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Posted: 2005-04-30 / Author: Pat Grove

Emotional Learning

A significant and central part of our existence as humans is that we are emotional beings. Emotions and moods are part of being human and we are always in some mood or emotion, even if we are not, and they play a critical role in our relationships, personal accomplishments and motivation.

Let me make the distinction, emotions are the ripples around the rocks and the mood is the underlying current.

In order to accomplish and succeed, we need to behave in certain ways and take appropriate action, consistent with our’ way of being’ and this requires, in many cases, new learning. Moods and emotions are predispositions for action. That is, the mood or emotional state we are in will prompt us to behave in some ways, and not others. So becoming more aware of how to manage and utilise our states of emotions to enhance our opportunities is not trivial or insignificant learning. Organisations, in not knowing and hence their cognitive blindness call this important aspect of development ‘the soft side’ and yet it is a hard edge for productivity. Yet somehow, in our traditional approach to learning, the role of emotions continually seems to have been ignored. This neglect of emotions has occurred in various ways.

Firstly, we do not pay attention or respect regarding the arena of emotions as a key source of learning.
Secondly, we pay very little attention to the pivotal role of emotions in facilitating learning.
Thirdly, we are blind to the impact of language on our emotions and emotions on our language.

In this article, we focus on emotions as a key source of learning.
In the "busyness" of our everyday life, we are not often aware of our emotions and moods; I call this state of humaness, transparency. It is usually when something happens the way we don’t want it to, or an unexpected event occurs, that we very often become aware of ourselves emotionally. But even then, we may not articulate that to ourselves. Today we are urged to place a strong emphasis on being focused, on "getting results", "being effective", "achieving our outcomes" and "attaining our goals". Whilst this may be very commendable and valuable, perhaps we are missing some vital considerations. More often than not, we do not include improving our relationships, relatedness and communication with others as one of our important outcomes and area for learning. We often do not consider which moods and emotions will enable us to behave in the required ways to bring about these goals.

I did a ‘mood audit’ for a company in Turkey just recently and discovered that underlying their intentions and goals was a mood of ‘peaceful co-existence” operating in what Alan Sieler calls PLOD:

Play it safe
Look good
Obey the rules
Don’t make mistakes

Isn’t it amazing that specifying the types of moods and emotions we would like to live in does not rate highly as an outcome or a goal?

How might it be if a key part of an organisation's objective was the identification of a desired mood to promote morale - or if a family focused on the predominant mood they wanted amongst themselves? What would the result be if the mood and the attentions in the organisation or department were aligned?

Our neglect of moods and emotions in everyday life is all the more interesting given the attention that is paid to preparing athletes and performers to be in the best frame of mind for events and performances. Specialised coaches are employed for this, which implies that athletes are capable of learning how to manage their emotions and that this is a key skill or competence for high level performance.

Look at the mood you generate when you are determined to complete something!
Unfortunately, we do not have that orientation towards ourselves and the organisations in which we work. Yet we are required to perform in many competent ways everyday in both our private and professional lives.

So what can we do to heighten our awareness - not only of our moods and emotions, but also how we can manage them? Here are some suggestions:

Be willing to recognise the emotion or mood you may be experiencing - this may include being aware of the distinction the "Six basics moods of life" and which mood you may be in at the time.
Go easy on yourself. Appreciate that what you are experiencing emotionally is valid for you at that time and recognise that you are not responsible for the mood or emotion you find yourself in. They just happen!
It is important to acknowledge that you ARE RESPONSIBLE for staying in or seeking to shift your emotional state. You do not have to be the victim of your own emotions or the emotions of others.
Be aware of, and utilise, the power of breathing to shift your emotional state and to practice integrating the art of full and rhythmic breathing into your everyday living. Utilise the value of some form of movement or exercise (not necessarily strenuous) in engaging the body, and breathing, in different ways as a mood shifter.
Explore the potential of music to alter moods. Use the power of conversations - seek out someone you trust and have a good chat over a cup of tea or coffee!

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Pat Grove is a leadership Coach and founder of the Pat Grove Coaching Academy. http://www.patgrove.com

Pat is the author of "Here is where you are", "I am complete", "Coach - The new leader", "Of Mice Management" and soon to be released "The Spirit of Coaching - Coaching to the human soul.".

He publishes a monthly newsletter, Distinctions, distributed through the Internet to nearly 12500 Achievers, Entrepreneurs, and Leaders in 39 countries. He has over 30 articles published on Personal, Social and Organizational Transformation. Subscribe to his newsletter at leadership@intekom.co.za




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