Can your emotions influence your ideas?

Post it notes of feelings

Anxious. Confused. Stressed. You’d think these feelings were linked to waiting for test results, going for an exam or being trapped in a lift, right?

Wrong. They’re actually some of the most common emotions people experience when asked

‘What’s your idea?’

I’ve asked over 100 people this question, and so far I always get a similar response. I’m more likely to hear a negative response, like ‘horrified’ than a positive one ‘yay’. Of course, I do hear ‘I’m excited’ but they’re few and far between, in my experience.

The pessimist

It's natural for some people to be pessimistic or sink into self-doubt when it comes to sharing ideas, most people know that feeling and can often recall a time when their idea was squished right before their eyes, and it can come back to haunt us. Vulnerability kicks in and to get a little scientific the small almond shape structure in the brain called the amygdala goes into overdrive. Harvard business review explains

‘the amygdala responds powerfully to negative emotions, which are regarded as signals of threat. Functional brain imaging has shown that activation of the amygdala by negative emotions interferes with the brain’s ability to solve problems or do other cognitive work’.

The switch

But, what if I told you that optimism and positive emotions can help generate better results. Would it switch you into a Pollyanna, where you believe your ideas actually, might just be, maybe brilliant?

‘Positive emotions and thoughts improve the brain’s executive function, and so help open the door to creative and strategic thinking.’ Havard Business Review

The Marshmallow Test

Back in the 60’s Walter Mischel conducted experiments with children called ‘The Marshmallow Tests’ to see if expectations about success help or hinder completion of a task.

‘The boys with high expectations for success approached the task more confidently, as if they had already succeeded at them. They wanted to ‘go for it’ and they were willing to risk failure because they did not believe they would fail. And evidently were more successful than the kids who thought they couldn’t do it before they had even started.’

Encourage your inner optimist

It doesn’t really matter what the ‘thing’ is we’re trying to solve, whether it’s a business thing, art, fixing a broken table or a relationship that needs some attention. It’s the ability to switch from a pessimistic mind-set to an optimistic mind-set. Where we listen to and more importantly believe in ourselves, that ‘I will find the answer’ and ‘my ideas are great’. And, if you give the optimist in you a chance you’ll notice generating ideas gets easier plus you’ll have a more enjoyable time in the moment.

Three things you can try  

  1. Try on the ‘go for it’ attitude next time you’re generating ideas.
  2. Improve your balance of positive and negative emotions over the course of the day with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson quiz, we are looking for 3:1 ratio http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php
  3. Don’t always listen to your inner critic he can be such an annoying cynic.

If you can do number 3, let me know how you get on!