THE BLOG
08/12/2014 04:14 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2014

Core Process Principle #2: Your Emotions Influence Your Thoughts, and Vice Versa

I recently published a book, Reversing the Senses, based on what I've learned over the years about the importance of right thinking and how we can determine that for ourselves. I have the privilege of working with many high achievers in all walks of life and they have discovered that meditation is a critical part of reversing their senses and changing the way they see themselves and the world. At first glance, the whole idea of meditation may sound a bit 'soft', but a successful life requires it. Over the next few weeks we'll discuss why, and some proven methods for achieving it.

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Our thoughts influence our emotions, and vice versa. To truly achieve internal harmony, we must understand and manage both. And in order to do this we must engage in the practice of reversing our senses.

It's clear that our emotions have a direct impact on our thoughts. Frustration and stress make it difficult to focus on our vision. Feeling jealous about someone else's success makes it difficult to think positive thoughts about him or her. We get cut off while driving, and immediately our blood boils, our heart starts to pound, we want to hurt the jerk. Such a simple thing can seriously throw off our entire day.

Ronald Potter-Efrong, anger management expert and author of Healing the Angry Brain, explains that when we get angry, our limbic system gets activated and our body switches into "fight or flight" mode by increasing our heart rate, respiration, and blood flow to muscles. Here's the kicker--usually, all this happens without our conscious awareness, meaning it inhibits our thought processes.

Scientists from the University of Valencia recently completed a study on the brain's cardiovascular, hormonal and asymmetric activation response to when we get angry. The results, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects ("they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind") and in different psychobiological parameters. When we get angry, the researchers concluded, our heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of the brain becomes more stimulated. Neus Herrero, main author of the study and researcher at UV, explains, "Inducing emotions generates profound changes in the autonomous nervous system, which controls the cardiovascular response, and also in the endocrine system. In addition, changes in cerebral activity also occur, especially in the frontal and temporal lobes."

Again, the point is that it's not enough to manage our thoughts; our emotions must be monitored and managed as well. And how do we manage our emotions? Why, by our thoughts, of course. This is the essence of reversing our senses--overcoming powerful negative emotions harbored by our subconscious mind.

Negative thinking can create a self-reinforcing loop: We focus on negative thoughts, which puts us in a bad mood. Our emotions then make our thinking even worse. Likewise, positive thinking can create a self-reinforcing loop: Positive thoughts make us feel happy, and we continue thinking positively.

My ultimate goal here is to simply help you become aware of the relationship between thoughts and emotions, and on the influence both have on your ultimate success. This knowledge helps us to live a more conscious life and to consciously and proactively choose how we respond to events and circumstances. It helps us avoid being a reactive puppet on the strings of negative and limiting thoughts or emotions. But to do this, you will be required to reverse your senses. You may feel one thing, but you can choose to think something else.

Previously, the leadership traits and skills society valued most were left-brain functions: intelligence, analysis, vision and focus. For most of the 20th Century, IQ was placed on a high pedestal and considered to be one of the most important factors of success. This perspective was uprooted when Daniel Goleman published his landmark book in 1995, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ. He wrote, "At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the actors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces." Primary among these "other forces" is emotional intelligence: "abilities such as being able to motivate oneself and persist in the face of frustrations; to control impulses and delay gratification; to regulate one's moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to empathize and to hope."

According to Goleman, emotional intelligence includes five components:

1. Self-awareness: having a deep understanding of one's emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives.
2. Self-regulation: which is like an ongoing inner conversation, is the component of emotional intelligence that frees us from being prisoners of our feelings. People engaged in such a conversation feel bad moods and emotional impulses just as everyone else does, but they find ways to control them and even to channel them in useful ways.
3. Motivation: Plenty of people are motivated by external factors, such as a big salary or the status that comes from having an impressive title or being part of a prestigious company. By contrast, those with leadership potential are motivated by a deeply embedded desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.
4. Empathy: For a leader, empathy means thoughtfully considering employees' feelings--along with other factors--in the process of making intelligent decisions.
5. Social skill: Social skill is friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire, whether that's agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.

Clearly, there are situations in life that call for a fight or flight reaction, where we don't have time to sit and think through all the ramifications and consequences of each possible action. The challenge is that we can often perceive things as threats that don't, in fact, pose any legitimate threat. Thus, emotionally hijacked, we make impulsive decisions that we later regret.

Becoming more aware of our thought and emotional processes, better equips us to override disproportionate and inappropriate reactions from the amygdala's hypersensitivity. By developing our emotional intelligence, we're able to manage our thoughts and emotions better, think more clearly, act more sensibly, and make wiser decisions. In short, we're able to reverse our senses when needed.