Self-coaching tool: Wheel of Emotions
5 foundational elements of High Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
High EQ is:
- Understanding the nature of the emotion.
- Understanding the origin of emotion — what comes first Thoughts or Emotions?
- Ability to detect the emotion in the body.
- Having the right vocabulary to describe what you are feeling [scroll down to look at the actual tool — Wheel of Emotions]
- Having the right tools of thought. (e.g. Stoicism, Zen, Compartmentalization)
1. Understanding the nature of the emotion.
What is an emotion? A very simple definition I use in my coaching practice is:
Emotion is a response of the mind to the sensations in the body.
Why do I use this specific definition?
You have to present in public. There are 1000 people out there waiting for you to come out and deliver the speech of the year. Your heart rate increases. You feel the tension in your muscles. Your cortisol levels are up.
Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.
There’s vomit on your sweater already, mom’s spaghetti…🍝
[Sorry 🤣, but +1 if you get the reference]
Now, these are physiological/biochemical changes in the body. Your emotion is how your mind responds to these changes.
You can perceive this change as “being nervous” or you can create a different narrative and interpret this change in the body as “being excited”.
Nervous vs Excited. The bodily perception is the same in both cases. But the emotions are different.
So the 1st foundational element of high EQ is actually understanding that an emotion is the response of the mind. Regardless of the physical sensations in the body, you can always choose to control the internal narrative about whatever it is you are feeling in the moment.
2. Understanding the origin of the emotion.
When we start working on Emotional Intelligence with my coaching clients, I always open up the conversation about EQ with one question:
What comes first? Thoughts or Emotions?
Unsurprisingly, this question reveals confusion in so many people. Rarely do I get a correct answer that comes from a place of absolute clarity. Most people get puzzled. To find the answer to this question by yourself you have to invest significant time in introspection.
With a coach, you can do it with one simple exercise (It is usually a guided exercise but you can try doing it yourself).
Step 1. Close your eyes and imagine the Best Day of your life.
Go to that place. Teleport yourself there. Visualize all the smallest details. Where are you? Who is there with you? What is the weather there? What are you wearing? What are you doing? What are you feeling?
Step 2. Detect the change in the body.
Is there a shift? Any new interesting sensations in the body? Where is the emotion located? Your stomach? Your chest? Your shoulders? Your throat? Do a body scan. Are you feeling different? Is there a temperature shift? Is there a change of color of the emotion?
Step 3. Confirm.
What happened first?
Have you thought about the thing first, and then you felt an emotion?
Or did the emotion take place first consequently giving rise to a thought?
It’s clear as day.
Your Thoughts create your Emotions.
The way I like to empower y clients is by pointing their attention that as a coach I didn’t do anything special. You are the one who is creating a new emotional state just by thinking different thoughts.
And this is the 2nd foundational element of the high EQ — being grounded in your understanding that your thoughts create your emotions. Realizing this leads to a more vigilant mental attitude toward your own thinking. Negative emotions are not something you just feel. Almost always they are products of incorrect thinking.
3. Ability to detect the emotion in the body.
You can only manage an emotion if you are aware of it. If you are not aware of it, the emotion consumes you. You become the emotion i.e. it becomes the primary driver of your behavior. Very much like a marionette but the puppeteer in this case is the uncalm mind that is manipulating you pulling the strings of emotions.
Pay attention to the language you use:
- I am angry. NOT I am aware of the emotion of anger.
- I am sad. NOT I am aware of the emotion of sadness.
- I am frustrated. NOT I am aware of the feeling of frustration.
The latter form creates a distance between You-The Awareness and the Emotion itself. The former uses the word “am” which pretty much can be considered the equals sign “=”.
- “I am depressed” becomes “I = depression”.
How far will you get with such unconscious programming?
By associating yourself with what you are feeling you are losing control, in other words, you are literally losing your Self (Awareness) in the emotion.
Thus, the first step is always building up your ability to detect emotion. And that starts with the body.
Meditation, body scans, yoga, breathwork, staying consciously in the place of breath, are all practices that you can use to build up your bodily awareness — staying in the body.
