Channeling Your Emotional Energy for Performance and Well-Being
How would it feel to make those tough choices without feeling that weight in your chest? What would it feel like to quickly restore a sense of calm and self-assurance whenever you need to most?
Our emotions have an obvious impact on our daily reality. Just think of how easy is to focus when you are peaceful and how difficult is to listen when you are worried; it’s common sense.
Yet, we often regard them as a potential source of weakness and unbalance, putting them aside so they do not interfere with our ‘clear thinking’.
Let’s explore how to manage and integrate the ebb and flow of our emotions better to sustain and boost our performance and well-being.
In previous articles we outlined the framework of five “batteries” that drive and sustain our energy:
- Physical: your health, stamina, and vitality.
- Mental: your clarity, focus, and intellectual agility.
- Emotional: your resilience, creativity, and emotional self-regulation.
- Spiritual: your values, motivation, and sense of purpose.
- Social: your surroundings, relationships, and professional environment.
While it is normal that the batteries fluctuate and interact constantly, the Personal Energy Management framework helps you to:
- Identify how to mobilize the five dimensions to be more often at your best and to give your best.
- Discover which batteries are your most stable ones and which ones need more attention, so that you meet challenges with resilience.
- Learn how to create a more conducive internal and external climate for your purpose and your goals.
Which factors most affect your Emotional Energy?
When you feel overwhelmed or are in the thick of a high-stakes meeting, it’s often your ability to monitor and support your emotional energy that tends to go out the window the fastest.
Your emotional energy is related to the QUALITY of your energy: it’s a fluid “internal climate” that can either support you or wear you down.
The “quality” to which I am referring is not one that is “positive” or “negative”. Rather, I prefer to regard them as “flowing” or “stuck”. Emotions are energy in-motion: they need to flow and when they don’t, they are likely to drain you and the people around you. I refer to stress as “frozen energy”, like the water in a winter stream.
To feel angry for a short time can help us to address an issue faster. Yet, if a month later we are still angry, those emotions are likely to drain us.
At the same time, imagine if you were always and only happy!
Each battery is recharged or drained by factors like your daily habits, your perceptions, and your lifestyle. For the Physical Battery, sleep, food and exercise were universal factors, and they were easy to identify.
As we move along the batteries, these factors become nuanced and become more akin to “clusters of factors”, where personal differences become more important.
When we talk about emotions, my clients often ask me for effective tools to manage them. My answer is to first identify their key factors and then select the techniques.
In my experience, these are the “4+1 cluster of factors” which most often affect the flow of your Emotional Energy.
- Your focus: how easily do you notice the opportunities and what is going well? Remember: your emotional energy follows your mental focus, as highlighted in the Mental Energy article.
- “Do you habitually notice what is not going as I wished? How is the impact on me and the people around me?
- What I usually focus on, is recharging me or draining me?
- Your emotional vocabulary: how accurately and promptly do you recognize, identify, and label your emotions and the emotions of others?
- “How easily can I describe what’s making me feel the way I feel?”
- “To what extent am I able to share my feelings with others?”
- Your window of tolerance: how much uncertainty and discomfort can you take whilst remaining calm and effective?
- "What is my threshold for stress?”
- “How does uncertainty and discomfort affect me?”
- Your emotional flexibility: how quickly are you able to regain your cool, accept the emotions of others and find ways to build bridges, even under duress?
- “How long does it take me to bounce back from difficult encounters?”
- “To what extent am I able to read and connect with others’ feelings?”
- Your Signature Factor: something personal to you that has a big impact on your emotional energy. Possible examples include that you might get grumpy when you are hungry (physical), irritated when you get interrupted during a task (mental), unsettled when you notice injustice in your surroundings (spiritual) or tensions in your team (social).
- “What really uplifts me and refreshes my mood in a way that nothing else does?”
- “What drags me down like nothing else can?”
How to optimise your Emotional Energy?
Here's how you can begin to use your Emotional Energy to your advantage using examples from my one of my clients, Majeed.
Step 1: Reflect on the impact of the 4+1 factors
First, you want to identify how the cluster of factors above are affecting your energy. Which ones are working for you? Which ones are more vulnerable?
