When I work with clients, usually over the course of several months, I get to know them pretty well. I know what they think and how they feel. So I’ve noticed over the years that there are two primary patterns of emotional responses that people turn to when things aren’t going their way: MAD or SAD.
In some ways, these responses are akin to best mobile casinos the “fight or flight” response of cave dwellers – either turn toward the problem, or turn away. Turn your emotions up high and rise to a fight, or turn them down and suffer in silence. And of course there are degrees and variations: annoyance, frustration, disgust are all in the MAD camp; feeling victimized, stuck, and doubtful are all symptoms of being SAD.
Why are these emotions problematic? Because they affect productivity. While being MAD can actually stimulate action, watch out for impulsively going overboard. Feeling SAD can have the opposite devastating effect – often stopping people dead in their tracks.
What can be done? Noticing your response to negative events is the first step. If you normally go to MAD, try telling yourself that you will use this opportunity to find a solution and start working on it immediately, instead of getting all riled up about the event itself. If you are SAD, try this: get productive anyway. Instead of lingering in the stuck space, force yourself to do something – anything! – that is productive. Tackle the budget, clean a desk drawer, write a blog post – do something, anything, that needs to be done. Two things will happen: you’ll realize that you have importance and competence (negating the self-pity) and you’ll be automatically unstuck and moving forward. Voila!
The key is to move through the unproductive go-to emotion quickly, and choose alternative responses that will improve, rather than inhibit, your productivity.