How to Stay Flexible at Work

In the fast-paced and dynamic nature of business, it can be a real challenge to stay focused and keep up. Our schedule and priorities are constantly changing as we scramble to stay nimble and ahead of the curve.

How do our emotional struggles, which can range from a nagging fear of rejection or failure, anxiousness over our to-do list or being upset over a colleague’s remarks, add to this challenge?

When emotions strike, we tend to do one of two things. We dismiss or bury thoughts and feelings associated with these struggles or we react to them as the absolute truth without any pause to reflect.


Emotional Agility by Susan David PhD, is an excellent book on how to manage our emotions, without disregarding them or blowing them out of proportion.  David is a psychologist who developed the concept of emotional agility after studying emotions, happiness and achievement for more than 20 years. The basic principle is that with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness and an open mind, we can navigate life’s twists and turns.

In her work, she discovered that regardless of how smart or creative people were, or what type of personality they have- it was their skill at navigating their emotional world that determined how successful they will become.

To be emotionally agile is to be flexible, rather than rigid with our thoughts and feelings.

The author breaks down the book into four key areas that can be useful for staying agile and adaptive:

Showing up:

Notice our thoughts and feelings and notice when we’ve been hooked by them (the clue is discovering rigid and repetitive patterns). Be curious equally about both the positive and negative patterns we discover and accept them for what they are.

Stepping Out:

When we’re hooked by our thoughts and feelings there is no space to examine them. Detach and take an objective view by labeling them. I’m not smart enough becomes – I’m having the thought that I’m not smart enough.  An additional benefit is that this witnessing or observer’s view of our experience, also called mindfulness, improves our wellbeing with positive biological changes in our brain and cells.

Walking Your Why:

When we make space for examination of our thoughts and emotions, we expand our choices and give ourselves the opportunity to make decisions that align with what is most meaningful for us- our values. Thoughts and emotions can flip flop every moment, but values are constant. They are our compass in the storm.

Moving On:

Accept what is happening to us emotionally and let ourselves experience it. Be compassionate with ourselves. Take small, purposeful steps to refine our mindset in the moment and to realign our actions with our core values.

Ultimately, it’s not what we experience emotionally that counts, it’s how we act on it or not, that truly matters to our long term happiness and success.

Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coach, Workshops, Keynote Speaker

Today’s 5-minute reflection: Take a moment to notice and label any uncomfortable thoughts or feelings you had today. How does this fit into a pattern? From this perspective, how does this emotional pattern fit with your values? What can you do in this moment to change and act more in accordance with what is important to you?

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