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Harvard Psychologist Shows You How to Make Your Negative Thoughts Serve You | Susan David | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Harvard Psychologist Shows You How to Make Your Negative Thoughts Serve You | Susan David".
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- In my work, I often have people saying to me things like, you know, I just wish the stress would go away or I don't wanna feel angry, I don't wanna feel disappointed. And I said to them, you know, these kind of goals are dead people's goals. Only dead people never get stressed, never feel the disappointment that comes with failure, never have their hearts broken. You know, discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. - Hey everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. Today's guest is Susan David. She's an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist and number one Wall Street Journal best-selling author. Thinkers 50 named her to their list of the top management thinkers in the world and Harvard Business Review singled out her concept of emotional agility as one of their management ideas of the year. Her TED talk on the subject also went insanely viral, garnering over one million views in its first week alone. And her ability to help people navigate the often brutally difficult internal struggles of living in the modern world have made her one of the most sought after speakers on the planet. Susan, thank you so much for joining me today. - I am delighted to be with you. - It's, I think this topic is super important, it's really intriguing, I love the way that you've come into it.
Exploring Emotions And Identity
Emotions Are Not Directives (01:20)
And I think the best place to start with you is to understand the concept of emotions are data but they're not directives. I thought that was so powerful. What do you mean by that? - Well, what I mean is we live in a society that often has this narrative that emotions are bad, that emotions need to be controlled, we need to think positive all the time. And if you feel bad, if you're having a bad death, you feel anxious or frustrated or even if you're grieving, that those emotions are somehow negative and they need to be then pushed aside because they're gonna get in the way of our success. And what I suggest is the opposite, which is that our emotions have evolved to help us to adapt and to thrive. And if we can just be more effective with them, understanding the data that they bring, we can move forward effectively. So what do I mean by data? What I mean is that our emotions, they might not feel good when they are the things that I spoke about previously, anxiety and so on, but that our emotions contain information about the things that we care about. If you board at work, that border might be a signal that you value learning and that there isn't enough of it in your life right now. Or if you feel guilty as a parent, that guilt might be a signal that you value presence and connectedness and you don't have enough of it. So when we try to understand the emotions that are being, that are there and the values that are being signaled by those emotions, it actually helps us to adapt. So that's the data part. The not directives part is that of course, just because I feel bored, doesn't mean I need to go give notice right now. And because I feel guilty as a parent, doesn't mean that I am a bad parent. We need to as human beings be able to have the skills, these are critical skills in complex challenging times. The skills to connect with ourselves in ways that help us to be our best. And so data not directives is one idea that helps us to bring ourselves forward.
What Will It Take Nigh (03:34)
- One of the things I've always attributed my own success as an entrepreneur to is my ability to self-soothe. And when I watch other people and I try to assess what's holding them back, a lot of times it's the story that they're telling themselves so they'll get a piece of harsh criticism and they think that makes them bad. Like you were saying about feeling guilty about being a parent doesn't mean you are a bad parent. But somebody would get harsh feedback, they would shut down, the psychological immune system kicks in to make them feel better about themselves, they reject the feedback and they're never able to progress. And so your concept of emotional agility really being around that internal narrative I think is incredibly powerful. - It's really important, you know, my work is really as a psychologist and the core of my work for literally two to three decades now has been focused on a single question. And that question is what does it take internally in the way we deal with our thoughts, our emotions and our stories that help us thrive in the world. Because we know that how we come to our inner worlds, our thoughts, our emotions and our stories, this drives everything. It drives how we come to our relationships, how we love, how we live, what careers we put our hands up for, how we parent and how we lead. And, you know, so much of the focus on success is about extrinsic factors. You know, what are your goals and what are the things that are outside of you? But really if we don't get this internal part of ourselves in sync and feeling integrated and aligned and values connected, the rest can't happen. And so really that's the focus of my work. And it's both about how do you experience the value that our emotions and our thoughts bring, but also how do we prevent ourselves from getting stuck in them? Because as you say, you know, we can have a thought, the thought might be, I'm not good enough. The emotion might be something like, I feel really stressed. Or the story, some of our stories were written on our mental chalkboards in grade three. You know, stories about who we are, what kind of love we deserve, whether we creative, not creative, whether we business people are not. And those stories can hook us. And no matter what, 90 day plan we've got on our wall in front of our desk, it's that stuff that can hold us back. And so really the focus of my work is how do we begin to move away from these thoughts, emotions and stories so that we feel more connected and we can bring who we wanna be forward? - Yeah, I wanna dive into the process on that because so you talk about this stuff getting written into our chalkboard when we're a little kid.
