Switching off and moving on - applying emotional intelligence to self-coaching

Something's not quite right. Something's bothering you, niggling you and it won't go away. You've rationalised things, told yourself to get over it, but you find yourself drifting there over and over again.

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While you may 'know better' about whatever it is that's bothering you, the reality is it's not going away. It's wrapped up with a whole load of emotions and until you've got them out of your system, all the rationalising or attempts not to think about it won't get you very far. Over time, the feelings will lurk below the surface and get triggered next time you experience something similar.

Here's what I do whenever I'm stuck in that kind of vicious circle. I swear it's kept me healthy and strong over the years. Whenever certain thoughts won't leave me alone, I take myself off somewhere quiet for 30 mins or so and work through the following steps. At the end I feel relieved, I have clarity about what action to take or not to take and I can move on.

  1. Identify what you’re feeling

Give yourself some space, or an opportunity, to check in with yourself and identify the emotions you are feeling. Label them. This will immediately shift you to the more rational part of your brain and enable you to start to become a little more objective.

If you feel able, close your eyes and notice where in your body you feel the emotion. It may be your stomach, your shoulders, your heart, that 'pain in the neck'!

2. Find the cause behind the feeling

Ask yourself the following questions and write down your responses. Write them in free flow. No editing, no grammatical correctness - just let the unfiltered words pour out through your writing. There will be no real need for you to re-read this, so get all the emotion out of your system with any number of expletives and unreasonable statements that you wouldn't say out loud. No one else is going to read this either.

  • What’s causing me to feel this way?
  • How can this feeling serve me today? 
    (How can I develop from it? What can I learn from it?)
  • What is the situation showing me? (What is to learn or see from this?)
  • What’s the truth of this experience?

3. Decide what (if any) action you need to take to enable you to feel better

 4. Consolidate Write down any insights or final points you want to retain going forward.

5. PARK the situation or issue 
Switch off from it by focusing your attention on something else. Ideally, get totally absorbed in something else. You'll have renewed energy from having offloaded so direct that energy somewhere valuable to you.

6. Decide what to do with what you've written
Don't leave it lying around or in a place where others could easily find it. If you want to keep it, put it somewhere safe. Some people find it really cathartic to burn what they've written. Others enjoy shredding it.

7. Revisit - if appropriate
While you might have vented much of what you needed to vent, there may well be other emotions that come to the surface now you've cleared the way. At a later point, you can reflect on how things feel from this different perspective and repeat the process.

Maureen Bowes

Leadership & Personal Development Coach, People Intelligence

Psychologies Ambassador creating and pioneering self compassion for radical change. ILM Level 7 Executive Coach and Leadership Mentor. Wife, mum, people watcher, café dweller, film lover


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almost 4 years ago