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Our Emotions Reveal Our Values

Updated: Aug 1

A sound bite is a tiny clip from a speech. These posts are designed to be quick ideas (“bites”) about how we busy people can practically integrate wellness into our daily lives. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you accomplish something overwhelming? Start with a manageable crumb.


Emotions erupt like fireworks through the night skies of our souls, between the competing tensions of racial injustice and the upheaval of a worldwide pandemic. In the last few months, some of us might have felt every emotion in the span of an hour. Emotions are important. Dr. Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, says that emotions are flashing signposts that point to what we value (see rebrand.ly/emotions-values).

To identify which values are at the core of your emotions, start with this simple exercise:

1. Grab a piece of paper.

2. Think of an emotion you recently felt (or are still feeling); write this emotion on one side of the paper.

3. Flip the paper over. Write which value this emotion reveals.

According to Dr. David, “Emotions are data, not directives”: emotions show us what we’re feeling, but they don’t tell us what to do about it. Sometimes, our emotions leave us feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. Sitting in negative emotions for too long can cause many dangerous physical effects (e.g. high blood pressure, heart attack, etc.). Just as we leave our hand on a hot stove only long enough to warn us of danger, so Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence, says that negative emotions are a useful alert; however, “staying in negative emotions hurts our ability to see clearly and respond with empathy, curiosity, creativity, or laser-focused action. The part of your brain that needs to deal with challenging situations is not the part of the brain that feels the negativity.” Figuring out our core values empowers us to channel our emotions into productive actions.

Here’s how to use your emotions to fuel your superpower (this exercise is based on C.R. Snyder’s Hope Theory):

1. Identify an action that you want to take in the next 2-4 weeks in order to live out your values. How have recent challenges inspired you to take action you otherwise wouldn’t have considered?

2. List the skills and characteristics that will help you to achieve this outcome. Who do you need to be to carry out your action? Who do you hope to be in the midst of this process? What are you afraid of about yourself as you take this action?

3. View your action as a container for exploration. How can you leverage this time between where you are now and the outcome you want to achieve as an opportunity to test a thought about yourself?

4. Brainstorm possible pathways toward your action. How can you test your hypothesis? What are different ways you could approach this challenge? (Think of multiple ways to achieve your desired outcome; identify each of the steps in your experiment; figure out milestones, the halfway point, etc.) What’s the first sign of success that you’re on the right track?

Email “connect@equipmelifecoaching.com” to let me know which superpower or strength you are growing to handle a current challenge.

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