A beach walk with my husband in the distance during our recent vacation.
I found a powerful article written by Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey in the Wall Street Journal called The Power to Decide How You Feel. I think it’s exactly what I needed to read.
Here’s an excerpt:
Feelings, in the enterprise of your life, are like weather to a construction company. If it rains or snows or is unseasonably hot, it affects the ability to get work done. But the right response is not trying to change the weather (which would be impossible) or wishing the weather were different (which doesn’t help). It is having contingency plans in place for bad weather, being ready, and managing projects in a way that is appropriate to the conditions on a given day.
The process of managing this weather is called metacognition. Metacognition (which technically means “thinking about thinking”) is the act of experiencing your emotions consciously, separating them from your behavior, and refusing to be controlled by them. Metacognition begins with understanding that emotions are signals to your conscious brain that something is going on that requires your attention and action. That’s all they are. Your conscious brain, if you choose to use it, gets to decide how you will respond to them.
The idea in this article is that we can separate our thoughts and view them as though the emotions are happening to someone else. What would we tell them to do? If they feel trapped in a job they don’t like, they can make a change.
For example, let’s imagine you have a job that is really bringing you down. Let’s say you are bored and stressed, and your boss isn’t competent. You come home every day tired and frustrated, and you wind up drinking too much and watching a lot of dumb television to distract your mind. Tomorrow, try a new tactic. During the day, take a few minutes every hour or so, and ask, “How am I feeling?” Jot it down. Then after work, journal your experiences and feelings over the course of the day. Also write down how you responded to these feelings, and which responses were more and less constructive.
Do this for two weeks, and you will find you are feeling more in control and acting in more productive ways. You will also be able to start seeing how you can manage your outside environment better, perhaps making a timeline to update your résumé and asking a few people for job market advice, and then you might actually start looking for something new.
Thinking about thinking, separating ourselves from emotional outbursts or feelings sounds like a positive approach. I do think journaling has helped me through the years to feel more grounded.
Have you heard about metacognition before? What are your thoughts about “thinking about thinking?”