Why our childhoods echo in adulthood (06:18)
I am really freaked out to my core. Like how much of who we are as an adult is an echo of things that happen to us when we're a kid. And look, I get it like neurologically, and I'd love to hear you taking this. I have a feeling you're a lot more educated on it than I am. But like the way that our neurology works, such that we are so much of a sponge in the early days. And it's a great strategy, right? From a species standpoint, you've got a horse sort of comes pre-wired with everything. A human gets a drink and culture to be shaped by its environment, but when that environment is dysfunctional, then you get this dysfunctional adult. I've heard very credible psychologists say, there are certain things, if you don't get locked in by the age of four, like good luck unwinding that. And that really scares me. And I'd love to know what that process is of beginning to change that story. So this is where sort of the central questions of our lives overlap. Mine is, how do you stop someone's zip code from being the biggest determinant of their future success, which has so much to do with how they were raised? - Yeah, and this is key. As you mentioned, the stories that we tell ourselves, these stories are actually functional at a very core level. So, you know-- - What do you mean by functional?
How our stories are functional (07:39)
- Well, what I mean is that, you know, sometimes people talk about only think positive thoughts or only have positive emotions, okay? And actually, we have around 16,000 spoken thoughts every single day. We have many, many emotional experiences and we have many stories. And there is nothing inherently good or bad about any thought. You know, there's nothing inherently good or bad about any emotion. These, this is basically your body doing its job, which is that your emotions evolved to help you to ward of danger, to judge, to criticize, to understand, to pick apart. So when you have these difficult thoughts, emotions, and stories, that's often your body, your psychology, doing its job, which is basically trying to help you to be a coherent being in the world. And I'll give you an example of what I mean by this. You know, when I wake up in the morning and I hear my baby cry, my story, which is that is my child that is crying, that needs me, is what helps me to tune in that sound relative to the washing machine that's going on in the background. So as human beings, what we do is we take in all these stimuli, we take in all this stuff that's going on in the environment and we make sense of it. And making sense of these stories, even if they make sense in a way that doesn't serve us, is sense making. So we all do this. What starts to happen is that we could have grown up with a story that might be am unlovable. I was always told I'm not good enough and am unlovable. But then, you know, you reach 30 or 35 or whatever it is, and you start recognizing that that story is stopping you from being intimate, is stopping you from actually moving in the direction of your values, which is that you want to feel close and collaborative and connected. And so it's not that there's anything inherently good or bad about any story, any thought or any emotion that we have. The more important question to ask ourselves is, is the story that I have right now serving me? - Can you define serving me? That's I think something that'll help people. - Yeah, is it bringing me closer to being the person, the leader, the loved one that I most want to be? So for instance, if I have a story that says, I'm unlovable, the example that I gave earlier, and that's actually now stopping you from connecting with others. And it might even be impacting on your leadership because you are unable to give effective feedback in a way that feels connected, or you are really struggling with your team, but you are unable to disclose, gee, we're having a tough time together and you feel very distant, that can get in the way. And so what's more helpful is to recognize that our thoughts, our emotions and our stories aren't good or bad, they just are. But sometimes what we do is we hook into them and we start letting them drive us. And so what happens is it starts driving the, that's the bus and the bus is being driven by the story, as opposed to recognizing that we are more than our story. There's so much more that we can bring to our lives and to any difficulty that we're facing. But when we get stuck or in emotional agility terms, the language that I use is hooked. When we get hooked by a thought and emotional story, what it does is it often moves us away from our values. And so emotional agility is the opposite, it's the process by which we become healthy with ourselves and healthy with these things inside of us so that we can bring other parts of ourselves to the surface. - So when I think about the things that you're talking about and the process of rebuilding, if you've had a negative story, it's not serving you anymore, and you talk so profoundly about values, I think, okay, well, one, I don't know that a lot of people define who they wanna be, like what type of leader they wanna be.
The importance of recognizing your emotions (11:40)
I don't know that people know what their values are. How can people, so if the rebuilding process is partly recognizing, okay, your emotions can serve you, they're a signal, right? I've always said that if the subconscious can process data faster and faster, as they say, then the odds are that emotions are essentially the subconscious communicating in a way that's far more, it's faster, it's far more visceral than if it were just trying to kick up words into my conscious mind. And so my job is to identify, okay, what is that emotion? Why do I feel that emotion? And then translate it to things I know about myself. So how do you advise people, if you think what I'm saying makes sense, how do you advise people to solidify that identity of who they wanna be, identify what their values are so they can know this feeling is out of alignment with that. Like what does that process look like?
