Hello everyone, welcome to the Balanced Business Leaders Podcast hosted by yours truly, Claire Jones, owner of Liminal Clarity. We are a business development agency that helps small business leaders scale and grow without burning out.
This is the next podcast in a series where we will be discussing the various trials and tribulations that lead me to creating my Three Pillars of Business Success, a framework that represents the foundational systems that contribute to sustainable business growth.
If you’re interested in learning more, please join us in our free Balanced Business Leaders Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/balancedbusinessleaders.
Ready? Alright, let’s dive in.
So I started this podcast as a way to tell my story, particularly when it comes to the many, many different lessons that I have learned over the years when it comes to founding, developing, running, and growing small businesses.
This particular episode is about Self Regulation techniques, which are strategies that represent the third step in creating a Sustainable Schedule as a busy small business leader.
So, at this point in the podcast series, you may be thinking – “these concepts are all great and all but how do I actually develop the self-discipline to stay on course and stay prioritized?”
I get it, I really do. It was definitely a learning curve for me as well when I started integrating these concepts into my own life.
When I first started prioritizing things like Down Time, Play Time, and Connecting Time – it all felt a bit silly to me, like all of this stuff should just happen naturally right? It was especially hard for me when I had to start being very firm about my boundaries for these activities.
I’ve always had the tendency to be a people pleaser, particularly when it came to social obligations and workplace scenarios. I always thought that I was being super helpful by overloading my plate with commitments to other people. My love language is actually Acts of Service, if that’s any indication of my tendencies.
But it often left me feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and, honestly, exhausted and cranky. I wasn’t sleeping well, I often got sick, and I felt unfocused and stressed most of the time.
It took me a while to realize the benefits of prioritizing myself and my own Healthy Mind Platter activities because I was used to NOT prioritizing myself. It was familiar and something I had been doing my entire life – so, I thought, if it had “worked” for this long, then why would I need to change? Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, right?
Well, the truth was, I was broke – I just didn’t realize it. When it’s the norm to feel burnt out, it’s almost impossible to imagine what it would feel like if you weren’t.
But once I started really trying to incorporate these activities into my life and be firm about my boundaries around them, I realized I was happier. I was more energetic. I was sleeping better, I was feeling better, I had better relationships. I was getting more done AND still had time for myself.
Life, and especially business, is full of things that stress us out, whether it’s our daily commute, airline travel, workplace conflicts, or disagreements with spouses, serious challenges to our emotional balance are many and varied. So how can you intentionally regulate yourself so that you can stay focused, unfazed, and on track?
So, according to the NeuroLeadership Institute, there are five ways you can regulate emotion:
Different strategies impact the different stages of generating an emotion so there are pros and cons to each approach.
First, Situation Selection involves putting yourself into situations that promote the emotions you want to have and taking yourself out of situations that promote the emotions you do not want to have. In other words, you’re intentionally selecting the situation that you think will provide you with the emotional experience you want to have.
For example, you may be wanting to better prioritize Time In but you are finding that you cannot focus well in your living room – where your dog and kid are seemingly conspiring to make it near impossible for you to focus and meditate. So, you may choose to employ Situation Selection and move your meditation practice to the bedroom where you can close the door, put on some relaxing music, and block out the activities going on elsewhere in the house.
Second, Situation Modification, on the other hand, is important if you can’t avoid a certain situation. Instead, you attempt to modify the situation in some way to promote the kind of feelings you want to have.
For example, if you’re stuck in a noisy office environment and just can’t find a quiet place to escape to for your 15-minute meditation break, you can use noise-cancelling headphones to block out all of the distractions around you.
Third, Attentional Focus is an attention deployment strategy that involves focusing on the things that you want to process more deeply while diverting attention from other emotionally arousing input to temporarily lessen your response to it.
For example, you might be trying to prioritize Connecting Time with a work friend of yours but you two keep getting lost in conversations about work tasks whenever you meet up outside of work. Using Attentional Focus, you can practice intentionally focusing on non-work topics of conversation instead of getting distracted by the upcoming work project that you both share.
