Over the last month, I’ve been re-reading one of my favourite books, Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins.
I still remember reading it when I was 19 years old, visiting Toronto for the first time. The book had a massive impact on my life, and so I thought it’d be worthwhile to pick it up again and go through it. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and read it – it will have a profound affect on your life.
In Awaken The Giant Within, Tony Robbins talks a lot about how to master your emotions and has outlined 6 Steps To Emotional Mastery. I found this section of the book invaluable, and thought it’d be worthwhile sharing on this blog.
Master your emotions, master your life.
First, understand that the ONLY REASON anyone does anything is to change the way they feel.
If you want to make more money, lose weight, or buy a new item of clothing – you’re doing it because of what you think it will give you, which is a certain emotion. For example, you believe that by losing weight you will feel more confident. Or by attracting this type of person into your life, you will feel loved. Or, by making a million dollars, you will feel happy.
Most people wait and put off the emotions they want to experience, instead of realizing the truth: you are capable of feeling those emotions RIGHT NOW!
The Emotional Triad
There are three factors that determine what you feel, moment to moment. Tony Robbins and other psychologists calls it the “Emotional Triad”.
1) Your Physiology
Every emotion you experience is first felt in your body. If you want to feel passionate, start by speaking more rapidly, moving more rapidly, and take on the “physiology” of passion. The same goes if you want to feel more confident – stand tall, be grounded, breathe fully, speak loudly, etc…
In the same way, if you want to feel depressed, it’s a matter if slumping over, looking at the ground, breathing shallowly, frown, and speak quietly. The way you use your body biochemically changes how you feel.
One good phrase I always like to remember is: Emotion is created by motion.
2) What You Focus On
The next thing that determines how you feel is what you decide to focus on. To feel happy, focus on things in your life that will make you feel happy. Perhaps it’s asking questions like, “What am I happy about in my life right now?” or even remembering happy moments from the past, like a fun birthday.
Whatever you focus on, you feel.
In the same way, to feel depressed you have to focus on things entirely differently. You need to be deleting all the good that’s going on in any given moment, and focused on the negative. If you asked yourself, “What really sucks in my life right now?”, I’m sure you’d be able to find something and end up feeling shitty. Or if I said, “Remember a time when you felt depressed”, like that time your dog died or something – you’d feel those emotions you felt.
What’s wrong is always available, and so is what’s right.
3) Your Language
Your words and language patterns also change how you feel. If you say things like, “I feel really tired” or “This is too hard”, you will literally feel tired or that what you’re trying to do is hard. It simply doesn’t put you in an empowering state.
All words have different emotional states associated to them. There are certain phrases you use that are disempowering, which will affect how you feel moment to moment. Being aware of your vocabulary, statements, phrases, and metaphors are crucial to controlling your state.
The truth is, you can feel any emotion you want by DECIDING to feel it.
Happiness is a choice. And so is depression, anger, frustration, or any other emotion.
No one makes you feel “happy” or “angry”, it’s based on how you’re interpreting each situation in your life and the meaning you associate to it. More on that later.
4 Ways People Deal With Negative Emotion
One thing I found fascinating in Awaken The Giant Within, was the 4 ways that people deal with negative emotion.
This is simply avoiding all situations that could potentially lead to a negative emotion. For example, people avoid taking risks or approaching that stranger because they’re trying to avoid the feeling of rejection or failure.
It’s also working not to feel negative emotions. For example, self-medicating yourself with drugs, alcohol, or food. Or, many spend time watching TV or go on Facebook or use other forms of media as a way to self-hypnotize themselves and escape.
This is disassociating to the negative emotion by saying things like, “It’s not that bad.” The only problem with this approach is that by ignoring the message, the emotion increases – it intensifies until you finally pay attention.
This is when the negative emotion becomes apart of your identity and a way for you to be unique. It’s something that you’re constantly telling others about, saying things like “Think you’ve got it bad? Wait until you hear my story…”
4) Learning And Using
Ultimately, you want to LEARN from your negative emotions and find ways to use them.
The first step to learn how to master your emotions is to understand that all emotions serve you. Your negative emotions are a call to action, also known as “Action Signals” as outlined in Awaken The Giant Within.
When you change the meaning of negative emotions to “Action Signals”, then all of a sudden your emotions become your mentor, ally, and coach – they guide you. The emotions you are feeling right now are a gift, a guideline, a support system, or a call to action.
Your Action Signals are telling you that what you’re currently doing is not working.
The only reason you will feel a negative emotion is because either through the way you’re perceiving things or the procedures you’re using – specifically, the way you’re communicating your needs and desires to people, or the actions you’re taking.
