If your body gets hurt, you feel physical pain. One of the roles of physical pain is to tell you what not to do, for example to not hit your head against the wall over and over again or play with fire. Besides having many other functions, emotions can also play a pretty similar role. They can tell you whether you’re on the right path, if you’re following your life vision and what your whys are (even if your emotions are repressed and you aren’t even aware of them) or if you’re going against yourself, marching in the wrong direction and being in the wrong environment with the wrong people.
The compass is simple. A longer period of positive emotions shows that you’re going in the right direction, while negative emotions (anger, dissatisfaction, sadness…) warn you that you aren’t on the right path; negative feelings could be a signpost that you aren’t on the path that’s meant for you. If you are accompanied by constant negative emotions, it means that your soul is suffering.
Just as a reminder, being on the wrong path is one of the options why you are experiencing negative feelings, but there may be many other potential reasons. You must carefully analyze yourself and find out what the real source of your negative feelings is. For example, besides being on the wrong path, cognitive distortions can also cause you to have constant negative feelings. You may be on the right path and just think too negative. But now let’s get back to being on the wrong path.
The good news is that your emotions sense something is wrong and that you aren’t going in the right direction way before you can arrive at the same conclusion with your rational and analytical mind. It’s called instinct. Something either feels right or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t feel right and you still do it, you usually go against yourself and bring misery and unhappiness into your life. Therefore, your emotions are a great predictor of your future and your quality of life.
- If you know you aren’t with the right person, but you still stay in a relationship just because you’re afraid to be alone, you’re going to be miserable.
- If you sense that your bosses aren’t running the company professionally and that it’s just a matter of time before things go south, but still don’t do anything about it (search for a new job), you’re going to feel miserable.
- If you’re driving in a car with a lunatic and you don’t have control, you won’t feel good because you feel that there’s a great probability that something dangerous will happen. But in real life, you have control in the most of situations if you only listen to your emotions, are aware of your personal power and you act.
Happiness and productivity
If you’re happy, you’re more productive (some studies show you’re around 12 % more productive), you’re more optimistic and have higher level of motivation, you nurture relationships better at home and at work, and you have no problems with expressing gratitude, you are more innovative and creative. You can also enter the workflow without distractions more easily and are more committed to your goals. You also help to create better working or home environments. Nevertheless, there are several issues we have to address, because things aren’t that simple.
First of all, we all love to ignore our emotions and what we really want. Maybe you’re afraid, maybe you’re clinging to safety, maybe you aren’t aware of your personal power, maybe something else. But if we take one step back, you most often aren’t even consciously aware of how you feel throughout the day, you don’t pay much attention to your emotions, you just get mad at your spouse or a coworker, or become grumpy in a traffic jam or whatever, but you don’t ask yourself why; in that case, you unfortunately don’t live, you only exist. You may even be a zombie. So the first important rule is to regularly and systematically monitor your emotions and become aware of them. Then ask yourself why.
The second thing is that there are three areas for monitoring your emotions. One is your home environment. If you don’t have loving and caring personal relationships and don’t feel home at home, you can’t feel happy in life. Home should be like your temple of positive energy, emotional security and deep relationship bonds with people you love the most.
Then we have the working environment. You spend one third of your life at work, so you must have good relationships there (do you have a best friend at work?), you must do meaningful work and fit into the company culture. You can’t be happy in life if you hate your job.
Last but not least, you’re here to grow and enjoy life. You can’t be happy if you aren’t progressing from your real to your ideal self and if you aren’t enjoying life in the moment (while having realistic expectations). The bottom line is that you have to monitor your emotions in all three areas, and if one area is suffering, all areas are suffering.
- Your home environment
- Your work environment
And the third thing is that our emotions are complicated. They aren’t so easy to understand. If you decide to pay attention to your emotions, you’ll have to spend a lot of time dealing with self-analysis and how to live a life honest and true to yourself. It may seem that everything is in order in your life, but you may be totally unhappy and not even aware of it. When you decide to really pay attention to your emotions, you must start living life with courage and full of love towards yourself and others, and always be truthful to yourself. No dishonesty. It’s hard work but it pays off.
Even if our emotions are complicated, there are two simple exercises you can do every day, as the first steps towards better understanding yourself and how you feel – they’re called the happiness index and the happiness chart.
The happiness chart
There’s a really simple method of monitoring your emotions and doing basic emotional accounting. It’s called the happiness chart. The main advantage/point of the happiness chart is to never forget about yourself or lose awareness of how you’re really feeling, even if you’re very busy. You put yourself first. Many times, if you aren’t super happy, angry, depressed or feeling some other extreme emotion, you just go through the day like you’re used to. Some people smile because they’re used to it, some people are grumpy all day because they’re used to it, and so on. You wear a social mask out of habit. But you never know what you’re really feeling and why. That’s existing, not living; that’s being a zombie.
With the happiness chart you will:
- Always be aware of your emotions
- Have early alerts for things are going in the wrong direction
- Easily communicate your emotions with others (spouse, team etc.)
- Have a basis for further analyzing your emotions further
- Link your happiness level to your productivity level and see how happiness influences your day
The idea is pretty simple. You have an uncomplicated chart with different indicators showing how happy you are. Every day, when you wake up, go to sleep or while working, you put an indicator on the chart, marking how you’re feeling.
You have three charts on which you indicate the happiness level every day:
- Me (that you share with yourself)
- Intimate relationship (that you share with your spouse)
- Work (that you share with your team)
It makes sense to engage other people to use the happiness chart, of course. For example, you also ask your spouse to mark their level of happiness on the chart and when the mark from you or your spouse goes below a certain level, it’s time to talk and communicate more intensively about what’s going in the wrong direction and why.
After marking your happiness level on the happiness chart, you should ask yourself four questions:
- Mark how happy you are (at home, in a relationship, at work etc.) on a scale from 1 to 10. Why the x number? Watch out that you aren’t always in the average (5, 6, 7, 8). If you are, use only 1, 2, 3 and 9, 10 as a scale. Because you’re either happy or you aren’t. You can even simplify it with three smiley symbols: :) , :| and :(
- What feels right at the moment?
- What feels the worst or wrong right now?
- What should I do to increase my happiness?
When you have your answers to all four questions that should be enough material to do a retrospection (maybe at the end of the week or your sprint), where you answer three additional questions:
- What should I start doing in my life?
- What should I stop doing in my life?
- What should I continue doing in my life?
The most important thing while using the happiness index and the happiness chart is to be really honest and true to yourself. If you’re lying to yourself about your feelings, you repress them and ignore them. But they’re like an evil monster that starts growing if you ignore it. The evil monster keeps growing in you and will come back in times and places you least expect (you start destroying your relationships, become depressed etc.). Therefore kill the monster while it’s still small. The happiness chart will be the first to tell you when a small monster is born. Pay attention to your emotions, because they matter the most!