Leadership Lessons: 5 Tips to Develop Better Control Over Your Emotions

When you are managing a challenging schedule (with work, school, other activities), sometimes stress can get the better of you and make it difficult to control your emotions. In general, emotional reactions to any situation have a strong possibility of making things worse. Keeping emotions in check is a trait we consistently find in leaders.

Male with glasses yelling into the phone and pointing at the receiver

Here are five quick tips to develop better control over your emotions:

1. Learn to respond instead of react

Take a moment to pause and consider what just happened instead of just instantly reacting to new information or a new situation. By taking a few seconds to pause and consider, you can calm yourself briefly and you will be likely to produce a better response.

2. Focus on what you can control

Once you have been presented with a stressful or emotional situation, try to identify what you can and can't control. If something is done, you can't change it. You can only determine what to do now.

You can control your response, and to a certain degree, you can likely control what happens next. By focusing on what you can control, you are empowering yourself. By dwelling on things you can't control, you disempower yourself and make yourself more frustrated and more stressed.

3. Figure out what's important NOW

When you are presented with a challenging situation in life, it's important to prioritize what things you have to act on now. If, for example, you arrive at an important meeting, get out of your car, then realize that you just locked your keys in the car, what's important now? The meeting is important now, not your keys. You can deal with the locked car at any time later in the day.

So many people freak out about little urgent matters and lose sight of what's really important for them to focus on first. Again, by taking a few moments to pause and consider, you can refocus your mind on what's most important right now and prioritize your plan of action.

4. Know that you can handle anything

It's been said that if people made a circle, put their problems in the middle, and had to pick a problem to take back out, most people would pick their own problem to retrieve. Whatever challenges you are facing that may cause stress or negative emotions, you can handle them.

An old man who I saw speak one time suggested that we ask ourselves this question in times of stress:

Am I going to die right now?

If the answer is "no," then realize that you CAN handle the situation. Sure, some situations are extremely difficult to deal with, but step by step, we can find solutions and move forward.

5. Change the meaning you give to "negative" events.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Tony Robbins:

Nothing in life has any meaning except the meaning we give it.

The more you practice the points above (especially pausing to respond and realizing that you can handle any challenge), the more you will start to view challenging events as more neutral than negative. You'll even start finding the good in difficult situations in terms of what lessons you can learn, skills you can develop, and new motivation you can gain.

This skill of turning negative into positive develops like a muscle and becomes almost instinctive over time. Start by saying "No problem" a whole lot more. Pretty soon, you'll condition your mind to believe it.

Practice these five steps, and you will find yourself feeling less stress and feeling more in control of your emotions on a day-to-day basis.

  1. Learn to respond instead of react
  2. Focus on what you can control
  3. Figure out what's important now
  4. Know that you can handle anything
  5. Change the meaning you give to "negative" events