Your bodily awareness is a function of the Discipline of the Mind. Why? Because it is the Discipline of the Mind that allows you to intentionally channel a part of your attention into your body.
However, the Discipline of the Mind stems from the Discipline of the Body. The more time you spend doing hard things (e.g. exercise), the stronger your mind becomes. Your life experiences change your brain.
It’s a loop.
The 3rd foundational element of High EQ — is building up systems that grow your awareness. Instil practices that will make the process of keeping a part of your attention within your body conscious. Mindfulness is another word for this. Even when you are engaged in an activity with external world you make it “full with the Mind” — you make it conscious.
4. Having the right Vocabulary.
You can’t manage your emotions if you can’t explain them. And you can’t explain what you feel if you don’t have the tools of expression for this aka words.
If you can’t name it, you can’t tame it.
This is where the Wheel of Emotions comes in handy.
The way to use the tool is very straightforward:
- Study the Wheel
- Learn the words
- Practice vocalizing what exactly you are feeling at any given moment
You can see two different variations of the wheel below but don’t overthink it. The real tools are the words.
If you are equipped with descriptors of emotions, you will eventually become better at managing them.
Foundational piece number 4 — having the right communication tools at your disposal. Identify it by calling it. Understand it. Process it.
5. Having the right philosophy.
Having a life philosophy is not necessary, however, not having it makes life pretty damn hard.
You can upgrade your EQ by installing particular mental models that will ground you in your non-reactivity.
I will give you some examples:
Circle of Influence. Circle of Concern. You do not control what other people think. You only control what you think. You CAN choose your thoughts. If you can choose your thoughts, you can choose your emotions.
Memento mori. You will die. Everyone who wronged you will die. No one cared before you arrived. No one will care 3 generations after you are gone. Put things into perspective and your list of things to give shit about will shrink significantly.
What stirs emotions? It is the uncalm, disturbed, restless mind that is drawing worries and concerns from painting the projections of the future or senselessly regurgitating the past.
The Here & Now is all you have.
Learn how to ground yourself in the present moment and non-reactivity will become second nature.
Compartmentalization is a form of psychological defense mechanism in which thoughts and feelings that seem to conflict are kept separated or isolated from each other in the mind. [Wikipedia]
Compartmentalization in action is one of the most powerful coaching tools that we as coaches use.
We take a Big Black Beast of Fear or an intimidating complex problem and we dissect it into small isolated parts. Then we single out each part and resolve the conflicts within it. Once we assemble things back together the engine of the mind is working perfectly fine.
You can do the same thing using self-coaching. The mind is a beautiful thing — it can dissect itself using itself. It is the surgeon and the patient. The tumor and the scalpel. All in one.
One of the most effective ways to do it is by writing.
Puke your mind onto the paper. Detect and eliminate inefficiencies in thinking. And reassemble your logic in a new structure.
Free therapy at your fingertips. You just have to invest the time.
The easiest tool that is available to anyone. Just a simple mindset you can adopt:
No matter what shit just went down you don’t need to react immediately.
Take 5 min. The world is not going to end.
- Instead of Honesty, exercise delayed Honesty.
- Want to give feedback? Give delayed feedback.
- Feeling Fear and Anxiety at work? Just stop what you are doing and DO NOTHING. Or take a 5 min break and do some push-ups (it will help you to get from your head into the body).
Non-reactivity is also a reaction. And it is always a choice. Rarely you regret being non-reactive. Usually, the opposite is the case.
And this is the last piece. Foundational element #5 of high EQ is the intellectual component. Equipping yourself with the tools of thought, a life philosophy, a robust thinking framework that will make you unflinching and unshakeable in the shitstorms of external world. Become a Fortress.
Recap on how to build up your EQ
- Emotion is a response of the mind to the sensation in the body.
- Thoughts come first. Emotions follow.
- Grow your awareness. Keep a part of your attention within the body.
- Master the vocabulary to explain your emotions.
- Build up your tools of thought that will help you to become non-reactive and more emotionally intelligent.