As Owner-Managers, How Do We Experience Life?

October 7, 20154 Minute Read —

The other day, I was chatting with an outwardly successful person who said something that startled me, and caused me to think deeply about patterns in our popular culture. I thought I might share it to inspire you to ponder it too.

This person was describing a private business owner-manager whom he dealt with recently. At the conclusion of his description of their interaction, he concluded by saying to me (disapprovingly, perhaps even I think, with disgust), “he was just so emotional.”

It got me thinking. He was actually condemning someone for sharing with him what they were experiencing in their life. How they “felt” (their emotions) about an event. Whoa.

How do we live our lives? Look, the only mechanism through which we biologically or cognitively experience our lives is through what we “feel.” Go out into nature, experience beautiful weather and it generates a feeling of elevation in you. You hear a rustle in the leaves off a forested path, your heart rate speeds up as does your walking pace, and you experience a little fear or nervousness. (Of course you do. You were biologically evolved for 200,000 years to hear a rustle in the forest and run for your life!) You have a professional conversation where you bring value and you feel appreciated, warm. Your daughter comes up behind you and gives you an unexpected hug which causes you to feel grateful and loved. We call these feelings emotion, right? Other emotions include inspired, happy, angry, elated, funny, fear, regretful, disgusted, wonder, surprised, jealous, amused… whatever. You get it. It seems there is a catalog of common emotions humans feel and evaluate, like love, gratitude, awe, along with others which may be “culturally specific,” and even some which are likely “individually specific.”

Hard science behavioral finance researchers have consistently proven that identifying and understanding your own emotions results in better decision making, especially in domains of risk. The psychological research on how you are not in control of emotions that get biologically generated is old news. Does this mean we are mere prisoners of our emotions?

Or… can we influence how we “experience our lives?” I think we can. Try this thought experiment with me: What if we evaluate prospectively what choices are in front of us, and then very intentionally allocate ourselves to energy-creating purposes, relationships, and activities in light of our own personal goals? These might include possibilities that have occurred in our lives before, but also prospects that have never occurred—that we haven’t experienced yet. We’d select ones that we believe activate our distinctive competence, our unique ability (UA), which put us in flow. They create positive emotions in us, right? So, naturally, we experience our lives positively.

Can we allocate less of ourselves to energy-draining relationships and activities? Ones that cause negative emotions in us, and cause us to experience life negatively?  We don’t have to be driven by the past, locked into old ways of thinking or experiencing life. The past can be one resource from which we selectively extract information about future decisions in front of us, but we can have the fun of being called to the future—not merely driven by the past.

We can take actions to increase the positive emotions in our lives. We can strive to invest in energy-creating activities with the right (energy-creating) people, and even… be in the right energy-creating environment. The challenge is to choose to strive for goals which enable us to experience, or even build on, more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions. Without a doubt this relates to unique ability because positive emotions are generated from “flow” or using your alpha, edge, or whatever you term your UA. We experience all this through our consciousness, or what we call Phi.

I cannot imagine that we’d intentionally want to be less emotional—to experience less of life, in effect, to be less human—can you? Emotions are the only way we experience life (how we feel), and the only thing we remember. Enough negative events are going to happen to us by chance that we will have little or no control over. So why don’t we very intentionally make choices about what we dedicate ourselves to in life, and prospectively evaluate what emotions will be generated? It’s an affirmation of entrepreneurial free will.