Emotional Check for Success

Part of achieving success and financial freedom is quantitative. This means keeping track of what you spend and earn, tracking investments and returns, and minimizing taxes.

However, there is another aspect to achieving success that I think is often overlooked. I’m referring to the qualitative side – particularly the emotional side. Emotional intelligence is important for success. Emotional intelligence is the process being aware of one’s emotions and controlling them.

So what do I think are the most important negative emotions to control to achieve success?

Anger

Anger is one of the most destructive emotions. Anger is an impulsive reaction to some event. Anger can lead to disastrous outcomes: Car accidents, personal injury, getting fired from a job, losing an important customer, and losing out on a promotion. You’ve probably done something in anger and come to regret it later (I know I have). So how do I try to keep anger in check?

I consciously try to notice when I’m angry. I’m trying to do this more and more so it eventually becomes a habit. This is hard to do at first because anger is so blinding and essentially shuts down our process of rational thinking. Once I realize I’m angry, I take deep breaths for at least 10 seconds. Then I mentally step back and think about why I’m angry. Does it make sense to be angry  in the current situation? If yes, is there a better way to handle the situation? What are the long-term consequences of any actions that I may portray while angry? This seems like a long through process but I’ve become pretty quick at processing these thoughts through practice.

This process has helped me alleviate anger in numerous situations. For example, I used to get angry when dealing with drivers on the road who would cut me off or not follow the rules. Now I pay them no attention because what they do is out of my control and anything I do won’t achieve anything positive (it would probably result in a negative – likely an accident). If I get allocated excessive work, instead of getting angry at my superior, I work with that person to spread out the work load. The work can be delegated or prioritized according to most urgent – there’s always a solution.

Controlling anger is extremely important as it will help you make more rational decisions and avoid destructive behavior.

Envy

Charlie Munger who is a billionaire and Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway once said the following, “Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?”

I quote Munger a lot here because he’s full of so much wisdom. He’s one of the greatest thinkers of our time. Just check out some of his quotes. I also highly recommend his book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack, which I have in my Reading List. I digress though.

I absolutely agree with Munger on envy. Envy is where you want what someone else has or where you feel resentful towards what someone else has. It’s important to have ambition and you might want to achieve the level of success that someone else has. However, you shouldn’t let this consume you, especially when it comes to material possessions. Someone else will always be getting richer than you – so what? Someone will always be poorer than you.

So how do I control envy?

I find it easiest to control envy by focusing on my own goals. I don’t care what anyone else is achieving or buying. If someone you know gets richer than you it could be for a number of reasons: Luck, hard work, monetary support from family, inheritance, prudent investing, etc… You can’t control this. So that’s why I focus on what I can control and try to be grateful for what I have and for what I have been able to achieve.

Anxiety

Anxiety and stress can be a hindrance to success. Anxiety generally arises when we’re overwhelmed at work, over relationship issues, debt issues, or when our physical health is deteriorating. As I have progressed in my professional life and my schedule has become rounded out, I have felt anxiety sometimes creep up on me. It’s mostly because of a lot of work on my plate. So how do I reduce it?

When I’m overwhelmed at work, I step back from all of my work and focus on the big picture by doing the following:

  • I note that being anxious clouds my train of thought. If I can’t think clearly, I’ll do things wrong and won’t get much accomplished. I’ve been slowing down and telling myself this every time my work load becomes excessive. It only takes a minute and can save you from a lot of suffering.
  • I can only do one thing at a time so I try to relax and prioritize my work by most urgent and important.
  • I delegate as much work as I can to resources that aren’t fully utilized. Delegation is an amazing tool that you can use to leverage resources. Delegation can also make other people more successful by allowing them to do challenging work.
  • If something gets done a day or two late, it’s not the end of the world. Most of the time, your customer or superior will understand if you explain why it was late.

Self-Pity

Self-pity is where a person feels sorry for themselves and dwells on their troubles. These people blame outside forces for the negative circumstances in their lives.

I think self-pity can be destructive because it removes an element of control from our lives. We lose responsibility and accountability. If we wallow in self-pity all day, we allow external forces to take control of our lives.

I think self-pity should be removed from the equation when trying to achieve success. There are many things in the world you can’t control: Weather, behavior of others, whether your flight is on time, whether your employer is being purchased by a competitor, traffic, and so on. The key is to come to terms with these things.

I try to focus on things that I can control: Health, emotions, to a certain extent – my job performance, my finances, relationships, etc… Even with these things, you can run into obstacles. You might have an unexpected expense that damages your finances, you might not get a promotion that you deserve, or you might have a breakdown in a relationship that you thought was going well. I find the key to overcoming these obstacles is to take control and responsibility of the problems that arise and look for solutions. I try not to dwell on misfortunes that occur. I try to constantly look forward and for ways to solve issues. I’ve found that this has helped me get things done much more quickly and effectively.

I’m definitely not perfect at mastering the above emotions but I’ve been trying to chip away at them. I’ve found that I’m becoming more effective at work, managing my time, and strengthening my health.

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2 thoughts on “Emotional Check for Success

  1. A remarkable thing happened when I started my journey towards financial freedom in 2010. Many of the things you mention in this article started to disappear from my life. I found that taking control of ones finances and developing a plan for early retirement was very therapeutic, allowing me to focus more on the positives and less on the negatives. I found envy the hardest to overcome.

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    1. I absolutely agree with you Mike. The same thing has happened to me. Envy is definitely the hardest one to get rid of. It creeps up on me every now and then and I have to push it away.

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