Emotions play a significant role in our lives. For example, we need emotions to create connections with significant people in our lives. This is essential for our emotional health.
But some emotional experiences can make our lives more difficult and take a toll on our mental well-being.
For example, I used to let other people’s driving get to me. Other drivers would do things that I (righteously, of course) thought were inconsiderate and my self-regulation would fly out the window. Then I would yell obscenities while waving a finger at the offending party.
Sometimes I would stay angry for hours after the event. After I cooled down, I would feel guilty for letting my emotions get the better of me. Maybe this, or something similar, has happened to you too.
Here’s the good news. This hardly happens to me at all anymore. By incorporating mindful living into my life, I have learned how to control specific triggers, like those other drivers.
Today let’s explore how mindfulness practice combined with a couple NLP techniques can help you learn how to focus on what you can control.
What Can I Control?
How I reacted to other drivers resulted from me focusing on things outside of my control. The fact is, no matter how angry I got at those other drivers, I was not going to be able to control their driving.
One of the things taught in basic psychology classes is we have no control over other people, things, and events. We only have control over ourselves.
Everything else is out of our control.
After some self-reflection, I discovered this was something I needed to become more mindful of.
Mindful living can be immensely helpful for this. It reminds us that to control our emotions, we must focus on what we can control. This helps us remain aware of our emotional state.
By identifying the things that are within our control, we reduce stress, anxiety, and frustration. It also helps us improve our overall well-being.
Learning to Regulate Emotions
Viktor Frankl’s memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” is a powerful example of how focusing on what we can control can help us overcome even the most challenging circumstances.
As a Holocaust survivor, Frankl endured unimaginable suffering and loss. He was able to maintain his sense of purpose and meaning by focusing on the one thing he could control – his attitude and response to the situation.
Frankl believed that even in most stressful situations, we still have the freedom to choose our attitude and response. People can control their emotions no matter what’s going on.
He attributed his emotional management to his survival. Instead of falling into negative thinking, he searched for the positive aspects of his situation. He focused on things like the camaraderie and support of his fellow prisoners, or the kindness of another person.
Through his experiences, Frankl developed a profound understanding of living in the present moment. This allowed him to find meaning and purpose in life, even in the face of suffering and adversity.
He used his experiences to show us by focusing on what we can control, we can create a sense of purpose and fulfillment. By living mindfully, you can control your emotions even in the most challenging of circumstances.
How to Identify What You Can and Can’t Control
Emotional regulation begins with understanding what you can and can’t control. Start by focusing on your actions, rather than external events or outcomes.
Ask yourself, “What can I do to influence this situation?”
For example, you might be able to control your response to a difficult coworker, but you cannot control their behavior.
Next, identify what’s troubling you. Ask, “What am I concerned about in this situation?”
Then ask, “Is this something I have the power to change?”
If the answer is no, let go of it. Focus on the things you can control. Things that will have a positive effect on the situation.
Finally, you can try reframing your thinking (a NLP technique) to target positive aspects of a situation. By reframing your thoughts, you’ll can better focus on what you can do.
For example, instead of thinking “I cannot control this situation,” try thinking “I can control my response to this situation.”
By identifying what you can and cannot control, you focus your attention and energy on the things that matter most. This will help you avoid wasting time and energy on things that are outside of your control.
Now let’s look at how you can use mindfulness and NLP to direct your focus to what you can control.
How Mindful Living Can Help You Focus on What You Can Control
How can you learn to manage your focus? In my book Mindful Mastery, you can find what I call Five R Process.
You can use it to control your focus and manage negative emotions.
Here are the five steps:
Let’s see how this works:
The first thing that must happen when you want to change a behavior is to recognize that it exists. I have found that mindfulness will help you gain this insight. Take a moment to breathe, listen to your thoughts and feel your emotions without judging. Recognize that they exist.
Next, you’ll record what’s going on.
Here again you’re going to use mindfulness to help you capture these thoughts and emotions. Record them the moment they come up. Put them in your smart phone, an audio recorder or just on a simple notepad.
In the evening, you’re going to transfer these into your journal. This will help you analyze them as you review them in the next step.
In this step you’ll use journaling to help you review these thoughts and feelings. Ask yourself who, what, why, where, and how.
Who was involved?
Why do you think it triggered you?
Where did it take place?
How were you affected?
Put down whatever you’re feeling or thinking.
For example, if you are having an issue with a coworker listening to you at work. Write, “I get so angry when Joe doesn’t listen to me in our meetings. I can’t keep going on like this.”
Now take the next step.
Here, you’re going to think back to your successes and achievements when dealing with difficult emotions like the ones in your current situation.
Perhaps you had a roommate that didn’t listen to you, but when you got angry, you were able to give yourself some space by doing an activity like yoga. Then, after you returned, you were able to stay present and better communicate your feelings to her.
You can use these same thoughts and feelings to create a plan and affirmations to help you deal with these negative thoughts and emotions.
Your plan can be, when Joe doesn’t listen in a meeting, I’ll go for a walk. As I walk, I’ll tell myself, “I can calmly communicate my feelings”.
Then, when I return, I’ll meet with Joe and calmly tell him how I feel when he doesn’t listen to me.
Now you’re ready for final step.
Finally, you’re going to use the fifth step – repeat, to make your optimistic thoughts and behaviors a regular practice.
In the future, when you get angry when someone doesn’t listen to you, you can repeat your replacement phrase to yourself.
This is how you gain control over your emotions and thoughts.
Stop Worrying, Start Mindfully Living
Emotions are a vital part of our lives, but they can also negatively affect us if left uncontrolled. That’s why learning to have control over emotions is essential for your emotional and mental health.
Your ability to manage your thoughts is your starting point. As Viktor Frankl pointed out, by focusing on your attitude and response to situations, you can control your emotions even in the face of immense adversity.
Mindful living can help you reduce your emotional reactivity and focus on what you can control. By using what you learned in this article you can become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Then, using mindful acceptance and NLP techniques, you can reframe them in a positive way.
This allows you to focus on what you can control. This will have a positive impact on your work performance, your personal life, and your overall sense of well-being.
By practicing these techniques regularly, you can develop a more focused and productive mindset.
This mindful focus will prepare you to achieve your goals and dreams.
Do you feel like your life is stuck in a rut? Do you feel overwhelmed and unmotivated, unable to focus on what’s important? Mindful Mastery can help.
This practical guide teaches you how to find focus and clarity, drop into the peak performance zone, and get unstuck. With easy-to-follow practices for calming the mind and focusing the body, Mindful Mastery helps you take control of your life and gain mastery over yourself.