If there is ONE thing everybody should know before starting a company it’s this: Be prepared for an Emotional Rollercoaster.
Since starting my own company I have felt a wide range of emotions — often over the course of a single day:
- Crippling Fear — of failure, of success, of being judged and of the unknown — which led to random crying break-downs and at times a chronic, underlying anxiety that turned daily life into a minefield.
- Ecstatic Excitement — when struck by a great idea or when a sales call went well or even when I got a random newsletter signup — which led to hours of flow-like work states feeling on top of the world and getting down a week’s worth of work.
- Repeated Anger and Guilt — when I didn’t complete all items on my to-do list because of external distractions or internal “faults” like bad planning or sleep deprivation — which led me down a negative cycle of self-destructive and punishing thoughts and behaviours that left me incapable of enjoying a relaxed evening with my partner or be present in yoga class.
- Deeply Depressive Feelings — when getting negative comments from friends or random people on the internet — which led me down the rabbit hole of “this is never gonna work” and “what was I thinking when quitting my job?!”.
How Emotions affect your Performance & Well-being
In all of my examples above, what happened was that my emotions highly impacted my mental state and thus either my performance when working or my ability to enjoy the moment outside the office. Sometimes, my ability to focus and create great work was so limited due to my intense feelings of fear or anger that I wasn’t able to get anything done for hours. Of course it also works the other way: when I was experiencing ecstatic excitement, I was so pumped to work that I would forget everything around me and speed through projects in no-time.
But the reality is: Our brain has a Negativity Bias. From an evolutionary perspective, we are primed to see the negative (potential dangers) at all times to keep us safe. Thus, unless you retrain your brain, negative emotions like fear and anxiety are most likely dominating your typical day as an Entrepreneur — especially in the early stages of building a company. And those negative emotions are most likely messing with your productivity and well-being.
Re-Training your Mind
We can’t stop emotions and thoughts from entering our mind. And we shouldn’t. Every emotion and thought has its place and is there for a reason. What we can control however, is how we deal with our emotions and thoughts and how much we allow them to impact our mental state.
There are many tools that help you retrain your brain, contain your Monkey Mind and control your emotions. Meditation and other mindfulness practices are especially helpful for becoming more self-aware of our thoughts and feelings and act more intentional in our daily lives.
But whereas meditation is great for seeing long-term effects and sometimes getting short-term relief through a few moments of stillness, I personally felt I needed a more actionable technique that could help me make sense of, metabolise and let go of negative emotions quickly — so I could get on with my day and focus on the task at hand instead of getting caught in over-thinking or over-worrying.
That’s why I have added the 4-Step-Emotional Reset Process as an absolute essential to my Entrepreneur Toolkit. I am not the inventor of the process, it is rather an adaptation of the many variations of this out there. For example the 90 seconds rule from Robyn Openshaw from her book “Vibe”.
How the 4-Step-Emotional Reset works
The 4-Step-Emotional Reset is designed to move you from a deeply negative emotion like fear or anger through a simple, 4-step process of accepting, metabolising, reframing and releasing the emotion. The goal is to let go of your negative emotion quickly so you can move on with your day. However, the process is NOT about ignoring your emotions — it is actually the opposite: it is about actively dealing with an emotion so you can extract the lesson or insight it is trying to tell you without letting yourself get caught up in it for hours. This helps you to operate at peak performance as much as possible and lets you truly enjoy the moment without being clouded by lingering negative emotions.
Here is are the 4 Steps:
Step 1: Notice & Accept your Emotion
When you notice a negative emotion or thought entering your mental space, stop, take a deep breath and actively acknowledge your emotion. Remind yourself that you can’t control which thoughts and feelings are entering your mind. Suffering and experiencing negative emotions is inevitably part of our shared human condition.
- How do I feel right now?
- What is happening?
- How is it affecting me?
For example: “I notice that I am feeling angry and annoyed at myself. Maybe a little bit anxious and nervous as well. It is giving me a hard time to relax and enjoy the evening with my boyfriend. But it is okay because I know that experiencing this emotion is part of being an imperfect human and I am going to move through this now.”
Step 2: Metabolise the Emotion & Extract the Lesson
- Why am I feeling X (insert negative emotion)?
- What is this feeling trying to tell me?
- What can I learn from this experience?
- What are actionable steps I am taking away from this?
