Gaining Wisdom by Mastering Emotions


Participants in the Holdsworth Campus Leadership Program have had the privilege of developing our personal leadership with the guidance of Columbia Business School Professor Hitendra Wadhwa.

Hitendra and his team at the Institute for Personal Leadership have organized the principles of Personal Leadership into Five Pillars: Purpose, Wisdom, Self-Realization, Love, and Growth. During our last session, we had the opportunity to dive deeper into the Wisdom Pillar. In April, Maria Chalico from Klenk wrote a great article about Mastering Emotions, which is the heart of the Wisdom Pillar.  In the quote below, she describes how distortions can twist our thinking.

When we are feeling upset, our circumstances usually trigger Automatic Negative Thought or ANTs. There are typically distortions in these ANTs that are triggered by disruptive emotions. When we recognize and eliminate these distortions, we untwist our thinking, and our emotions come back into balance.

Hitendra describes 10 Common Mental Distortions in hopes that we all can recognize and eliminate our distortions to untwist our thinking and master our emotions.

All-or-Nothing ThinkingYou view situations and people in absolute, black-and-white categories, instead of along a continuum. “I am a hero” and “I am a zero.”
Over-GeneralizationYou make the sweeping conclusion that a particular negative (or positive) event is pervasive or permanent. “He is always late.” and “She never listens.”
Mind ReadingYou believe you know what others are thinking or feeling, failing to consider other reasonable possibilities. “I haven’t heard from her in so long. She must be angry with me.”
Fortune-TellingYou predict the future in an extreme manner without taking all available evidence into account. “Tomorrow’s meeting will be a disaster; I just know it.”
Magnification/MinimizationIn evaluating yourself, others or situations, you unreasonably magnify or minimize the negative (or positive). “John won us our first big account. He is a superstar.”
Mental FilteringYou focus on the negative (or positive) aspects of a person or situation. “She is always arguing with me.”
Should-ingYou expect perfection from yourself, other people and situations, and get unreasonably upset when these expectations are not met. “My computer should never crash.” and “People should never speak rudely.”
BlamingYou assign blame to yourself (or to others) rather than pinpointing the true cause of a problem. “We didn’t have a good meeting because he asks too many questions.”
Emotional ReasoningYou believe something is true because that is how you feel, ignoring or discounting evidence to the contrary. “I’m mad at her. She must be doing something totally wrong here.”
LabelingYou assign a fixed, global identity to yourself and others, without carefully thinking about whether that sweeping identity is wholly applicable. “I’m an idiot!” and “He is such a loser.”

So the next time your emotions get the best of you, try to recognize if one (or more) of the distortions are twisting your thinking. Untwist your thoughts, balance your emotions, and gain wisdom.