The Power of Emotion and How to Use it to Be More Effective
The Power of Emotion
As with your imagination, the dual nature of your emotions means they can either help you along the path to success or push you over the edge of failure.
Such is their power, your emotions can be the wind pushing your hot air balloon toward your destination, or they can be the anchor ropes tying you to the spot. Or worse, they can be the flames that burn your balloon to the ground and all your hopes and dreams with it.
To harbour and encourage negative emotions such as fear, anger, hate, greed, idolatry, and pride—emotions that I term ‘The Six Thieves’—is to harbour and encourage failure.
When you choose negative emotions, you choose to limit yourself.
In my own experience, the fear of failure and the fear of rejection caused me to procrastinate for 15 years before I started writing my first book, The Golden Chalice. As a 15-year-old high school student, I wanted to be a bestselling author. As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted to be just like my heroes, Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, John Irving, and later Paulo Coelho.
But the fear of failure and rejection prevented me from even trying. For 15 years I told everyone who’d listen that I was going to write a book, but I didn’t. I procrastinated instead and made excuses.
“I’m working 80 hours a week, when do I have time to write?” I repeated to myself over and over again. “I also want a social life. I want to travel. I also have to study for my specialty exams. I simply don’t have any spare time.”
Even though I could efficiently problem solve in the Emergency Department and on the wards, I had an extremely negative Problem-Solving Orientation when it came to my writing. I had a lot of self-doubt about my ability to become a successful writer, which resulted in deliberate and intentional avoidance behaviour. I also had a lot of self-judgement, convincing myself that I wasn’t a particularly good writer and that nobody would want to read what I wrote anyhow, so why bother?
To make matters worse, my fears caused me to play down the benefits of writing the novels I wanted to write and the fulfillment of becoming a published author. It was almost as if I had a fear of success, and if I had been asked to register my PSO with the above poll during this time, I would have answered ‘0’ or ‘1’.
It wasn’t until I was 30 that I started to overcome my fears and start writing. Only when I put to one side the fear of failure and not being good enough did I find the courage to sit down at my computer and start tapping away at the keyboard. Within a year, I had finished the first draft of The Golden Chalice (The Naked Soul was its working title) and resigned from my position as a paediatric trainee at The Royal London Hospital to follow my calling.
Unfortunately, by then, procrastination had already stolen 15 years of my life, but I console myself that at least it wasn’t 50 years of my life, which it could well have been.
So your emotions, especially fear, such as the fear of failure, can work against you and severely limit your effectiveness and success if you’re not aware of how they manipulate your thoughts and behaviours behind the scenes.
This is one of the lessons we learn from the fable of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The queen, caught in her own vanity, reacts with fear, anger, and hatred toward her step-daughter, Snow White, when the magic mirror replies that she, the queen, is no longer the fairest in the land. Her obsessive thoughts convince her to murder Snow White, first by ordering a woodsman to do her dirty work, and then, when he couldn’t go through with it, to venture into the woods disguised as an old hag and give Snow White a poisoned apple herself.
Ultimately, however, it is the queen’s own fear, anger, and hatred that are the cause of her own demise. Likewise, if you’re not aware of how fear and other negative emotions pull your strings and control your life, at worst you risk your own demise. At best, you severely limit your power of self-determination and personal growth, which are essential for your effectiveness and success.
Yet, you also have the power to choose positive, self-supporting emotions that can work to your benefit, as long as you are also aware of how these emotions can work for you. In particular, emotions such as enthusiasm, vitality, vigour, passion, courage, confidence, and self-love.
Enthusiasm is one such positive emotion that can drive you toward success. Not every enthusiastic person finds success, but like any fuel, effective and successful people have learned to use enthusiasm in the right manner to propel themselves forward in the direction they want to go.
Enthusiasm stems from the Greek meaning ‘to be filled with God’. It’s the energy and excitement of doing something that you love doing. It’s the emotion that drives you toward action, which is vital because without action you cannot succeed.
There are many other positive emotions that can power you forward and keep you heading toward your worthy goal:
- the love of what you do
- the bliss of creating
- being in ‘the flow’
- harmony with what you’re doing and with your environment
- peace of mind
- the joy of being alive
- the freedom of being without limitation
- the awareness of abundance
- and many more
In the late 90s, when I eventually found the courage to overcome my fears and chronic procrastination and start the novel that I had always wanted to write, I discovered something that had been dormant in my sense of being for a very long time—bliss.
Growing up in Australia means you’re never too far from the beach. Over 80% of the population lives within the coastal zone, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the shoreline. Which means whatever beach you drive past that has any semblance of a decent wave, you’ll find surfers bobbing up and down on their boards just past the first break waiting for their next ride. Then, as the swell builds, they’ll flip onto their stomach and arm-paddle to catch the momentum of the wave, jumping to their feet before it breaks and sliding down its face, cutting across the line of the break before the wave crashes and loses its power.
All in all, from the time the surfer starts paddling to the time the ride is over, about 10 seconds of joy has passed, maybe 15 seconds if it’s a really good wave. But when I am sitting in front of my computer and tapping out the words of my latest book, I can experience 10 hours of joy each day. If I have a clear day of writing, from the time I get up in the morning to the time I shut down the computer, I’m surfing that writing wave for hours upon hours upon hours.
To me, it’s bliss, and it’s the fuel that powers me forward to keep writing, to keep achieving, to keep pumping out book after book after book.
When used properly, that’s the power of emotion that’s inherent in all of us. You just need to learn how to tap into it, and it usually begins with your passion, your joy.
I mentioned before that when you choose negative emotions, you choose to limit yourself. The reverse is also true. When you choose positive emotions, you choose to go beyond your limits.
So what is your passion? What is your joy? What gives you greatest fulfillment?
Then, once you are clear about what makes you happy, all you need to do is consciously and intentionally choose more of it.
So keep choosing what makes you happy, and soon you’ll find there’s no power for negative emotions in your day.