Updated: Nov 4, 2020
Have you done this? Said ‘yes’ to something, even though your whole body was screaming ‘no’? Only to regret it for a long time afterward?
Yep. Me too.
I once accepted a job. And on my journey in, on my first day, I was looking out of the train window and thought ‘I’m not going to like this job. It feels all wrong.’
And so it proved. Eighteen months I was in that job. Eighteen months of feeling miserable. Trying to make it work. What a waste!
Feelings are part of your body and have a profound impact on your energy, performance and health. Feelings and emotions are there to protect you. To keep you safe. Your emotions help you to react to danger and engage the 'fight' or 'flight' reaction.
You’d do well to understand what they’re telling you.
And that, of course, is our first lesson. Because often – as demonstrated by yours truly in the example above – we don’t listen to our feelings. Or we don’t understand why we’re feeling like we do. And therefore dismiss our feelings as ‘silly’.
So, what to do? Well, mindfulness is often the answer that is being given. Sitting down quietly and just focus on your breathing. Noticing your thoughts, but not feeling attached to them.
The thing that worked for me though is journaling. Now, I’m not a natural journaller. I never thought my thoughts were worth writing down. I still don’t. But a journal is not like that! In a journal you will just write down what comes up in your head, without thinking, without judgement, without a need for it to be interesting, well written, or even readable! And you can throw it away straight afterwards. Writing in a journal makes you aware of your feelings. Of your thoughts. And what role your emotions play in your daily life.
Now, before we go any further, a quick word of warning: whilst it is important to understand your emotions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you ‘obey’ your emotions!
Have you ever reacted as soon as you felt an emotion? Have you ever opened your mouth as soon as you became angry, and regretted it for a long time afterwards? Yes, that’s what happens when you let your emotions rule you.
Now, I'm going to go a bit spiritual on you. But if you can 'become aware' of your emotions, 'manage' them, view them as separate from yourself, who is actually doing the viewing? Yes. You!
And that means that you - as you are becoming more aware of your emotions - can start to manage them. And can make choices on the basis of them. Or not.
If you’re angry you can choose to express that anger. Or not.
If you’re afraid you can choose to go along with that fear. Or do it anyway.
So, if you can do all that, why not go one further?
If you can view your emotions, and manage them, why not actively practise more positive emotions?
Having more positive emotions is proven to make you happier. So, instead of making your happiness something that relies on others the study of happiness (positive psychology) suggests that happiness is within you. You can determine your level of happiness, by practising positive emotions.
And yes, I say practising, because it is not easy. Not at first.
Earlier we talked about emotions being there to protect you, to keep you from danger. This means that they are hard-wired to look for the negative. Any sign of ‘danger’ and they’re off!
Practising positive emotions means that you make a conscious effort to think more positively.
And - according to studies – you will have to do this at a ratio of 3:1, three positive thoughts against one negative thought.
That is why you will see so many articles talking about ‘gratitude journals’, in which you write down three positive things, things you are grateful for, every day.
I personally find that it works better for me to keep spotting those negative thoughts throughout the day and consciously trying to replace them with more positive thoughts.
So, knowing all of this, what has that got to do with career change?
As it happens, quite a lot.
Ultimately your change in career is aimed at making you happy.
And as it turns out, your happiness is – at least partly – in your gift! Yes, circumstances might make you miserable. And it’s OK to feel miserable. But in the end it is you that is responsible for your own level of happiness.
And it turns out that you can do quite a lot about managing your emotions to increase that level of happiness all by yourself!
And if you don’t believe me, why not read ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, a man who was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, and still managed to keep up a level of happiness in those circumstances!
Finally, before you go, this. Remember my example above? Of the job I walked into, knowing it was all wrong?
My emotions were trying to tell me something. And I ignored them.
I once did a self-defence course. And the teacher made us do this exercise, where we had to stand with our eyes closed, made to feel very uncomfortable with people around us touching us and getting close. The aim of this was to make you trust your intuition.
Your emotions are there to protect you.
If you feel uncomfortable your feelings are trying to tell you something.
If you are so uncomfortable that it harms your health there is no shame in ‘running away bravely’ (as the self-defence teacher told us).
But at the very least, be aware of your feelings, listen to them, understand what they are telling you and make a choice on that basis.
Do not ignore them.
What are your emotions telling you?