As humans, a natural tendency we have is to nurture emotions, which slows our progress in converting emotions into productive behaviors.
You know from personal experience that you fail to see potential solutions when you are in an emotional state. You know that because solutions surface instantly as soon as the emotion subsides.
Neuroscientists tell us that we employ only 10% of our mental capacity. That’s probably a generous estimate given how much more powerful our subconscious mind is than our conscious mind…something discussed in Emotions: Messages From Your Subconscious (opens in a new link).
Our emotions absorb so much energy that when we’re in an emotional state, I suspect that our mental capacity drops to around 3%. We suffer a significant drop in cognitive ability when we are emotional and that drop persists as long as we nurture the emotion. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean by nurturing emotions:
- You are struggling to complete a task. The longer you struggle the more frustrated you become. The more frustrated you become, the harder you push for a solution which only intensifies your frustration. You continue to push for a solution until you exhaust yourself. In that moment of exhaustion, when you decide to walk away from the task, solutions surface. In other words, you nurtured the emotion until it led to exhaustion.
- You are excited about a new opportunity. Your excitement is quickly replaced by doubts about whether you possess the skills and resources necessary to be successful. These doubts become fear and anxiety that you won’t be successful. Then excitement and hope return only to be replaced again by doubts, fear and anxiety. Round and round you go until you exhaust yourself emotionally. Once again, this cycle of emotion from excitement, hope, doubt, fear and anxiety is something you nurtured to the point of exhaustion, then solutions surface.
In both examples, and many others like them, we nurture emotions to the point of exhaustion.
What lessons can we learn from experiences like these?
When you experience an emotion, pause a moment. The emotion will quickly subside. Often, your course of action will become obvious. You’ll know exactly what to do to deal with the situation you’re facing.
If a course of action doesn’t come immediately to mind, do NOT push harder for a solution. You’ll set yourself up to experience the first example all over again. Instead, plant this question into your subconscious mind: “How can I solve this problem?” Then divert your conscious efforts onto a task that you know you can complete successfully.
Your subconscious mind will work toward a solution while you’re conscious mind is focused on something else. When you use this approach, you will use more than the 10% mental capacity neuroscientists suggest.
For our kids
As you see the kids in your life nurturing emotions, ask them to pause a moment. Then ask them whether they are beginning to see solutions to the problem they’re facing. As they realize that they’ve gained clarity about the situation and what they need to do, they’ll realize that a simple pause will help them convert emotions into productive behaviors more quickly when they pause and allow their emotions to subside. It’s one of the most valuable lessons you can teach them.
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