Fourth, Reappraisal is the most universally applicable emotion regulation strategy out of them all. It is the most well-known kind of cognitive change and it involves reinterpreting the meaning of a stimulus or event in a way that changes its emotional impact.
For example, you could be faced with the decision of whether or not to go to the gym one morning. You know that Physical Time is super important to your overall mental, emotional, and physical well being but you just don’t feel like going. So you could make up some excuses, letting yourself off the hook, or you could employ reappraisal and reframe the emotional impact by focusing on how good you will feel about yourself after you go. Instead of viewing the exercise as a punishment, you could intentionally choose to view it as a reward.
Fifth, Response Modulation is the last and potentially most harmful strategy for regulating emotions. It involves suppressing or enhancing the behavioral manifestation of an emotion. When suppressing, you are attempting to hide your feelings. When enhancing, you are trying to amplify whatever emotion you are feeling.
For example, say you are trying to prioritize Play Time more so you decide to start playing more board games with your friends or family. But, as it turns out, you’re a super competitive person and so you often find yourself getting very worked up and aggressive as the board game progresses. You start getting angry and vindictive, and you find yourself attempting to obliterate the other players before you realize that this isn’t actually fun for anyone involved. You’re not having fun because you’re angry and the other players aren’t having fun because they feel attacked.
So you could try to employ Response Modulation by either suppressing your anger and competitiveness (and probably failing in the process). Or, you could try to artificially enhance your enjoyment of the game by pasting a fake smile on your face and raising your voice a few octaves. You can already see where this approach can tend to not turn out well.
It may work temporarily, but over the long-term, this strategy has been shown to take a toll on your cardiovascular health since attempting to control your feelings without actually working through them is actually more physiologically arousing than going ahead and expressing what you feel. So it would probably behoove you to find a different activity to use for Play Time, maybe one where competition is not involved.
So many people are unaware of the cost of an unhealthy mental diet, such as massive losses to productivity, exhaustion, burnout, lack of emotion regulation, and stress.
You may be stumbling from one activity to the next driven by the needs of the brain without any level of awareness of why this chain of events is happening. We may even return home at night believing that we had a productive day without realizing that we are irritable, not because our significant other is being unreasonable, but because we are mentally exhausted.
And if we’re mentally exhausted, we’re not going to be able to access the mental resources that it takes to employ any of the above emotional regulation strategies. We’re talking about making space for yourself between your automatic reaction and your intentional response. Your automatic reaction is always going to be driven by the limbic center of your brain, the knee-jerk emotional center. This is the area that tells you to fight, flee, or freeze.
However, if you are able to design a life that holistically benefits your brain and allows you to better regulate your emotions then you are going to be able to enhance your ability to tap into the reasoning centers of your brain and effectively self-regulate.
As a small business consultant, many people ask me – what is the number one skill that leaders need to develop in order to be effective? And the answer is self-awareness.
Self-awareness is foundational because you need to be aware of what’s going on inside you, how that’s influencing your actions and reactions, and how your behavior is influencing the world around you.
This type of self-awareness is foundational to success in life and business, period.
You need to have control over your schedule and you need to be able to prioritize your time to maximize your success. It is near impossible to achieve success by running around panicked like a chicken with its head cut off – unfocused, scattered, and aimless.
And by self-regulating, we are better able to access the reasoning centers of our brain and be more intentional with our time.
So next time, we’ll be going over Delegation techniques so that you can successfully delegate tasks that are not in your zone of genius. I hope to interweave my personal experiences with the business lessons I learned along the way so that I can paint a full picture for you guys.
And please let me know what you think! I am always open to feedback and love connecting with my audiences.
If you want to learn more, I personally invite you to join us in the Balanced Business Leaders VIP Group Program. In as little as one hour per week, you will walk away with a clear action plan to grow and scale your business sustainably.
Please visit linktr.ee/liminalclarity for more information.
You can find the episode outline, video recording, transcript downloads, related links, etc. below.
And, until next time, love you all, take care, and I hope you have a good day wherever you are.