For example: “I think I am feeling angry and anxious because I wasn’t able to finish all the things I wanted to get done today. Through this experience, I realise that I might have over-scheduled my day today and underestimated the time it would take me to complete certain tasks. To deal with this better in the future I will try the following tomorrow: Define 1–2 most important tasks for the day and focus on completing them. After that, see everything else that gets done as a bonus.”
Step 3: Reframe
- How could I see this differently?
- What if I reacted the opposite way?
For example: “If I am being honest with myself, I actually got a lot done today. I was able to complete a big project for my business, research a new marketing channel, squeezed in a 30min workout, did the groceries and booked a hotel for an upcoming trip. Finding and booking the hotel took way longer than I expected but the good thing is that I found a really nice one and I can now really look forward to that trip. So I am deciding to focus on being proud of the things I DID get done and feeling joyful and excited about the upcoming trip.”
Step 4: Release
Take a deep breath and consciously choose to let go of the experience and fully immerse yourself in the positive emotions of the reframing exercise. If you are having troubles finding a positive emotion to feel instead, try feeling grateful. It works every time, because you can feel grateful for the most “basic” things like having a warm place to sleep, that you and your family are well or that you get to work on your company every single day.
For example: “I’m releasing all the negative energies of this experience and keeping only what I’ve learned. I am feeling accomplished and joyful now.”
If you are just getting started with the 4-Step-Emotional Reset, try writing in your journal as you go through the steps one-by-one. It helps you move through the process quickly and prevents you from getting stuck over-analysing the situation. Over time you will get better and faster at this process and you’ll be able to do it on the fly — wherever you are — letting go negative emotions within minutes, if not seconds.
What you need to make the process work for you:
Although the process sounds easy, you might actually find it very hard. If this is the case, go back to basics and do the following steps first:
1. Develop sufficient Self-Awareness
Being aware of how and what you feel is an absolute pre-requisite for applying the 4-Step-Emotional Reset Process successfully. Meditation and journaling can be great tools to deepen your self-awareness and pin-point your emotions. Another great way is to take multiple little breaks in your day where you stop what you are doing and ask yourself “How do I feel?”. If you get to a point where you are able to describe your emotions in 1 or 2 words, you are ready to apply the 4-Step-Emotional Reset Process.
2. Make the Choice to Feel Great
If you want this process to work for you, you need to make a deal with yourself. You need to WANT to feel great and move on from negative emotions. Letting go of anger and fear is a CHOICE. Don’t underestimate this. Some entrepreneurs are addicted to the rollercoaster because deep down they believe this is how it is supposed to be. Building a company is SUPPOSED to be hard. No pain no gain! But there is a better way: you CAN feel great and still be very successful. Or rather: be very successful BECAUSE you feel great and you are able to use the lessons from the emotional rollercoaster without spending hours spinning in it.
Making this deal with yourself is especially important if you started your business because you wanted to FEEL better (e.g. because you hated your job or you wanted more flexibility). In 2017, I quit my job to feel more fulfilled, more free, more motivated and more excited in my life and work. But a few months into starting my business I had to be honest with myself: On average, I was feeling WORSE. I was not dreading to go to work anymore, but I suffered from chronic anxiety and inability to relax. I felt more purpose in my day to day life, but I felt guilty for every minute I spend away from my business. Until I made the active choice to feel GREAT. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I still feel guilty, angry and anxious on some days but now I am able to metabolise these emotions and let go of them in less than 5 minutes.
3. Be Willing to Work through your Emotions
There is a second deal you need to make with yourself if you want to benefit from the 4-Step-Emotional Reset Process: The decision to work through and deal with your emotions.
If you are used to swallowing and ignoring your emotions and “just getting on with shit”, you are most likely missing out on the valuable insights that are underlying your emotions. You will experience the same negative emotion over and over again without learning the lesson and taking the action to improve the underlying issue. And in some cases, this could be very dangerous for business if you are ignoring important emotional signs (also called your intuition) when it comes to vital decisions. Or it could be very dangerous for your health & well-being if you are ignoring the signs to slow down or take action to deal with your chronic anxiety.
Liz Huber is a Mindset & Productivity Coach and Founder of refinedlife.io. With her books, courses, and 1-on-1 work, she helps entrepreneurs overcome overwhelm, lack of focus, fear, and self-doubt. As a result, her clients are able to confidently achieve their goals by prioritizing what is truly important and streamlining everything else.