< Return to Quick Notes

Translating Emotions into Meaningful Action

June 5, 2020

Yes, these are challenging, often fraught times. That mix of complicated emotions we’re feeling – those are our values calling.

Lately I’ve been returning to the work of Harvard Medical School professor Susan David. Dr. David’s work defines psychological skills that help us thrive during complex times.

Her advice can help us lead through this time in a way that enables us to look back on it as a period of growth and contribution.

Non-judgmentally define your emotional response. Many leadership cultures emphasize having positive emotional responses. Only allowing ourselves to recognize “positive” feelings is a form of denial. Bottling up, deflecting or brooding over emotions draws down cognitive resources we need for problem-solving. Instead, find a word that labels your strongest feeling. Try to make the label as specific as possible. Are you angry, furious or exasperated? Grateful, expectant or hopeful?

Get curious about what your emotions are signaling is important to you. We don’t tend to have strong emotional responses to things that aren’t important to us. What personal value is this emotion signaling? Apprehension could be signaling the value of wellness; frustration could be signaling the value of making a difference; courageousness could be signaling the value of connection. The same emotion can reflect different values in different people. What matters is your recognition of what your emotion is telling you about what you value.

Choose an action or response that reflects this value. Identifying your value helps bring clarity about how to take an action that matters to you. It may not be easy; growth requires moving out of our comfort zones. But over time, even small actions create a collective impact – including building a habit of putting our values into action.

Comments are closed.