The Emotional Fitness Model

The Emotional Fitness Model

The Emotional Fitness Model draws upon the disciplines of emotional intelligence, meditation and mindfulness, and emotional fluency.  If you haven’t already, click here to read: What is Emotional Fitness?

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The Emotional Fitness Model incorporates the EQi concept of “emotional self-awareness”, which is defined as “the ability to understand our own emotions and their effects on our performance.” Why is this concept important?  

  • Research shows that leaders who display high emotional self-awareness are correlated with creating positive workplace climates. (2)
  • Emotional self-awareness is a predictor of strengths in other EQi competencies, including emotional self-control, empathy, conflict management, teamwork, and inspirational leadership. On the flip side, its absence predicts the absence of other EQi competencies. (1)
  • Leaders who demonstrate a higher number of EQi skills influence their employees’ intent to stay longer with their companies. (2)

Sources:
(1) Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI): A User Guide for Accredited Practitioners, HayGroup, June 2011.
(2) “The power of EI: The ‘soft’ skills the sharpest leaders use.” Winter 2018, Korn Ferry Institute.

“92% of leaders with emotional self-awareness are correlated with positive workplace climates. In contrast, leaders low in emotional self-awareness create negative climates 78% of the time.”

Using the Emotional Fitness Model

With physical fitness, you can’t become fit and maintain that fitness without establishing a regular exercise routine. It’s the same with emotional fitness. The Model describes what is needed to create and maintain emotional fitness, using a 5-step practice:

1. Prepare

Know your triggers. Based on each person’s history, specific circumstances will generate certain emotions.  For example, when I am driving and get lost, I get anxious. If I stay lost, I feel humiliation. Identifying your triggers is no small task and is a part of an ongoing process of self-discovery.  

Put into practice:
Ask yourself at the beginning of each day, “What is a potential hot spot for today? Where might I get derailed?”

2. Be Aware

Be present to what’s happening, both internally and externally, especially in situations where you know you could get triggered.

This includes awareness of bodily sensations (e.g., your heart is beating faster or you are feeling lethargic), of thoughts that are going through your head (e.g., I hope I don’t screw up), of emotions that you are experiencing (e.g., I’m feeling angry or I’m feeling sad).  It also includes sensing the mood of others (e.g., my boss is anxious or a direct report is hopeful.)

All of this supports the development of an Observer within you, the one that is neither ruminating on the past nor worried about the future, but rather fully present to the moment.

Put into practice:
Ask yourself throughout the day, what emotion am I feeling? How do I know what emotion I am feeling?

3. Self-Regulate

Self-regulation is a way to prevent a derailment in a public setting.  When you experience an unpleasant sensation or feeling, it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction that is self-sabotaging and even harmful to others.

Self-regulation requires you to slow down to make a different choice. For example, in a conference call you might take offense at a colleague’s remark and notice that you are feeling angry. (That’s the Be Aware part of the practice).

Instead of leaving the conference call abruptly or replying with a sarcastic comment, you say to yourself, “I’m feeling angry”, then “bookmark” the feeling, knowing that you will come back to it later.  

Put into practice:
Make a point of noticing your emotions and saying to yourself “I’m feeling X. In this moment, in response to feeling X, I will take 3 deep breaths.

4. Express
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5. Reflect/Heal

You’ve done the hard work of being aware of your emotions, bookmarking and identifying emotions, and expressing emotions, for yourself only. Now it’s time to reap the rewards, through reflection and healing.

In the Prepare step, we talked about knowing the circumstance that triggers an emotion. I gave an example of the circumstance of getting lost and how it triggers anxiety, even humiliation, for me.

The question to reflect on is this:

“Why does this circumstance trigger this emotion?”


The answer is based on the beliefs and attitudes that you hold as well as the life experiences that shaped those beliefs and attitudes. For example, getting lost triggers anxiety in me because I have a belief that I’ve done something wrong. My attitude is that getting lost is a sign of incompetency. If I continue to be lost, it’s more than an act of doing something wrong. I am wrong. This is where shame and humiliation come in, with the lie of unworthiness.

This reflection allows me to see the faultiness of my thinking, based on a limiting belief and an undermining attitude.  Out of this reflection comes compassion for myself, and a truthfulness of who I really am. For example, “Getting lost doesn’t reflect on who I am.  I made a mistake, turning left instead of right, and I am forgivable.”  This begins to heal a part of me that has been wounded from a past experience.  

I am also taking ownership for my actions, and putting those actions in perspective to the larger picture of who I am.

Put into practice:
Ask yourself: Why does this circumstance trigger this emotion? Look for limiting beliefs, harmful attitudes, and key experiences that shaped those beliefs and attitudes. Visualize that “younger self” who created the beliefs and attitudes, and have compassion for him.  Forgive yourself. Tell the truth of who you really are.

Putting the Practice into Practice

This process is meant to be iterative. Life is always providing challenging circumstances, which means you’ll have plenty of opportunity to Prepare, Be Aware, Self-Regulate, Express, and Reflect/Heal. Weave the 5 Emotional Fitness steps into your day: Prepare at the beginning of the day, Be Aware, Self-Regulate, and Express throughout the day, and Reflect/Heal at the end of the day. With practice, you will be more resilient to setbacks, experience more creativity and stop ruminating.

Just like with physical fitness, you will improve over time, and what seemed hard at first becomes easy.   Circumstances that triggered you in the past will lose their “sting”. You will take fewer things personally with a stronger Observer. Derailments–and the slog of getting unstuck afterward–will be rare or a thing of the past. You will be more comfortable feeling a wide range of emotions, which will allow deeper reflection and healing.

Each Emotional Fitness step builds on the previous steps and gets you ready for the next step. Just like a well-designed gym workout, it’s the combination of all of the steps that produces the optimal results.

As one client describes it: 

“The practice is one of awareness. A lot of it is slowing down enough to say, “What am I authentically feeling?”  If you are used to being “on” all the time, like I was, that practice of slowing down didn’t initially feel productive. Now, it’s a critical part of my daily practice. When I don’t check in with my emotions, I’m missing something.”

Interested in what it looks like to practice emotional fitness and the benefits, for yourself and your organization?

Listen to this audio interview with a past client.

Listen Here