Through the years, I’ve observed that “Drainers” have a greater impact than “Rechargers,” and this is especially true for our emotions; it is our “negativity bias”. For survival purposes, we are wired to look out for threats: we notice what doesn’t work, what makes us feel uncomfortable, and what could be dangerous. For this reason, we tend to miss out on what is “safe” and is going fine.
Let’s see how ‘Majeed’ put these ideas into practice:
- His focus habitually went to what was unfolding in the direction he wished. He was naturally optimistic about the outcomes and encouraging with his colleagues.
- When it came to identifying his emotions, only the uplifting ones were easily recognized. The ones that he considered ‘negative’ were often labelled: “I am upset”. “Upset” could mean annoyed, angry, discouraged, among many possible interpretations. Consequently, managing what he could not recognize was difficult.
- His window of tolerance turned out to be very small. He realized that he could very quickly get discouraged or annoyed when he felt under pressure.
- His emotional flexibility was very high, so he would equally quickly go back to his habitual calm and supportive attitude. The drawback was that his “snappy sparks”, as he called them, affected his team and boss.
- His “signature factor” was his tendency to worry if he “had done enough”. His high standards often became a source of self-criticising doubts, pushing him to improve out of fear – a very high-maintenance emotion.
Step 2: Identify what to improve one small step at a time
Now the question to ask yourself is, “What could I do differently?”
To build new ways of doing things that stick, use the “Mini-Habit” methodology by taking on a small action which is meaningful for you, that you could do frequently (4-5 times a week) and is possible even when you feel tired or busy.
Majeed, at first, was very discouraged by his findings. As a senior executive, he felt that a calm assertive behaviour should come naturally to him. (We will explore further the “shoulds” in the article about Spiritual Batteries.)
He started to harshly criticize himself, which is – along with wanting to change too much too fast – one of the most common blockages to change.
Shaming yourself will make you feel even more inadequate. Talk to yourself as you would talk with somebody you deeply care for; as somebody who tries very hard and needs both honesty and kindness to develop further. Be patient and curious.
Step 3: Take decisive action by putting Mini-Habits into practice
Once you’ve identified what you want to focus on, it is time to choose small steps you can take to create the greatest impact.
Majeed chose to start with these actions:
- To help him with identifying his emotions, he decided to download the Feelings Wheel, a tool that defines and frames the spectrum of feelings. He chose to apply it in his private life to start and found it enabled him to resolve difficult emotions more swiftly and effectively.
- To widen his window of tolerance, he noticed that speaking slower when he started to feel upset stopped the escalation. Andrew Huberman has a great video that explains why this made such a difference.
- To address his personal “Drainer” of not doing enough, he decided to pay attention to his internal dialogue. He did this by simply being curious about the words he habitually used. Elizabeth Scott, PhD, has an excellent article to demonstrate why this simple technique is so powerful.
By taking small steps that he could build into his day-to-day routine, like expanding his emotional vocabulary or slowing down and tackling his inner voice, Majeed was able to replenish his emotional battery and bring more to his work.
Achieve emotional “flow” with the Mini-Habits template
Becoming more deliberate about where you focus your attention, along with how you identify, express, and let go of your emotions, will free up a lot of energy. It starts with creating new habits.
When forming new habits, patience is one of your most valuable assets because invariably you will fall back into old patterns when tired or under pressure. Being kind and honest with yourself will help you get up and go on.
Establishing small, daily habits will help you gradually tweak life-long behaviors that are not serving you, enabling you to access your best self more frequently. This template to build Mini-Habits is a very effective tool for getting started. Give it a try.
When it comes to your emotional energy, always remember that it has a huge impact on the quality of your life. How will you look after it today?
Francesca Giulia Mereu
An executive coach with more than 20 years’ experience, Francesca Giulia Mereu is also author of the book Recharge Your Batteries. She regularly works with Frontline Humanitarian Negotiators (CCHN) and at IMD with senior leaders of global organizations. She is a Genesis Leadership Consultant working with global clients to support transitions and development.