Have you ever considered how robust your emotional capacity is and how critical it is to your health, happiness, success, and significance? Chances are you haven’t, but don’t worry, you’re not alone. Emotional capacity is highly overlooked and underrated.
Let’s start by talking about what emotional capacity is…it’s the ability to handle adversity, failure, criticism, change, and pressure in a positive way. These things can all be tremendous sources of stress, and our inability to deal with them in healthy ways (emotional capacity) can undermine us in many ways. We end up giving up, breaking down, and engaging in unhealthy behaviors to escape.
Folks with high emotional capacities can effectively manage their emotions—and stress—and process through challenges and difficulties. Instead of getting bogged down, distracted, and feeling defeated, they thrive and move closer to their optimal potential.
According to John C. Maxwell, there are 7 practices that you can use to boost your emotional capacity:
- Proactively deal with emotions – We should never become victims of our emotions. That’s not to say that we should suppress them. We just need to be consciously aware of them and avoid reacting emotionally.
- Don’t waste time with self–pity – We can be our own worst enemies, especially when we drown ourselves in the negative light of the worst-case scenarios we tend to paint for ourselves. Although it can be tempting to exaggerate our circumstances, face reality, take action, practice gratitude, serve others, and get outside yourself.
- Don’t allow others to control relationships – Consciously or not, people look to pull others to the level where they are most comfortable. While this can be a positive, often times it’s not, as it takes the form of gossip, criticism, doubt, and negativity. Emotionally strong people realize that sometimes, they have to let people go.
- Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control – Fred Smith once said, “You must understand the difference between a fact of life and a problem. A fact of life is something you can’t control or fix. A problem is something you can fix.”
- Don’t make the same mistakes – John C. Maxwell has often said, “Experience teaches nothing, but evaluated experience teaches everything.” It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to repeat them. Emotionally strong folks learn from their mistakes by reflecting on them, learning from them, and taking a better course of action.
- Don’t ride the emotional roller coaster – Because no one’s immune to emotional highs and lows, we have to learn to level them out. Maxwell talks about practicing the 24-hour rule: No matter what happens, give yourself 24 hours to process your response to an event, good or bad. After those 24 hours, put it behind you and take action on something else.
- Understand, appreciate, and grow through struggles – Life is never going to be all sunshine and rainbows; the sooner we accept that fact of life, the sooner we can boost our emotional capacities. And the sooner we learn to look at struggles, challenges, and setbacks as opportunities to make us stronger, better, healthier, more robust, and more resilient mentally and emotionally, the better off we’ll be.
Being an emotionally strong person who has a high emotional capacity is about being able to start fresh every day—and even within a given day—and function with a clean slate. You can’t hold on to old emotional baggage and remain emotionally resilient at the same time.