  Visualise and focus on your ideal outcome and avoid thinking about all of the work that needs to be done to achieve it.

There is no relief in avoidance of a task – there is only ever relief in getting the task done.

3. Pay attention to your body posture

The quickest way to changing our emotional state is to actually change our physiology. How would you be sitting if you were totally successful? What look would be on your face if you were determined?

The mind and the body are 100% completely linked and the symptoms are reciprocal. Thoughts will create our posture and our posture will create our thoughts. If you want to change how you feel, the quickest way to doing that is to change how you are standing or siting. Change your physical posture. Stand up tall, put your shoulders back and smile. These simple actions will have dramatic effects on how you feel and the thoughts that you think.

When you are angry – how do you know? Our body does anger. Our foot comes forward, our finger points, our chest muscles tighten and we raise our voice.

What would someone look like if they were confident? What would they be doing? How would they be talking to themselves? How would they be standing?

Remember, the quickest way to changing your emotional state is to change your physiology.

4. Don’t ask questions – JUST DO IT

The moment you “ask yourself” if you feel like getting out of bed to go to the gym at 6am, you can pretty much forget about getting the task done. Our brain is wired to protect us and so it will come up with a set of (what appears to be) legitimate excuses to get you out of taking the action.  Your brain will say things like “of course not – you went yesterday”, “you can go tomorrow”, “and you’re tired”.

Avoid at all costs asking yourself a question and instead give yourself a command of  “JUST DO IT”, “ GET OUT OF BED!” “JUST START”.

5. Measure your progress backwards

The key to maintain motivation and achieving any goal in life is to measure your progress backwards from where you started. Look at all of the things you did yesterday that moved you closer to your goal (no matter how small). When we look back at everything we have achieved, we are moving forward. We are making progress.  We feel good.

So at the end of today, I want you to look back over your day and notice all of the small actions or things you did that moved you closer to the goal. If you goal is to lose some weight, then look back over your day and write down everything you did that contributes to that goal. “Drank two litres of water”, “did a 30 minute workout”, “took dog for a walk”. Write these things down. When we measure our progress backwards, we put ourselves into the “positive zone” and we naturally feel good about ourselves.

6. You get what you focus on

We have a little part of our brain called the Reticular Activating System and it acts like a little antenna or just like a Google search engine. When we program something into our brain, it goes off into the universe in order to bring it into our reality. Here is the problem, most people focus on what they DON’T want and wonder why they end up manifesting it and bringing it into their reality.

If you decide that you want to buy a Jeep car – what do you start seeing everywhere you look? You start noticing Jeep cars don’t you? That is all you see.

If you want to lose a few kilos or save some money, focus on those outcomes. Literally see yourself being that person. See yourself in that size 12 dress or having the $30,000 in the bank.

You get what you focus on so be sure to focus on what you want!

7. Build your positivity ratio and build happiness

The brain is pessimistic by design and has a negativity bias and so we need to be very conscious, deliberate and very strategic in finding ways to make ourselves feel good.

Barbara Frederickson determined that there is a positivity ratio and that ratio is 3:1. That is three positive thoughts or feelings to every one negative. We either spiral up or we spiral down.  We need to find at least 3 things in our day that went well (no matter how small) so that we build and enhance our positivity ratio and therefore build happiness.

Every night before you go to bed, write down at least three things in your day that went well. Force your brain to find at least three things that happened that were positive (no matter how small). They could be things like “ drank 2 litres of water”, “paid off credit card”, “went for a 20 minute walk”, “solved a client problem”, “put dishes away”.

Start getting strategic, deliberate and very conscious about ways to help build the positivity muscle!

8. Build resilience and overcome adversity

Life is going to throw curve balls and so we need to be armed with a set of strategies that help us through those difficult phases and challenges. One simple way of doing this is to look at the event or memory in four key components.

The first is to look at what things went well? Force yourself to find anything that could be taken as a positive from the situation.

Then look at the challenges. Find the things that didn’t go so well. Make a list of all of the obstacles.

Ask yourself some good quality questions like “ if I had to do this again, what what I do differently”? “what is it about this situation that I have not noticed before”, “what did I learn”?

Based on these answers, create a set of actions for the next time you are faced with a similar experience, situation or event.

As human beings, we are very good at making things out to be so much worse than they really are. When you run an event that did not serve you well through this model, you change your perception of it and therefore change how you feel.

9. Everyone starts off as a beginner

As humans, we have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people. We get to the gym and we look around and compare ourselves to all of the amazing looking, toned people who have probably been there a very long period of time. Or we start a new job or learn a new task and compare ourselves to people who have probably been doing those things for a very long time.

When we first start taking an action toward a goal, a realisation sets in and we begin to realize how much effort is going to be involved in looking anything like the person we saw at the gym or our work colleague who we admire. It’s a spiral down.

The only person we can realistically compare ourselves to is the person we were yesterday. Everybody everywhere started off as a beginner at some point in their life.We were not born being able to bench press 50 kilos. We did not start our careers in leadership roles. We did not walk onto a stage for the very first time and speak to a crowd of 300 people. All of these things have been learned over a very long period of time and usually through a lot of hard work, determination and a willingness to push our boundaries and get out of our comfort zone.

For you to stay positive and motivated and to become the best version of you, the only person we can ever compare ourselves to is the person we were yesterday. Measure our progress backwards from yesterday and compare it to today. Look back over the last month and compare it to what you can do today. Review the last year and look at everything you have achieved up until today.

Measure your own growth and remember that everyone starts off as a beginner.

10. Understand the role emotions play in goal achievement

If I asked you to think about something in your life that you want to achieve – how does that make you feel? Losing weight, going on a holiday, having money in the bank. When you think about the achievement of that goal – how does it make you feel? The emotions are quite positive aren’t they? We fantasise and we step out into the future and we see ourselves being that person. When we do this, the emotions are generally quite positive.

However a PhD by Dr Stephanie Burns found that as we move closer to the start date where we need to physically start taking action toward our goal (getting out of bed at 6am to go to the gym, drinking two litres of water each day, learning a new task) the emotions very quickly change to be quite negative.

Time plays a very important role in goal achievement. The closer we get to the start date, the more dangerous it becomes and we run the risk of quitting our goal before we have even taken the first action.

The emotions become so overwhelmingly negative that we start making excuses and justifications (the internal voice kicks in with a combination of images) and all of a sudden it becomes easier to perhaps start the goal next month. Does this found familiar?

We need to understand that these feelings are normal and we need to recognize that this will likely occur and we need to arm ourselves with a set of strategies to push through these feelings of discomfort by using the strategies outlined in this tip sheet.