The emotional GPS to get through the crisis. The pandemic, the economic crisis, the new modality of work and “life with social distancing” require an adaptive effort, an effort greater than usual. This means a higher demand on our inner GPS: our emotional system.
However, the care and development of our emotional system is usually relegated or, even more, not even a topic on the organizational agenda. Perhaps this is due to the inheritance of that old attempt to separate personal life from work.
Times of change require adaptation, creativity, and responsiveness. The amount of new information and uncertainty that we face and will face will be greater than what we are used to. Fortunately, nature provided us with a system for interpreting reality: emotions, a system that we have been trying to despise and silence. Not only do we live in a culture that has not taught us to harness and use those emotions, but some of them are somewhat frowned upon. Emotions as basic as anger, joy, sadness and anguish, fear, love are censored. It is frowned upon to have a laughing fit in public. Not to mention crying… “well, think of something nice”… as if sadness were not an invitation to dive into the inner world. Not to mention the anguish. That’s weak, better get a pill and move on. Is love forbidden? Yes. “I come here to work, not to make friends.” Thus, the only emotion that we seem to manifest, and this is particularly noticeable in Latin American culture, is anger. Everything angers us. Nothing makes us happy, anguished or saddened.
All this hardening that we have endeavored to build goes against the adaptive effort that we will have to make to build the “new normal” that will require, to go through –and use- a range of emotional states. Emotions, then, should not be seen as pathological symptoms to be eliminated to return to the state of normal. This would be equivalent to silencing the colors of a painting to return to the whiteness of the canvas. It’s not funny … nor does it work.
We can use emotions not as a symptom of the individual’s pathology, but as a wonderful source of information about the world around us.
Then there is a crossroads. So much a choice. Do we choose to train and develop emotional wisdom to encourage ourselves to fully live joy, sadness, anxiety, anger and all the emotions that the creative process will require to adapt and co-create the new reality, or will we prefer to silence these annoying alarms?
My proposal is, of course, the first option. I believe that we need to expand consciousness, that is, the ability to go through with acceptance -which does not mean with pleasure- what we have to go through. Do not turn fear into anger because it is weak, nor cover laughter because it is immature, nor believe that anguish is a fault.
The skills to be developed are:
- Appreciation: It’s easy to complain about quarantine. We woke up on equal days, days of confinement, day of crisis. The option is not to wake up. Waking up is being alive. Reason enough to thank. And I’m sure most of you who read me have a lot to be thankful for. Putting the focus there puts us in a positive attitude and leads us to creativity.
- They see the glass half-full. It is the cognitive exercise of focusing on what I have and not what I lack. I do not focus on the problem but on the resources I have and the solution I want. This requires the following skill
- Will. Starting with giving responsibility to the individual and the team.
- Resilience: we are faced with a new situation. We are going to try things and we are going to be wrong. Resilience is the difference between each mistake making us weak or making us stronger as a learning opportunity. Success does not depend on the result of what we try, but on our ability to manage our mind and our emotions. Resilience is that it is not about what each experience generates, but about how we take advantage of each experience, how much we learn from it.
- Troubleshooting: The focus is not on the rational aspect of problem-solving. Problems are solved by thinking, as long as you can think. This requires emotional management strategies that help the brain to function well. From techniques like how to recite the alphabet backward to meditation techniques.
- Humor: In addition to generating endorphins, humor is the basis of the game, it is what allows us to create new senses, see things differently and it is the emotional basis of creativity. Without humor, there is no creativity and without creativity, there is no adaptation or co-creation. And if we don’t unleash that urge it can turn into anxiety. And anxiety in panic attack. If you use humor you can play and thus create, but if you cannot laugh you take things very seriously, you breathe short (wanting to control everything) and when control comes out of hands, anxiety transforms into panic attack.It’s better to laugh, right?
- Self-acceptance: If I am not going to work because I have the flu, it is valid. If I’m not going to work because I argued with my wife and I’m distraught, it is not. We do not validate emotional states. And not only the system does not accept them. We ourselves do not accept them. If I am anxious, I consume sugar and fat, if I am anxious, I eat my nails… instead of inhabiting the emotion and using it as a guide, I deny it. Self-acceptance is the unconditional collaboration with what it is. I’m sad. It is valid.I’m going to be sad. Not to wait for the sadness to go away to continue with my normal life. My life, now, is this sadness. Happiness is living that sadness with awareness. Emotional support means: “Come on, experience it, the team is with you.”
- Stress management: Ultimately, this point should be resolved with the previous ones. Once I become aware of my tiredness and my need to rest, I rest. No, I don’t have to be infallible. Curiously -or not- I am convinced that the systemic acceptance of this does not constitute a threat to productivity but quite the opposite.
- Faith: In a non-religious sense. Simply suggest the conversation about the meaning of life. What do we work for? What do we care about? At the end of the day, all the companies we admire have their statement of values, their purpose. Faith is that. Values Purpose Direction Something more important than the commercial result for the quarter. There cannot be a company with values without the courage to connect with what I call faith, which, again, has nothing to do with religion.
- Trust: Successful teams enjoy a sense of psychological security that allows their members to expose themselves emotionally in front of others (for example by showing an idea, we open the possibility of being judged.) Adapting requires innovation, innovation requires creativity, creativity requires confidence to expose ourselves. This idea was developed in the article “Tension and Creativity.”
In the midst of the pandemic, the crisis and uncertainty, where nobody seems to know what to do or how to process so much information, we have a GPS that has thousands of years of development: the emotional system.
Let us focus on the development of emotional potential as the engine of adaptive co-creation.