This afternoon I was at a client site, waiting to see the head honcho. There was just me and a secretary in the waiting room when in burst a woman whose purpose I didn’t know, but it turned out that her purpose was to gossip. I politely pretended I wasn’t listening. Of course, I was.
“Well, I was sitting next to Adam (I don’t remember the exact names) and he was in a bad mood, and across from Michael and you know what he’s like, and Sharon was her normal grumpy self and I’m just singing away and they’re all like ‘why are you so happy?’ and I just don’t know why I’m in such a good mood!” She then sang the song she was singing and couldn’t get out of her head which was the song from a TV advertisement for detergent.
What struck me as so interesting about what she was saying, and why I’m writing this, is that she, and her colleagues, seemed completely at the mercy of good or bad moods. Like they have no say in the matter and moods just come and go with a life and mind of their own. And, to be honest, I believe this is the prevailing opinion all across the land.
Who Put You In a Bad Mood?
“I’m in a bad mood, now, and it’s all your fault!”
Have you ever said something like that? Have you ever blamed another person for your mood?
Unless you’ve had some sort of super enlightened upbringing, I bet you have. If I wasn’t in charge of my own emotions, I’d be really annoyed that we’re raised in that fashion, without someone telling us that nobody can control our emotions but us.
This is one of those truths that are so rarely believed. People in my personal circle rarely respond to my assertion of this fact with anything but complete and total disbelief.
“My husband has really upset me…”
‘Nope, no he didn’t. You upset yourself.’
“No he did, he never helps around the house and he take me for granted. I’m so cross.”
‘You might be upset by the value you’re putting on your thoughts about these things, but your husband isn’t to blame for your mood. Why don’t you try not being upset and see what happens?’
Cue the blank look and increased blinking activity while the brain tries to wrap itself around what I’m saying.
“Stop all that life coaching crap, Rand, I’m far too angry to be dealing with that!”
We have people who can slow their own heartbeats, climb mountains in their bare feet, stay underwater for unbelievable amounts of time, walk unharmed across pits of fire, sit placidly while they self-immolate in protest against injustice, but you can’t control your temper? Righto.
The Perils of Self Control
Many years ago a mentor gave me some terrific feedback. She said, “Rand St John, you are a very calm person, that is such an underrated trait.” I reflected seriously on that as she rarely praised anyone and it occurred to me that yes, I was a calm person and I went on to cultivate that skill purposely. It has served me well. I rarely, if ever over-react and it has definite benefits, but there are also some unhappy side effects.
Many years ago when I first started making decent cash I treated myself to a brand new BMW. I was extremely happy with my new found purchasing ability and this was literally the best thing I’d ever bought. My girlfriend at the time asked me if she could drive it and being the idiot that I am, I agreed happily. Ten minutes later she had involved us in a head-on collision with another vehicle at 60mph. Nobody was hurt beyond some bruising and the other driver was furious. He came out of the wreckage of his car shouting and swearing, but I gently led him to the grass verge to sit down and take some deep breaths. My girlfriend was contrite to the point of tears and apologizing profusely. Inside I was absolutely astonished and I could have wept like a baby to see my new car, my status symbol, smashed to pieces. Outwardly I was as cool as a cucumber and didn’t then, or at any time in the future, take part in any recriminations or blame. There would have been absolutely no profit in doing so.
That’s true about many emotional episodes we might be tempted to have. I say tempted and I mean it. The next time you feel like indulging yourself in anger or spite or jealousy, just ask yourself, “What’s point of this? What will I gain?” You might think you’ll gain some satisfaction but you won’t. The most you’ll gain is regret. Regret you shouted at someone, regret you smashed something, regret your words, your deeds and your elevated stress levels.
The downside of being composed even in potentially situation is that people can, and frequently do, misinterpret your reactions. If you aren’t dramatic enough when they think you should be, they’ll think you simply don’t care.
- Didn’t you hear me? I don’t want to be with you any more? Why aren’t you more upset, you never loved me anyway, aiieeee!
- I can’t believe the builder has done such a bad job, why aren’t you more angry?
- How can you be so calm in a situation like this, don’t you understand how important this is?
It’s like we’ve been conditioned to always display our extreme feelings so that other people can feel that we are suitably emotional enough. Absolute nonsense.
Newsflash! You get to choose how you react.
What’s a Mood, Anyway?
According to the dictionary, it’s “a temporary state of mind or feeling.”
Who’s in charge of your mind? You.
Who creates your feelings? You.
So, who controls your moods?
Same answer, it’s you.
Why would we throw ourselves at the mercy of arbitrary and random mood swings when we don’t have to?
Are you more productive when you’re in a good mood or a bad mood?
Do you feel better when you’re in a good mood or a bad mood?
Surely then you’ll want to be in a good mood as much as possible, so why aren’t you?
How To Get In a Good Mood
When you’re a kid and your parents say, “I’ll get mad if you do that!” they’re teaching us that their emotions are directly modifiable by our actions. Holy shit! What awesome power. If it were true.
We’re indoctrinated to believe that other people can change our moods at will and we can do the same to others, so it’s no surprise that when you state the opposite, people don’t want to hear it. Cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are frequent guests to this particular party.
The next time you feel a bad mood taking hold, take the following actions:
- Stand up straight and lift your clenched fist to the sky
- Think about something that makes you super happy. Clouds, daisies, the smiles on little baby’s faces.
- Say aloud, “I’m in an incredibly good mood.” Say it like you mean it, with passion.
I bet you feel better already. Of course you do. Go and ask Tony Robbins if your physiology affects your psychology. Ask Amy Cuddy if posing like Superman can make you feel more powerful.
You are in control of your mood, of your state and with some work you can bring about whatever mood you desire and whatever state you want.
Very infrequently I feel a bit bummed out, but most of the time I am in a great mood. I’m in a great mood right now and if that falters, I’ll think of the great things I’m going to do this weekend. I’ll think of my son getting into bed with me in the morning for a cuddle. I’ll think of my two year old daughter who will invariably charge up to me at 6am shouting, “I’m gonna kick your butt, Dad.” In fact, I’m so happy when I think of those things, I’m way happier than I was before.
Here’s some other things I do to get in a good mood:
- I say affirmations multiple times daily. I program the supercomputer that is my brain with some awesome, positive, uplifting and wonderful code.
- I practice gratitude.
- I reframe things in a positive light. “It’s raining again, dammit!” becomes, “It’s raining again, that’ll help the flowers grow and it’s almost Spring!” “It’s a long drive home, sucks, man!” becomes “Aha, an hour of me-time to listen to some podcasts or some amazing music.”
There are a multitude of ways to drive real happiness in your life and those three examples are just the beginning, though they’ll totally work for you and really quickly too. If you’d like to discuss some more methods, or even dive deeper into what I’ve already mentioned, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or book me in for a FREE Discovery Call.