Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shifting From Negative Emotions to Positive Performance

A portfolio manager I recently met with was stressed out, frazzled from long--and frustrating--hours of following overseas markets.  He wasn't concerned, however.  He simply explained to me that he was going to engage in a vigorous workout in the gym--a rapid sequence of stretching, running, and lifting exercises.  By the time he was finished, he explained, he was so pumped up that the endorphins overcame any sense of stress or distress.

The light bulb went on in my head.  His key to overcoming pressure and fatigue wasn't to chill out.  Instead, he found a way of accessing a positive, pumped-up state that was more powerful than his state of stress.  What enabled him to move from negative emotions to positive performance was emotional transformation:  a gear-shift of experience that overwhelms negativity with positivity.

The problem most of us make is that we address negative states by attempting to reduce our negative thoughts, feelings, and actions.  That keeps us in our same form; it doesn't transform.  When we are sad, trying to reduce our sadness will not bring happiness.  When we are stressed and drained, trying to slow down will not re-energize.  Counting to ten when we're angry can be helpful, but it won't bring gratitude.

The key to self-mastery is to improve access to our most positive emotional states.  What gets a trader out of a frustrated funk after taking losses?  Doubling down on generating the next set of ideas and letting the excitement of discovery wash over the sense of frustration.  Once we learn from negative experience, we want to put that learning into practice--but that requires a shift to a new and constructive mindframe.  As the recent article suggests, we cannot access that mindframe from within our existing form; we need to transform.

Here are five gateways to transformation that I have found useful:

*  Meditation, imagery, using music to achieve a different sense of mind and body;
*  Vigorous physical activity, exercise
*  Social activity, having fun, connecting with others in a meaningful way
*  Generating fresh experiences, going to new places, pursuing new ideas
*  Reaching out to others, engaging in activities that are larger than oneself

The common ingredient is the creation of new experience that accesses new states of mind, body, and emotion.  Turning negative emotion into positive performance means that we become very good at operating the gear-shift of consciousness, where we determine the states we're in and don't simply allow them to determine our course.

Further Reading:  Building Emotional and Physical Health