Ben and Amy don't know each other, but they've both just lost their jobs. Initially, they're both devastated.
"What am I going to do now?" they both ask.
They each fall asleep, swimming in a sea of negative emotions.
In the morning, Ben wakes up distraught. "This stuff always happen to me," he thinks. "I have the worst luck." Ben's negative thoughts feed themselves. They create a raging storm in his head, preventing him from starting his new job search--or doing anything else productive.
Like Ben, Amy wakes up with a knot in her stomach. But her response is different: She takes control or her thoughts and changes her perspective.
"That job was never going to take me anywhere," she thinks. "I'm sure I can find something better. Better yet, I've been wanting to go out on my own for ages. Maybe this is the jumpstart I need."
"Losing this job will be the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Despite facing similar situations, Amy's reaction is much more beneficial. By exercising emotional intelligence, she's able to change the way she views her circumstances. This simple perspective shift allows her to get her emotions under control, leading her to also take control of the situation.
I like to call this technique: Changing your glasses.
How to get your emotions under control, change your perspective, and think positive.
People who wear glasses know that a change in prescription is sometimes required, to allow them to see more clearly.
Sometimes, we need to do the same thing mentally: Your thoughts and emotions may cloud your vision and judgment. When that's the case, you need to change your glasses; that is, change your perspective.
The technique of changing your glasses is rooted in principles of cognitive psychology.
In the 1950s, psychologist Albert Ellis taught that irrational thinking is the root cause for many emotional problems. For example, irrational beliefs like Ben's lead to unhealthy emotional consequences, like self-sabotage. Since Ben believes he's unlucky, he becomes discouraged and unmotivated.
In contrast, Amy's rational thinking allows her to feel disappointment and frustration, but to a limited extent. She also recognizes that many people lose their jobs and have come out successful, and that the change in circumstances can even lead to positive results.
By changing her glasses, Amy remains balanced and optimistic, creating healthy emotional consequences.
So if you often find yourself trapped in a cycle of negative thinking, try the following tactics.
Write it down.
Putting your thoughts in writing--with actual pen and paper, not just typing--can be a powerful way to force yourself to reckon with your feelings.
For example, let's imagine Ben takes some time to describe his feelings on paper. He may believe that he is truly unlucky and there's no chance he'll find another job. But the simple process of writing these thoughts can help him slow down, think, and re-evaluate the validity of those thoughts.
Talk to someone.
As you voice your thoughts and feelings to someone you trust, you may find yourself re-thinking your opinion as you speak.
And even if not, you give that person the chance to give valuable feedback, to put on their glasses for a minute. In other words, they help you see the situation through their eyes, which can help you to reassess your own thoughts and feelings.
Fill your mind with positive thoughts
Negative feelings like self-doubt and self-pity can quickly spiral out of control. Focusing on positive thoughts can help you find balance.
For example, Ben could make a list of potential positive consequences from losing his job:
- Finding a new job he enjoys more than his previous one.
- Having time to reconnect with family or friends.
- The chance to reassess priorities.
- The motivation to try something new.
By focusing on these positive results, Ben can form an approach that's more optimistic, yet still realistic. It won't completely eliminate the negative feelings, but it can help keep them in their place.
So the next time you find your emotions working against you, ask yourself: Do I need to change my glasses?
Because a change in perspective can help you see the world in a different light.
(If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for my free emotional intelligence course, where every day for 10 days, you get a rule designed to help you make emotions work for you, instead of against you.)