Yesterday’s post was about using emotional intelligence (EQ) to overcome dysfunctional patterns. Today, we’ll learn how to use EQ to maximize our performance.
In yesterday’s post, I introduced the 2×2 model of EQ. That model involves the awareness and regulation of emotions of yourself and others.
We’re interested in becoming aware and regulating our own emotions when working on our dysfunctional patterns and maximizing our performance.
Emotions Drive Us
We are mostly driven by our emotions. Even the most rational people are guided more by their feelings than their reasoning.
There are two entities in our psyche. The first one is intelligent but weak. The second one is strong but dumb.
These two entities are mentioned in multiple resources. Nobel Laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls these entities System 1 and 2 in his book Thinking Fast and Slow.
Ray Dalio mentions two levels of self in his book Principles. Sigmund Freud has a three-piece model, id, ego, and superego.
I like to call these entities David and Goliath. Our executive center is like David, intelligent but weak. Our emotional center is like Goliath, strong but dumb.
The Battle between the Two Systems in Our Psyches
There’s a battle going on between David and Goliath all the time.
David is pulling us toward our long-term goals, while Goliath is pulling us toward short-term rewards.
The quality of our lives is determined by the result of this battle, day after day, moment after moment.
The good news is that we can use our executive center to regulate our own emotions. That way we can break our dysfunctional patterns and maximize our performance.
The Secret of Success
We can’t succeed if our emotional center isn’t in alignment with our executive center, because the emotional center is stronger than the executive center.
Once we align our emotional center with our executive center, we operate on autopilot and maximize our chances of success.
The Map of Consciousness
Before proceeding, let’s take a look at the map of consciousness by David Hawkins. This map is useful to determine and regulate our emotions.
- Grief (Sadness)
For more information about the levels of consciousness, I recommend the book Power vs. Force by David Hawkins.
Emotions Are Neutral
We tend to label some emotions as positive and others as negative. In essence, emotions are neutral. It’s how you use them that makes them positive or negative.
Anger can be a positive emotion if you use it constructively. Anger is a sign of optimism. It means that you feel like you can change the situation that makes you angry.
Sadness is a sign of pessimism. That doesn’t necessarily make it a negative emotion. Sometimes, we need to let go of trying to change some situations and accept them. Sadness helps us doing that shift.
Use Your Executive Center to Steer Your Emotions
We’ll use our executive center to determine and change our emotional state. Let’s go over an example.
Suppose that you feel an urge to distract yourself with social media. What’s the underlying emotional state that’s causing this urge?
In some cases, it might be apathy. You might be bored and think that it won’t make any difference to waste a few minutes on social media.
Default Behavior Is Determined by Emotions
Your executive center thinks that the right thing to do is to not waste time on social media and to work on your project.
Your emotions don’t agree with your executive center. Your Goliath thinks it’s completely OK to kill some time on social media.
Since your Goliath is stronger than your David, your Goliath will win this battle. The only way to win this battle for your David is to switch the emotional state of your Goliath.
You Can Regulate Your Emotions
Your target behavior is to work on your project. Which emotional state would cause your Goliath to work on your project? You can use guilt, fear, anger, and even love and joy.
- You can trigger guilt by thinking about your responsibility to your colleagues, boss, family, accountability partner, or your mastermind group.
- You can trigger fear by thinking about the consequences of not working on your project.
- You can trigger anger by thinking about not getting what you want from life.
- You can trigger love by thinking about the people who will benefit from your project.
- You can trigger joy by thinking about how other people’s lives will be changed as a result of your project.
Which Emotional State Works the Best for You for a Certain Task?
You need to know which level works best for each type of task. Let me go over four activities and which level works the best for me for each kind of task.
You might have different activities in your life. Different emotional states might work the best for you for each type of task.
When I’m in the planning mode, a peaceful state of mind works the best for me. In this state, I don’t feel any intense emotions.
In the absence of intense emotions, I have mental clarity. I can reflect on the challenges in front of me. I analyze, prioritize, and schedule my tasks.
To get into this state of mind, I use the letting go technique that I mentioned in yesterday’s post.
When the planning phase is over, and I’m in the execution phase, the level of anger works the best for me. When programming or writing a post, anger helps me focus on the task at hand and give my 100% to it.
Getting into the level of anger isn’t that hard for me. I just focus on the end result that I want to get and try to accomplish it as fast as possible.
By lifting weights, I mean working out in the gym, exercising with weights, doing 4 sets of 12 reps. These exercises require a similar emotional state as the execution phase.
A set of lifting weights takes around 45 seconds of intense effort. That requires full focus. The anger energy provides that kind of concentration.
Recently, I started jogging three times a week. Last week, I realized that jogging required a different emotional state than lifting weights.
In my case, jogging takes around 25 minutes of moderate effort. The moderate effort leaves room for random thoughts to rise.
When random thoughts rise and keep my mind busy, my performance drops. It becomes harder to complete my target distance.
When I let go of all the thoughts and aim for peace of mind and mental clarity, completing my target distance becomes easier.
Anger doesn’t work in jogging. Peace of mind works better. Therefore, I practice letting go during jogging.
What Works for One Task Doesn’t Work for Another
If I use the same level of consciousness as in lifting weights, and try to complete my laps as fast as possible, I won’t be able to finish my target number of laps.
For me, jogging is all about feeling good, enjoying the process, and letting go of intense emotions and the thoughts they bring with themselves. I focus on putting one foot in front of the other until I pass the finish line.
The Influences on Your Emotional State
Your thoughts, the state of your body, and your environment impact your emotional state. Your emotional state affects your thoughts and your body in turn.
You might have different thoughts about the same subject according to your emotional state.
At a particular moment, you might feel love, and your thoughts about a person would be positive. At another moment, you might feel anger, and your thoughts about the same person would be negative.
Thoughts vs. Your Emotional State
You can also influence your emotional state with thoughts. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned an if-then list to catalog your patterns and the thoughts to use to change your emotional state in each situation.
Environment vs. Your Emotional State
Your environment impacts your emotional state as well. I realize that I’m more reflective and peaceful on rainy days. I become more driven on sunny days. Different types of music trigger different emotions.
The State of Your Body vs. Your Emotional State
The state of your body affects your emotions as well. Think about the emotions you feel when you’re hungry and when you just ate. Or think about the effects of coffee and tea on your feelings.
You can use all of the variables above to regulate your emotions to maximize your performance.
Your performance depends on your emotional state, more than what you think on an intellectual level. If you want to maximize your performance, you need to regulate your emotions to produce the best results.
In summary, using EQ to maximize your performance is a four-step process.
- Which emotional state am I in now?
- What is the ideal emotional state for the task at hand?
- How do I get out of my current emotional state?
- How do I get into the target emotional state?
The answers to these questions are different for everybody. To get the most out of this process, you need to find your own answers to these questions.
In essence, align your emotional state with your goals, and you will succeed. If your emotional state and your goals contradict each other, your emotional state will always win.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.