When I first started out as a speaker and facilitator I was travelling around North America on a speaking tour called "Take More Action", The focus on the tour was to engage youth on the social and environmental issues we faced as a world and to empower young people to volunteer both locally and globally.
It was an amazing experience and one of the things I'm most proud of.
It was also incredibly challenging and stretched me to my capacity. Ask anyone who lives on the road and they'll tell you how challenging the driving, hotels, airplane food, and being away from the people you care about the most for long periods of time can be. Emotionally it takes it's toll on you.
About halfway through 8-month tour I found myself is a really hard place. Exhausted, overwhelmed at times and feeling all kinds of negative emotions that I didn't really have control over. I was travelling with my speaking partner, Guistina, and we were rarely more than 20 feet away from each other that entire tour.
My job was to show up every morning energetic, positive and engaging...even when I didn't feel any of those things. At times I struggled with it.
But one thing I did learn to do that helped out a lot was this:
I labelled my emotions.
I had (and still have) a small notebook that I carried around with me. Before I would get into a school or start a speech, I would find a quiet place and I would write down all of the emotions that I was experiencing. Sometimes those included things like anger, resentment, loneliness, sadness, being overwhelmed and sometimes it was happiness, love, joy, gratitude.
Most times it was a combination of both positive and negative. b
Doing this, at the time, helped me put a name to what I was feeling and put it off to the side temporarily so that I could come back and deal with it when I was ready (and not about to speak to a room full of youth who wanted to be empowered to change the world).
I only later found out that what I was doing was one of the best things that I could have done to manage those negative emotions at the time!
In Positive Psychology and Mindfulness research it's called Affect Labelling. Studies have shown that by labelling your emotions, you can better manage them.
And that makes sense, right? It's difficult to manage an emotion if you don't know what that emotion is. It's challenging to address what's wrong when you you can't put your finger on it.
So how do you do it?
1. Take some time to sit down with a pen and piece of paper and ask yourself What am I feeling right now? Then just list whatever comes to your mind. No judgement
2. When the time is right, come back to that list and ask yourself What is contributing to these feelings? or Why do I feel this way? This is a great opportunity to journal and connect with yourself!
3. Next, ask yourself "Do I want to feel more or less of this particular emotion?"
4. Last, brainstorm some ways that you can feel more or less of the emotion you're labelling.
It's important that we don't just focus on the negative emotions that we're feeling when we do this. A great coach told me one "What you focus on grows" so it's important to spend more time on what you want more of in your life. By labelling positive emotions as well as negative ones, you allow yourself to identify what's contributing to that positive so that you can bring it back in regularly (e.g. good conversations or regular exercise).
It's been emotional,
When was the last time you sat down for 20 minutes and really got to know the most important person you have in your life? I’m not talking about a significant other or even a family member; I’m talking about taking the time to sit down with yourself and take the opportunity to get to know who you truly are.
In a world where we spend the majority of our day connected but not really connecting, it can be easy to overlook and not prioritize taking the time to sit in silence, completely uninterrupted, or to open up your notebook and start to journal the thoughts you have in your head. We become so aware of what’s going on around us and with other people, that we can become completely unaware of what’s going on inside ourselves.
Self awareness can be defined as a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. It’s foundational in the development of our emotional intelligence, yet it’s easy to neglect. It’s easy to spend more time trying to get to know others and understand their motives than we do working at understanding our own.
So where do you start? How do you teach yourself to become more self aware?
The beautiful thing about self awareness is that you can begin by just thinking about self awareness.
Maybe you want to begin by sitting in silence for 10 or 20 minutes and simply just pay attention to your body’s sensations or the thoughts that are flowing through your mind. If you’re a writer (and even if you’re not), try journaling for 15 minutes every day for week. Write about the challenges you’re facing, the lessons you’re learning, or the things you’re grateful for right now (like having the courage to take action on your idea).
Spending time with yourself is one of the most empowering and beneficial thing you can do for yourself both personally and professionally. Understanding what drives you is a powerful tool for success. Becoming more aware of your emotions and how they influence your behaviour allows you control them rather than allowing them to control you.
However you choose to practice awareness, the main point is to make sure you practice it! It’s like playing an instrument, sport or learning a new skill; in order to get good at it, you need to do it regularly.
Socrates said it simply and best, “know thyself”.
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It’s not about telling a kid “don’t do drugs” or a group of them to “Stop bullying each other”. It’s about helping youth recognize that they have choices in their lives.
It’s not about academics — That’s our agenda, not theirs. We should want teenagers to be happy and healthy and let the other stuff come after that. The other stuff WILL come after that.
It’s not about telling a kid “things will get better” even when you know they won’t. It’s about helping that kid understand that nothing is permanent and everything is temporary, even pain.
Here we are trying to mold them into what best suits society and neglecting to pay more attention to what we’ve already done. We think so much about the future and the past that we often neglect the present.
Great minds discuss ideas;
Matt Tod is an international speaker, leadership facilitator, writer and lover of all things Zombie-related.