In a recent newsletter from Jon Pratlett, a management coach, he explains that when people encounter challenging situations, your brain will actually react differently if you use the phrase “I am …” rather than “I feel …”

There is research that suggests that when we perceive danger and our brain switches into a fight or flight mode, if we tell ourselves “I’m sad,” I’m frustrated,” or “I’m angry,” it is likely that it will only make the threat response more intense.

The reason lies in the neuroscience of motivation. When you make “I am” statements, you are stating something about your identify as a person, which gives that emotion permanence. In essence, you are telling yourself that this feeling is who you actually are.

On the other hand, if you tie your emotions into how you feel, there is no implication of permanence, since your emotions are fleeting and can change. Saying “I feel…” instead of “I am…” will more likely result in the following

A noticeable shift in the blood flow, moving away from major muscle groups and the centre for fight or flight and moving towards the PFC or prefrontal cortex, the part of one’s brain that cultivates, problem solving, witnessing and empathy.

However, there is another level that isn’t mentioned by Pratlett, which has one characterizing their emotions as something they are “doing” instead of “being” or “feeling.” Compare these statements

“I’m doing frustration.”
“I feel frustrated.”
“I am frustrated.”

In the first statement, you are put in control of your emotion. Yes, you feel it, but it is also something you are doing, so it is possible to stop it as well. In other words, your mental energy can be used to solve the negative emotion problem.

This system is also effective when working with positive emotions, but in the opposite way. Compare these 3 remarks

“I’m doing motivation.”
“I feel motivated.”
“I am motivated.”

In the last statement, the one making motivation part of your actual identity, you will find the most power. In the second statement, this isn’t quite as true, while the first statement simply implies you are only going through the motions.

So, if you are interested in being more successful, you need to train your brain by implementing the following

Take negative emotions and characterize them as something you are doing, not who you are or what you are feeling.
Characterize positive emotions to be who you are instead of a feeling or what you are doing.


What other ways do you use to motivate yourself?  Tell us in the comments below!

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