Emotions are powerful, and understanding how to navigate our feelings is one of the most useful things we can learn. Their influence over us is impressive, and when we recognize their driving power, we can leverage that knowledge to make the changes we want in ourselves and our lives.
Thoughts do create feelings, but that doesn’t mean we want to feel good 100% of the time. It doesn’t mean we only want to think happy, positive thoughts. Our brain desperately wants to create a 50/50 experience where we feel happy 50% of the time, and 50% of the time, we feel something negative. It does this by modifying, calculating, and adapting without any cues from you.
Initially this 50/50 experience can feel like a bit of a bummer, but it is actualy a relief when you start looking at life this way. We live in a society where we have false pleasure and a variety of ways to escape negative emotions. We have this idea that we are entitled to feel good all the time.
When we remember that 50% of the time we will feel something negative, then we can stop trying to escape or being afraid of our emotions. Feeling bad doesn’t mean your life isn’t good.
Negative feelings, sometimes referred to as dirty feelings, are defined as things like: fear, anger, disgust, sadness, rage, and loneliness. Each of those feelings have a purpose and so learning to recognize and allow them is part of being emotionally healthy.
When someone we love is struggling, we want to be sad. If we witness a terrible injustice we should feel anger, rage or maybe even disgust. Those feelings have a place given the circumstance.
If I read a story in the news about a missing woman and her children, I would want to feel sad and allow those natural emotions for a while. I’d feel appalled and might think, “That’s terrible, I hope those kids are okay. I hope they find the woman, and I hope she’s okay, and I feel so badly for her mother, who is probably worried sick about her.”
All of those thoughts might be creating feelings of fear, and I want to allow those thoughts. The more I try to resist them the stronger they will become. This is so important to understand because when you know you’re the creator of all of your feelings, it doesn’t mean you go in and consciously look at every single thought and navigate every single emotion. But you get to choose when you’re ready to be done with those feelings and then if you want to generate certain emotions, you can.
Actions and Results
Growing up, I believed if I wanted to accomplish something in my life, if I wanted to change something, then I just needed to take some kind of action to get the results I was looking for. And once I had that result I would feel better. It’s so common to think; action → result → feeling.
Let’s talk about some examples:
Action → I will pay off my debt
Result → positive net-worth
Feeling → financial freedom, peace, or relief
Action → eat less and exercise more
Result → ideal body weight
Feeling → loving and accepting of myself
Action → clean my house
Result → a clean house
Feeling → relaxed, focused, peaceful
Action → going back to school
Result → earning degree
Feeling → confident to apply for job
Sometimes we cut out the part where we take action because things just happen. People around us use their agency saying or doing things. Certain events occur. Circumstances in the world happen. It wasn’t necessarily us taking action, but we still believe it was the result, and then the feeling.
For instance: someone does something super nice for me, and then I feel gratitude. My daughter makes a choice I like, she chose what I hoped for, and then I feel relief. Someone compliments me, and then I feel confident.
So the key in every one of those examples is instead of waiting to feel the feeling at the end, you’re going to try to generate that feeling and emotion before you take action.
Let’s look at some of the examples above and first focus on feeling, then action, and results.
Feeling → financial freedom, peace, abundance
Action → pay off debt
Result → positive net-worth
If first I decide to feel financial peace, freedom, and abundance, and then I pay off my debt, I’m much more likely to find the way and to take the action necessary to end up successful and have a positive net-worth.
Feeling→ loving myself
Action→ eat less and exercise more
Result → ideal body weight
If I first work to love myself and then I work on eating less and exercising more, I’m 10-times more likely to get to the result of the ideal body weight.
Feeling → relaxed and peaceful in my home
Action → clean my home
Result → enjoy my clean home
If I decide to feel relaxed and peaceful and focused in my home and then I go clean it, (cleaning it is a lot more fun from that place) I’m a lot more successful and confident about getting the clean house in the end.
Feeling → confident in my abilities
Action → go back to school
Result → earn degree
If I decide to be confident about my abilities and proud of myself and then I go back to school, think about what a better experience I’m going to have at school and what a better student I’m going to be as I earn that degree.
Feeling, action, then result. In other words, choose to be happy and fulfilled first, then go work hard and you’re much more likely to succeed.
Now, in those other areas where somebody else does something or something in the world happens and then we feel an emotion, it’s just good to know that you don’t have to wait for those things to happen to feel any of the emotions you want to feel.
You can feel gratitude before somebody comes and does something nice for you. You can feel relief even before your kids make a decision, even if they never make the decision you want. You can feel confident without anyone complimenting you.
We are always are the creator of our emotions first. Even though it feels like, I did that thing, then I got a result, and then I felt good, it’s not what happened. We did the thing, we got the result, and then we believed a different story, and we thought different thoughts, and that’s why we felt good. We just didn’t permit ourselves to believe the story until we’d done the thing.
We don’t have to wait for the result. We don’t have to wait to get to the end goal to feel what we’re trying to feel. We can feel it right now. And the way you feel an emotion is by the story you’re believing. The story you believe is either a frustrating one, a heavy one, a shame-filled one, a resentful one, an overwhelming one, or a peaceful, confident, loving, and fulfilling one.
Navigate our feelings
Navigating our feelings is not the thing you do that makes you feel better; it’s the story you started believing once you did that thing you did. Start today by believing the story first. You can generate emotions by finding a story — it has to be a believable one — a story that first generates the emotions you want.
What do you need to think and believe to generate gratitude? I find that if I start noticing the little things I normally take for granted, I can generate tons of gratitude that feels good and is a useful fuel for me.
How do you generate confidence? You are already amazing. It’s not about making yourself amazing. It’s not being better in any way. It’s just choosing to believe you already are. Heavenly Father created you, and He didn’t make any mistakes. He did an amazing job on every one of us.
What about generating abundance? You have to believe there’s enough. There’s enough money, and there’s enough time. There genuinely is. Abundance is an emotion. It doesn’t come from how much money you have, and it doesn’t come from how much time you have. It comes from what you believe about how much you have and your ability to get what you need.
How do you generate happiness? Try starting with thoughts about Heavenly Father, and connecting with him in a certain way. This is why reading our scriptures and saying prayers are powerful and essential. It creates a spiritual connection with God and helps fuel everything else we’re doing in life.
Now I want you to keep these concepts, of emotional balance and navigating your feelings, in your back pocket. I want you to pull it out any time you’re trying to achieve something; any time things aren’t working, any time you’re not getting the result you want.
We have to retrain our brains. We don’t want to lose the part of our brain that protects us from danger, we just want to create a balance by looking out for abundance and gratitude. Knowing how to redirect the brain helps us leverage it in a way that’s the most useful. Maximizing the results we want to get in this life.
This life is an experience designed to help us progress. That’s why we actually all strive and seek for progression. We strive for growth. If we’re not growing, we feel it. We feel like something’s wrong. We feel dormant. We feel the pain and the discomfort of stagnation.
As we go through this life as human beings, we have some growth and development that just happens as we mature and as our brains develop and evolve, and then we have lots of opportunities beyond that to continue growing, and that is the goal, to continually grow and practice progressing into the next version of ourselves. What we’re capable of becoming is beyond what we can even imagine.
More on Emotional Balance and Navigating Our Feelings
- How Do You Respond to Your Circumstances?
- Mentally Strong People Do These 13 Things
- How to Parent Emotionally Intelligent Children
- How to Build Self-Confidence and Finally Feel Secure