How to Self-Regulate to Achieve Big Goals


How are you feeling right now? 

Whatever emotion popped into your mind, it might be accurate and appropriate. Or, it’s also possible that it’s really not. 

Why is that, you might ask? Because your brain is guessing. Making it up.

In a nutshell - your brain sifts through past experiences and uses them to create emotions around how you’re feeling right now. It’s predicting.*

Experience butterflies in your stomach before a big test? Cue the emotion, anxiety. Experience butterflies in your stomach in the days before vacation? Cue the emotion, excitement. 

The same physical experience can be tied to multiple emotions. Which means that sometimes, your brain guesses wrong and takes you in the wrong direction. 

This also means that you can start to help it guess correctly!

When moments of physical discomfort that we normally associate with emotional distress occur - heart racing, nausea, dry mouth, take a moment to inventory your symptoms and ask yourself - is this emotional distress, or is it merely physical discomfort? To say it another way, am I experiencing anxiety but is it really excitement disguised as anxiety?

Emotional distress and anxiety can tie us up. Get us stuck. Make us assume that we are doing something wrong and have no control over the things that are happening to us.

But the truth is - we have more control than we realize. And, like Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker, with great power, comes great responsibility.

We have no ability to fully control what happens in life. But what we can do is work on controlling ourselves. Our reactions. How we engage. How we lead ourselves through challenging moments.

Imagine what could be possible through better awareness and management of your emotional responses. Could you engage with people more clearly and pursue your true ambitions wholeheartedly?

Have a dream that seems impossible? A vision of yourself that seems way too far out of reach? Kick the sensations of overwhelm to the curb. Whatever failed attempt that your mind might create, the foregone negative conclusion that might pop up - guess what?

It’s not true. You made it up.

*Lisa Feldman Barrett explains this beautifully in her TED talk, which you can watch here.

Ami Watkin