And as I mentioned earlier with the Emotional Triad, your perceptions are controlled by your focus and the way you interpret the meaning of things. You can easily change your perception by changing your physiology or asking a better question, to change your focus, and thus how you feel.
This is the key thing to remember: YOU are the source of all your emotions, you are the one who creates them.
You can feel any way you choose at any moment in time. You don’t need a special reason to feel good, you can just decide to feel good right now, simply because you’re alive, or because you want to.
We want to make sure that we utilize our negative emotions, or Action Signals, to learn from them and feel the way we want to feel.
The 6 Steps To Emotional Mastery
I’m going to outline here the 6 Steps of Emotional Mastery from Awaken The Giant Within.
1) Identify What You’re Really Feeling
When you’re experiencing this negative emotion or Action Signal, ask yourself, “What am I really feeling right now?”
Get clarity on the emotion. “Am I feeling angry, or is it something else?”
2) Acknowledge And Appreciate Your Emotions, Knowing They Support You
Be thankful they are sending you a message. Cultivate the feeling of appreciation for all your emotions. They are there to serve you.
3) Get Curious About The Message This Emotion Is Offering You
Getting curious helps you master your emotion, solve the challenge, and prevent the same problem from occurring in the future.
Here’s some Empowering Questions to find the empowering meaning in any negative emotion or situation:
a) What else could this mean?
b) What can I learn from this?
c) How do I want to feel?
d) What would I have to believe to feel that way right now?
e) What am I willing to do about it right now?
4) Get Confident
The fastest, simplest, and most powerful way to handle any emotion is to remember a time when you felt a similar emotion and realize that you’ve successfully handled this emotion before.
If you handled it in the past, you can handle it again today.
Ask yourself, “What did I do back then to deal with this emotion?”
If you do the same things, you will get similar results.
5) Get Certain You Can Handle This Not Only Today, But In The Future As Well
Again, you want to remember the ways you’ve handled this negative emotion in the past, and rehearse handling situations where this Action Signal would come up in the future.
Ask yourself, “What are 3-4 ways I could change my perception when an Action Signal comes up?”
Here’s a few suggestions:
To change your perception, ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” or “What’s great about this?”
Another great question would be, “What can I do now to feel the way I want?”
At first your brain might say, “NOTHING!” But if you push yourself and keep asking, you will come up with an answer.
6) Get Excited And Take Action
The final step is to get excited of the fact that you can easily handle this emotion and take some action right away to prove that you’ve handled it.
And when is the best time to handle an emotion? When you first begin to feel it!
You want to kill the monster while it’s little.
Obviously, to know how to master your emotions takes practice. The more that you use these 6 steps to emotional mastery, the better you will get at mastering your emotions.
The 10 Action Signals
As I’ve mentioned throughout this blog post, Tony Robbins refers to negative emotions as “Action Signals”. Meaning, every negative emotion has a message or call to action it’s trying to give you. We want to identify that message, then learn and use our emotions to better us.
Here are the 10 Action Signals outlined in Awaken The Giant Within:
This is also known as boredom, impatient, unease, distress, or mild embarrassment.
Message: Discomfort is a GOOD THING because it is your subconscious telling you that you can be more. The message is, you need to either change your perception or change your actions.
a) Use the Emotional Triad to change your state.
b) Clarify what you do want.
c) Refine your actions. Try a different approach and see if you can immediately change the way you’re feeling about the situation, and/or change the quality of results you’re producing.
This is also known as low levels of concern, intense worry, anxiety, fright, and terror.
Message: The anticipation that something thats going to happen soon needs to be prepared for. This is good, as it gives you massive energy to prepare.
a) Review what you’re feeling fearful about and evaluate what you must do to prepare yourself mentally. Figure out what actions you need to take to deal with the situation in the best possible way.
b) To antidote your fear, make the decision to have faith. Know that you’ve done all you can to prepare, and understand that very few fears in life ever come to fruition.
Also known as a sense of loss or having an expectation not met.
Message: We have expectations that has not been met. Or, there’s been a loss of intimacy or trust. This is good, because it shows you have a big heart and care about your life.
a) Realize that in reality you may not have lost anything. Maybe what you need to lose is the false perception that this person is trying to wound or hurt you.
b) Re-evaluate the situation. Is there really loss here? Or am I judging this situation too soon, or too harshly?
c) Elegantly and appropriately communicate your feeling of loss to the person involved? For example, “The other day when x-y-z happened, I misinterpreted it to mean that you didn’t care, and I have a sense of loss. Can you clarify for me what really happened?”
Also known as resentful, furious, enraged, or irritated.
