Imagine the strength that you develop when you work out in the gym 4-6 days per week. We all know the muscle tone and the muscle size that comes with it. Most of us recognize the benefit to working out those muscle but few of us workout and strengthen our emotional muscles. It’s the muscles that drive the joy, creativity, and amount of action that we are willing to take each day.
Imagine being able to get a firm grip on emotional strength like your physical strength. Imagine what you would be able to do and who you would be able to lead. You would be unstoppable.
Unfortunately many people do not exercise this muscle. Worse they think that the environment around them and even the weather determine their emotion. We increasingly have people that believe they don’t have any control over their emotions. They believe that something in the environment makes me happy or something in the environment makes me sad.
How can you explain when you think of an extraordinary memory from your past and immediately you feel the rush of positive emotion? Did you create that feeling or did the environment? Of course you did and you have that power all the time. Are you having a crappy day? Could you think of something romantic or loving that your partner has done for you and would that “knock” you out of feeling bad? You better believe it. We have so many emotional resources available to us yet most of us choose not to use them. We choose to not use those tools.
The environment never determines are emotion. We are the gate-keeper. We give those external circumstances permission to let us feel bad. We give those circumstances permission for us to feel good as well. Victor Frankl was a world-renown psychiatrist that faced being prisoner in concentration camps during World War II. He lost family and friends and on a daily basis was exposed to some of the worst environments. Yet through this experience he found the last of his human freedoms.
One of those freedoms was the freedom to choose. To choose how this event and each day was going to impact him. He realized that no matter what happened to him he could focus on his wife or the impact on the world he was going to make when he got out. And that’s exactly what he did. He even came up with a therapy called logo-therapy that deals with helping people find meaning in their lives. If Victor Frankl could exercise his ability to control his emotional resources in some of the most terrible environments then we can in our daily lives.
Train that muscle. Condition that muscle. If you do not train that “muscle” it will get smaller just like a physical muscle that is not used. Know that you are in control. You have the ability to control your emotion. At any moment you can revisit a moment that brought you so much joy or something that made you laugh until you cried. At first will this be tough? Yes but you will get better and better. And as you get better and better you will get stronger and stronger and realize how in charge you really are over yourself.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley