The Rich Roll Podcast – Susan David, PhD on The Power of Emotional Agility and Why Discomfort is The Price of Admission to a Meaningful Life

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  • How and why we do everything we do, is in so many ways, dictated by our inner emotions
  • These inner emotions drive our decisions, impulses, and reactions
  • How can we be more emotionally agile so we can make better decisions?
  • Susan David, Ph.D (@SusanDavid_PhD) is an award-winning psychologist on faculty at Harvard Medical School, CEO of Evidence Based Psychology and co-founder of the Institute of Coaching (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School)
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
  • The stories we tell ourselves can drive behaviors in ways that are not connected with who we want to be in the world
  • “Our inner world, our thoughts, emotions and our stories, often drive every aspect of how we live, how we love, how we parent, and how we lead”
  • Emotional Rigidity – when we react on autopilot
  • Emotional Agility – where we are able to be intentional and effective
  • As a society, we tend to view emotions are disruptive, feminine, or irrational
    • Society also tells us there are good emotions (happiness) and bad emotions (anger, grief, happiness)
    • Susan is challenging these claims – “All emotions have evolved in us as humans to help us respond and survive”
  • “When we block or suppress emotions, we are stopping ourselves from being our most successful beings”
  • Type 1 Emotions – the initial feleing/emotion (ex: saddness)
  • Type 2 Emotions – the judgement about the emotion (ex: you’re sad that you’re sad)
  • We need to aim for radical acceptance of all our emotions
  • “Our emotions contain sign posts pointed to things we care about”
    • There’s values that sit behind the emotions 
      • For example – if you feel guilty as a parent, it doesn’t mean you should feel this way, it may mean you value presentness and connection with your children, and you’re not feeling enough of it
    • Instead of judging the emotion – be open hearted, and compassionate of it, this will allow you to better see those values
  • Values are qualities of action
    • Every day we have opportunities to bring ourselves towards or away from what we value
  • Values get informed by our emotions
  • The idea of social contagion
    • We catch behaviors and emotions from other people without even realizing it
    • One study found, if while on a plane, your seat mate purchased candy, you were 70% more likely to purchase candy when given the opportunity later that day
    • In so many ways without reallzing it, we want things others want, and feel things others feel
  • Finding your values
    • At the end of the day, ask yourself – “What was worthwhile today?” – based on what you answer, you should easily be able to see what you really value
  • Values Affirmation
    • Take just 10 minutes a day to journal on who you want to become
    • This protects you from social contagion, and brings your OWN values to the front of your mind
How do you distinguish values from goals?
  • Goals have an end point
  • A value is a life direction
  • You can enact your values through particular goals/habits
    • A great way to pick up new habits is to piggy back a new habit, onto one you already do
    • For example: if you put your keys in a certain spot when you get home, try putting your cell phone in the same spot if you’re trying to minimize phone use
“I’m Okay”
  • This is something we tend to say, to stay away from our true emotions
  • “Internal pain eventually comes out”
  • “Write like no one’s reading” – Susan keeps a journal to allow herself to get close with, and examine her emotions for what they are
The Lens
  • We all have feelings of unworthiness or undeservidness to some degree
  • “The lens through which we perceive everything is a prism that distorts reality”
  • We have to be careful not to allow our thoughts/emotions to drive our actions, and should do a better job of letting our values/true intentions do so
  • In between stimulus and response, there is a space, and in that space is our power to choose
    • When our thoughts/emotions/stories drive us, that space is minimized
  • Most of the stories we tell ourselves originate from somewhere
  • “Human beings are story making machines” – the stories help us to make sense of our lives
  • Having stories is not bad – many of the stories we’ve told ourselves during childhood, helped us to survive those childhoods
    • When you bring an old story into a new situation, in ways that don’t serve you, that’s where problems start
How do we stop ourselves from behaving according to these stories?
  • “The constant looping of the thinking mind is something outside of who you truly are”
  • We need to understand that we can observe our thinking mind, and recognize stories for what they truly are, just stories
  • “Notice your story, be compassionate toward your story, but don’t be your story”
  • You are not your emotions
    • Instead of saying “I am sad” say “I am noticing that I am sad”
  • Meditation can help you become the dispassionate observer that you need to be
  • Stories have functions, and the function is an excuse/self-protection
“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its infragility”
  • Tough emotions are part of our contract with life
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability globally
  • “In order to navigate the world as it is, not as we wish it to be, we need to be able to strengthen our capability with the full range of human experiences”
  • The more we deny emotional states, the stronger they become
Sustainable Change
  • Sustainable change happens when there’s an intrinsically felt motivation, a ‘want to’ which is driven by values, not a feeling of “I have to”
  • When you have a “I have to do this” goal (driven by shame/obligation rather than values) – temptations are ramped up
  • “There is huge power in tiny tweaks, the small shifts. Change doesn’t need to be hard.”
  • “We celebrate people who do extraordinary things, and we project on to them that it happened in a condensed period of time. However, the path towards extraordinary things is contained fully and completely in the tiny little things we do every day, that seem insignificant, but over time, move mountains.” – Rich
    • We tell ourselves that it must have happened overnight for them, because that’s what we want to believe.
    • It all starts with tiny changes
    • “What are the tiny little things you can do, then master, and move on to the next thing”
  • Emotion Agility – the ability to be worth your thoughts, emotions, and stories in ways that are compassionate, curious, and courageous, and to take actions that are in line with your values
  • Make a conscious choice to notice your emotions
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Notes By MMiller

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