Message: An important rule or standard that you hold for your life has been violated by someone else, or maybe by you. This is good, as it gives you a passion and fire for you to make things right.
a) Realize you may have misinterpreted the situation completely. Maybe the person breaking your rules don’t realize how important it is to you.
b) Realize that even if a person did violate one of your standards, your rules are not necessarily the “right” rules.
c) Ask more empowering questions: “In the long run, is it true that this person really cares about me?”, “What can I learn from this?”, “How can I communicate the importance of these standards I hold myself to this person in a way that causes them to want to help me and not violate my standards again in the future?”
Message: This is an exciting signal. It means your brain belives you could be doing better than you currently are. The solution is within range, but what you’re currently doing isn’t working, and you need to change your approach. This signal is telling you to be more flexible in your approach.
a) Realize frustration is your friend. Brainstorm ways to get a result. How can you flex your approach?
b) Get input on how to deal with the situation. Find a role model, someone who has found a way to get what you want.
c) Get fascinated by what you can learn that could help you handle this challenge not only today, but in the future.
Also known as being let down, sad or defeated.
Message: An expectation you have had is probably not going to happen, so it’s time to change your expectations to make them more appropriate for this situation, take action to set and achieve a new goal immediately. This is good as it shows the depth of the caring you have and the high standards your set.
a) Immediately figure out what you can learn from the situation that could help you achieve teh very thing you’re after in the first place.
b) Set a new goal, something that will be even more inspiring, and something you can make immediate progress toward.
c) Realize you may be judging too soon. Often it’s just a temporary challenge. Remember, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” You may just be in “lag time”, or have unrealistic expectations.
d) Realize the situation isn’t over yet and develop more patience. Re-evaluate what you want and develop a more effective plan.
e) Cultivate an attitude of positive expectancy about what will happen in the future, regardless of what occurred in the past.
Also known as remorse or regret.
Message: Tells you that you’ve violated one of your own highest standards and must do something immediately to ensure you’re not going to violate that standard again. This is a good, because it’s your internal compass for doing what you believe to be right.
a) Acknowledge that you have violated a critical standard you have for yourself.
b) Absolutely commit yourself to make sure this behaviour will never happen again in the future.
c) Rehearse in your mind how, if you could live it again, you could deal with the same situation you feel guilty about in a way that is consistent with your own highest personal standards. Utilize guilt to drive you to hold yourself to a higher standard in the future.
Also known as unworthiness, anytime we feel we can’t do something we should be able to do.
Message: That you don’t presently have a level of skill necessary for the task at hand. You need more information, understanding, strategies, tools, or confidence. This is good because it moves you to learn, grow and contribute to others.
a) Ask yourself, “Is this really an appropriate emotion for me to feel in this situation?” “Am I really inadequate, or do I need to change my perception?” If so, then you need to find a way to do something better than you’ve done before.
b) Appreciate the encouragement to improve. Understand you don’t need to be perfect. You can begin to feel adequate by commiting to constant and never-ending improvement.
c) Find a role model – get coaching from them.
9. Overload Or Overwhelm
Also known as grief, depression and helplessness.
Message: Re-evaluate whats most important to you in this situation. May have unrealistic expectations of trying to deal with too many things at once, or trying to change things overnight. Grief happens when you feel like there’s no empowering meaning, or your life is being negatively impacted by people, events, or forces that are outside of your control.
a) Decide what the most important thing to focus on is.
b) Write down all the important things and put them in a list of priority.
c) Tackle the first thing on your list, continue to take action until mastered it.
d) Start focusing on what you can control. Realize there must be an empowering meaning.
Also known as feeling alone, apart, or separate.
Message: Need to connect with people. This is good because it shows your love of people.
a) Realize you can reach out and make a connection immediately and end the loneliness. There are caring people everywhere.
b) Identify what kind of connection you need.
c) Remind yourself that whats really great about being lonely means, “I really care about people, and I love to be with them. I need to find out what kind of connection I need with somebody right now, and then take an action immediately to make it happen.”
d) Reach out and connect.
There you have it. Those are the 10 Action Signals, the message behind them, and the solution to master them.
The quality of your life is the quality of the emotions you consistently feel.
Part of the reason why I wanted to write this comprehensive blog post, is so that I can use this as a guide to come back to me always remember that every emotion serves me, provides a message, and that it’s up to me to change either my Perception or my Actions.
I hope that you received some benefit from this – use this as your guide on how to master your emotions. With continual practice and always remembering to change the meaning of a situation or actions, I believe we can reach that level of Emotional Mastery.
And of course, to learn more about how to master your emotions and Emotional Mastery, I highly recommend Tony Robbins Awaken The Giant Within book.
It’s hands down one of my favourite books of all time, and will teach you how to take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical, and financial destiny. It will change your life.
I will be sure to write a detailed book review on it sometime in the future, and will most likely reference things on this blog from Tony Robbins and his other programs.