The rush that comes with being busy and successful is an excellent-yet-dangerous motivator. It may provide continuing energy and get you going day-to-day, but the intoxicating nature of success is what leads to the gruesome third acts of too many Scorsese movies. Letting feelings guide your business choices, be they positive or negative, can threaten your ability to make smart decisions, which always need to be rational and based on a careful assessment of risk and benefit (and, in departure from Scorsese, never involve cocaine).
That’s why you should never accept the notion that you should lead your business with your gut, or that work is supposed to be fun and, if it isn’t, you’re doing something wrong. Work is supposed to be hard—that’s why it’s called work—and that means having to make careful, thoughtful decisions, despite your emotional impulses.
Here are five ways of managing emotions in order to keep your decision-making skills sharp and your business afloat.
1. Rage against rage. Anger is a great motivator—if you’re looking to do something regrettable. So don’t let rage be the inspiration that causes you to leave your old job and create a new one, or let anger at your old boss or a new client push you to make major changes to the way you do things. Since anger rarely inspires anything but bad haircuts and mug shots, protect yourself by figuring out long-term business goals that you can tether yourself to—no matter how you feel. That way, you’ll have something holding you back so anger can’t get you too carried away.
2. Fear only facts. Since nothing is quite so scary as the unknown—all the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios that keep us up at night—the best way to keep panic (and panic-driven decision-making) at bay is to do your research and make the unknown familiar. That way, you can see most problems coming and face them without letting them push you into a panic. Then you won’t worry yourself out of taking smart chances or push yourself to take bad risks.
3. Respect the loneliness of leadership. Being a boss is hard—it’s isolating, the pressure is higher, and the responsibility is immense—but that’s why you get the better parking space. When you have employees, resist the urge to be everybody’s pal, so you can feel more comfortable and less tense. Employer/employee boundaries make you feel separate, but, if well-placed, they’ll make you a good boss. Be friendly, but be mindful of your position, and stick to it, no matter how lonely and frustrating it can sometimes feel.
4. Stay cool with company. Whether you want to panic in the face of catastrophe or do a touchdown dance on your business rival’s grave, it’s never smart to display this kind of behavior in front of most of your co-workers—especially if you’re in management and setting an example. Extreme demonstrations of emotion don’t just invite karma, they also open the emotional floodgates and make it harder to reach your greater business goals like stability, efficiency, and success.
5. Remember that success involves sadness. As with all major achievements in life—parenthood, marriage, being a Cubs fan—it’s important to accept bad times are part of the package, and that your best efforts can still sometimes make you feel miserable. Don’t feel defeated if you’re not having a good time. Remember that work especially is for making a living, not making you feel good, and there are often times when it’s no fun and there’s no alternative. Be proud of your ability to do work you hate, when you decide it’s necessary and serving a good cause. If you’re lucky (and the Mets aren’t), your suffering will be worth it.
Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett are the authors of F*ck Feelings, on sale now.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen