PeopleImages/iStockAlthough we may not always be aware of it, many of the tasks we perform—whether we’re answering a colleague’s email or engaging in a tough negotiation with a supplier—elicit emotions: excitement, anger, pride, boredom, uncertainty, and so on.
The reason emotions have a surprisingly powerful effect on our performance is that emotions have adaptive value—they can help us cope and respond to the situation at hand. For example, Beyonce was once quoted as saying, “Every time I get on stage I’m nervous [beforehand]. I’m actually really scared when I’m not nervous.” If she’s not nervous, she explained, she does not perform at her best. Even emotions that we perceive as negative, such as anxiety, are great tools for getting our minds energized and focused on the task ahead.
Anxiety: Get Pumped for a Presentation
Anxiety and readiness are physiologically almost the same, my father—a psychiatrist—explained to me when I was a teenager and felt anxious about some upcoming big challenge. Anxiety is a way of revving us up to be on high alert and ready to react to whatever may come our way—for example, in a presentation or a sales call. It’s easy to want to wish the feeling of anxiety away, but when you understand its benefits, you can be grateful for it.
The next time you find yourself feeling nervous, see how it goes to say to yourself, No, I’m not nervous. I’m alert and ready to react.
kupicoo/iStockFeeling good: Boost Creativity
A positive mood is especially useful for discovering new insights, being creative, being less critical when making decisions, and making snap decisions. Positive emotions can lead to easier collaboration. If you want to let unimportant things go more easily—look with a less critical eye—a positive mood can help. If it’s time to get creative, I suggest getting into a positive emotional state. When you need to make decisions fast and there won’t be time to deliberate, see if you can enter that situation in a positive mood.
Notice whether you’re in a good mood when you come to a decision point. Or close your eyes and remember something that makes you generally happy—a favorite TV show, learning, chatting with a friend, relaxing for a few minutes with a book, having a good laugh. Remembering something emotionally positive helps bring about that positive emotion.