Emotional stamina has two major components: Acceptance and Compatibility. Acceptance, as in adapting to one’s current circumstances, and compatibility, such as living consistently with one’s deepest held values.
The barrier we often face to building our emotional stamina is the urge to control unwanted thoughts and feelings. The truth is, thoughts and feelings are just not that easy to control. Ultimately, control is not a very effective strategy. For this reason, we need a new plan of action. We need an acceptance strategy.
Control vs. Acceptance
Control strategies are nothing more than habits formed as a result of little to no emotional skills training. When it comes to emotional stamina, the goal is not to control unwanted thoughts and feelings. The goal is to make peace with them through acceptance. In no way does this mean liking an unwanted experiencing. Likability is not a prerequisite to acceptance.
True acceptance is an attitude of openness, curiosity, and receptiveness. When we meet our emotions with these qualities, they don’t become chronic and they are less problematic.
Things to Know About Emotions
Emotions originate in the mind and induce a complex series of bodily reactions that prepare a person to take action. If this includes feelings of safety, the natural process is to approach and explore. If, however, the prominent feeling is fear, the natural reaction is fight, flight, or freeze.
This complex chain reaction happens in a split second. We strengthen our emotional stamina by remembering that the thoughts behind our emotions are merely words inside our head with no more power than what we give them.
Thoughts are strong. They continually pull us from the present and direct our attention to the past or future. The more we engage with our thoughts, the less present we are, and the weaker our handle on our behavior.
Society teaches us thinking is the ultimate human ability. But is it? Judging is one of the most common ways thinking contributes to our emotional discomfort and lack of emotional stamina.
The aim is not to think about our emotions, but rather observe them. Observation in lieu of analysis makes it easier to accept whatever it is we’re feeling and consciously choose better behavior.
Values and Stamina
Values are an essential part of emotional stamina. They are a light in the darkness and home to the heart’s deepest desires for what we want to do and how we want to do it.
Acting under one’s values is naturally satisfying and motivating.
The most important series of questions we can ask ourselves to steadily increase our emotional stamina is “Was that thought helpful?”, if so, “Which value does it align with?”, if not, “Which value does it conflict with?”.
Apart from our actions and our attention, we have little control over anything else. Increasing our emotional stamina expands our capacity for handling difficult thoughts and feelings, enjoying a more fulfilling life, and strengthening our effectiveness in work and leadership.