How to master your emotional game


In a world that idolizes entrepreneurship you can be forgiven for thinking there’s something wrong if you’re not feeling inspired and in full-on hustle mode 24/7.  The truth is, being a business owner or independent creative is hard and full of ups and downs:

  • without daily interaction it’s easy to feel isolated
  • you’re often working in a vacuum, unsure if this idea you’re pouring your heart and soul into is even any good
  • you’re out there on the leading edge which can feel exhilarating or terrifying depending on the week/day/second.

And that’s not the half of it. This stuff is real people. And yet, we beat up on ourselves if we’re in anything but fighting shape.

As a business coach for creatives, and a business owner myself, I’ve learned this:

Managing our mindset is 80% of the work*

*(completely uncorroborated scientific “fact” but feels about right!)

When we can manage our emotional responses a.k.a. our mindset, we free up SO MUCH SPACE AND TIME to do the work that matters.

Personal development is my jam (for a list of my favorite resources, hit me up in an email!). I literally cannot get enough! And of all the things I’ve read, re-read, or heard, my biggest takeaway is this:

You are not your emotions

Emotions are merely indicators of how close you are to your path. Feeling like all’s pretty much well with the world despite a few bumps in the road? You’re on your path. Feeling fear, resistance, or judgment? You’re off your path. The extent and nature of the emotion indicates just how far off you are.

But there’s good news!  Once you know you’re off your path you can take steps to get back on it, like right now.  Here are 3 ways that work for me:

1) Know your “tell”

Have you ever experienced a negative feeling, only to find yourself mindlessly heading to the fridge/bar/department store?  We ALL have self-soothing tendencies that are less than healthy, so figuring out which one is yours is the first step to getting back on your path.  For example, when I feel the urge to shop ‘til I drop I know I’m feeling insecure about something and a little investigation is required.

To do: Reflect on your tendencies. Some may be clear (that pint of ice cream didn’t eat itself!), while others might be subtle, even sneaky.  Not sure? Next time you find yourself slipping into a negative mindset, take a breath and try to observe what you’re feeling, where and how you feel it in your body, and what your impulse is. Awareness is power.

2) Build your toolbox

Now you know your “tell”, you can take action to get yourself back in the game more quickly.  What do you need? Only you can figure out what keeps you, or gets you back into your happy place, but some of my tried and tested tools include:

  • A walk in the woods
  • A swim or run
  • A good night’s sleep
  • Meditation
  • Burning sage (cleansing ritual)
  • Writing my morning pages
  • A good healthy meal
  • A spiritual book I know always brings me peace e.g. The Game of Life and How to Play it by Florence Scoval Shinn

Not all of them work all of the time. If I’m feeling particularly restless, sitting meditation doesn’t cut it and I opt for physical movement instead.  Sometimes my emotions need quiet time and space to work themselves out. Sometimes I need people to help me laugh my way out of it. Test things out, tune into what tools help what feelings and do that.

To do: Be honest about what you need. For years I felt bad about wanting and needing time alone, like I was saying I didn’t want to be with my kids.  Once I realized one doesn’t have anything to do with the other, I could take time for myself without any guilt.

3) Gather your people

It’s counter-intuitive, but we often withdraw when we need other people the most. Maybe it’s because we don’t want others to see our vulnerability (which we may see as weakness). Or perhaps we don’t want our bad juju to affect others. By all means, take the alone-time you need to heal what hurts, but don’t forget reach out to your trusted people too. As I mentioned in my last blog post, there’s great power in community and I promise, there’s nothing you’re feeling that another person hasn’t felt too and sometimes that’s enough. And sometimes just being told you’re being ridiculous by some friends who’ve known you forever is just what you need.

To do: Do a quick mental inventory of people in your life and identify the handful you can truly be yourself with, warts and all. This isn’t a one-way street, so think about ways you can go the extra mile for them too. Do you need to check in more often, ask the hard questions that no one else does for fear of upsetting them? Be the friend you want to have!

I’d love to hear from you! What emotions do you regularly struggle with? What are the ways in which you’ve managed to honor them without being ruled by them? What’s in your get-back-in-the-game toolkit?  Leave a comment below or shoot me an email. I’d love to know!


4 thoughts on “How to master your emotional game

  1. Happy Birthday Justine! Thank you for this article, it could have been about me or about a lot of other people indeed.
    When I am feeling down I sometimes do not even know why. It is just in the air. Business that is slow, people that make fun of me, name it!
    I do meditation, a bit of yoga sometimes, a walk, a bit of running outside. Fresh air, a cool breeze works.
    When that does not help I must do more serious stuff and really get out. A museum or a nice shop is a good idea. Not to buy, but just to see new colourful things.
    With my kids hanging around, being busy and loud as they are it is sometimes very difficult. You cannot always take your own time and walk out of the situation.

    1. I agree, finding equilibrium is an on-going, fluid thing. Sometimes easier than others, but always worth trying to move towards. Thanks for sharing your ways too, love the idea of a museum or shop for inspiration!

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