Changing your life is all about emotions–acting on them, giving in to them, being sabotaged by them, or being driven to success.
When you want to make a change in your life, you usually want to feel something different than what you are feeling now, right? You may have a desire to feel something more, such as more passion, contentment, joy, pride or peace of mind. Or you may have a desire to decrease stress, regrets, anxiety, sadness or an unclear longing in your gut. You may visualize the change as a new job, house or relationship, but underneath is the desire to feel something more or something less.
Lots of people offer sound advice on taking steps to change your life, however…The success of your change depends on how badly you want to feel differently. You have to want the change in emotions enough to overcome the discomfort, boredom, confusion, embarrassment and worry that pops up to stop you from growing.
One of the strongest emotions that leads to change is anger; this includes making positive changes in your life. An intense negative reaction to your circumstances revs up your internal motor more powerfully than a lightly held wish. Through extensive research, Jennifer Lerner and her team at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory found that anger both encourages people to believe they can control their futures and then motivates them to take risks.
There are many times I have asked a client, “Are you finally mad enough at yourself for allowing this to happen, again?” The question serves to focus the anger on their own avoidance mechanisms, disarming the blocks they had for changing. When you adamantly say, “Enough,” you may be angry about your circumstances but probably you are just as angry at yourself for standing in the mud with two good feet.
However, anger can be damaging to our health and relationships over time. The skill is to, after you begin making the changes you want, shift the focus of your anger away from the external circumstances to instead focus on what you strongly desire to feel within yourself.
It is not the flaky boss or the overwhelming responsibilities that make you scream at strangers while you drive. You should be angry that it has taken so long for you to realize you have the power to change your circumstances. If you then channel the energy of your discontent toward what passion, happiness, freedom, respect, or peace of mind you choose to feel, you will be using your anger to initiate positive actions.
Therefore once you commit to a change you want to make, you should shift your focus away from what is missing in your life to what you want to passionately and positively create. Adamantly wanting something to end is a good way to kick-start the process. Yet once you are off and running, you need a positive obsession to sustain your efforts. To help make the shift, answer the questions below:
Exercise: Giving Voice to Your Emotions
Understanding what is at the source of your emotions will help you focus your energy toward positive change. After you experience anger, disappointment or disgust, ask yourself:
- What do I feel I have lost?
- What do I feel I should have?
- What are people not giving me that I deserve?
- What am I doing to keep myself small?
Now ask yourself how badly you want what you deserve and what you are capable of creating:
- What do I want more of in my life? What do I want to say “yes” to now?
- What is the gift I most want share?
- What are the new conversations I would like to create?
- What is my heart telling me to do?
Now, picture what is possible for you. Make your declaration public by sharing it with someone. Determine what you can do to ensure your commitment to this change. Then every day, focus on what is working and the outcomes you achieve, even tiny ones. Putting positive emotions in service of what you desire will help you sustain your journey.
Excerpt from Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. Berrett-Koehler, June 2010.