The process of rebuilding identity (12:56)
- So, okay, so the first thing is recognize that we live in a culture that tells us that some emotions are bad. And what this can often mean is that we then are in an internal struggle with our difficulty emotions. - Because I feel sad and I shouldn't feel sad. - You know, often what I talk about in my work is that we have these type one emotions. A type one emotion is I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I'm anxious, I'm fearful, I'm grieving, okay, that's a type one emotion. A type two emotion is the emotion that you have about the emotion. Oh, I'm anxious, but I shouldn't be anxious. Or, you know, I should be grateful about this that's going on even though I'm not enjoying it because many people would wanna be in my position. And so what we start doing is we start having this internal struggle with ourselves. So, how do we start cleaning that out? How do we start really centering on what are my emotions telling me and how can they serve me? The first thing that I would say is that when you feel something, I often talk about this idea that, you know, in my work, I often have people saying to me things like, you know, I just wish the stress would go away or I don't wanna feel angry, I don't wanna feel disappointed. And I said to them, you know, I get it. But, you know, these kind of goals are dead people's goals. Only dead people never get stressed, never feel the disappointment that comes with failure, never have their hearts broken. You know, discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life. You don't get to raise a family, leave the world a better place or have a meaningful career without stress and discomfort. So, the first thing that I would say is when you feel a difficult emotion, gentle acceptance, gentle acceptance, what do I mean by that? I don't mean passive resignation, I don't mean like, oh, you know, I feel bad, this is hopeless, there's no point in me even trying. What is gentle acceptance? Gentle acceptance is the equivalent of you go outside and it's raining and you say, gee, it's raining. Okay, it's, gee, it's raining. Not gentle acceptance is, gee, it's raining and what does it always rain when I wanna go outside and I wish this rain were you, okay. So the first part of being with our emotions is actually gentle acceptance.
Gentle acceptance (15:28)
And this is not something we often talk about in a business related context because really what I'm talking about is self-compassion. Self-compassion. Self-compassion is often thought of as being weak or lazy, you deluding yourself, you lying to yourself, but it's not. It's the self-soothing that you were talking about earlier. It's that ability to feel something and instead of punishing yourself for that feeling, instead being able to say, this is what I'm feeling, like this is tough, you know, I've had this experience and it's tough. And when you do that, you create a space for yourself in which you are connected and you kind of love yourself and it's in that space that you then able to take more risks and try out new things because you know that if something goes wrong, you'll be there for you. So that's the first thing. The second thing that I would say is, once you've done gentle acceptance, understand that your emotions contain signposts to your values, we don't feel things about stuff that we don't care about. So slow down into what is this emotion that I'm feeling and what is the emotion telling me about my values? Because we can find out about our values in many different ways, but one of the first ways we find out about our values is to recognize that our emotions are often telling us what our values are. If we just breathe into it and start saying, what is it that this difficulty motion might be telling me? Might be, I need more support right now. It might be that I'm exhausted and I need more self care. But these are really important parts of starting to connect with our values. - When you had your clinical practice, did you find that people, there was a question you could ask them that would help them figure out how to translate that? Because I've met a lot of people who they can identify, I feel bored, but they have a hard time going and this translates into I have a value around this. Like are there simple questions and things that people can ask them or do you have them journal? - Well, so most of the work that I actually do is with leaders in organizational context. And there are a couple of questions. The first is what is the emotion and what is the emotion telling you you might care about? And I wanna come back to that because often the emotion we say we feel isn't the emotion we really feeling. - And how do people get to that ultimate truth thing? - We can start saying, what is it that I did today that was worthwhile, okay? Not what did I enjoy? Because you can go to a party and you can get drunk and you can enjoy it. It's not the same as worthwhile. What did I do today that was worthwhile? Often when we answer the question, you start connecting with it was learning or it was connection or it was, I had that really difficult conversation with that person but I felt that there was a sense of both of us being together at the end of it. And so asking ourselves over a couple of days, what is this emotion that I'm feeling? What is it signaling? What did I do today that was worthwhile? What if I was to choose a day that I was designing for myself, what would be some of the things that I would do? And it might be things that are around creativity, stuff that we close ourselves off from but that start signaling our values. I've also got a quiz that a lot of people use that have got a whole lot of values kind of mapped out in it that I can share with you. But there are different ways of starting to explore what our values are.
Your values (19:23)
And this is really important because the world around us is constantly telling us what our values should be. It might be to drive a particular car or to have a particular kind of career. And so being able to connect with the heartbeat of our own why, who we wanna be, our internal compass, is really important, not just because it feels good, but it also protects us from this kind of social contagion where we know we can start almost living someone else's life. And then you turn around 20 years later and you're like, oh my God, I've built this thing but I don't want it. So values help to protect us from social contagion, but we also know that there are incredibly important for our mental health and wellbeing and knowing who you are and what you stand for is also protective of burnout. - And so-- - All right, we gotta talk about that quiz then because you've pointed out something that is a terrifying statistic which is that depression now causes more absence or how, I forget the exact phrase, but more than cancer, time away from work, oh God, what was the exact set? - So, you know, the World Health Organization really points to this statistic, which is now widely accepted, which is that depression is now the leading cause of disability globally. - That's crazy.
Depression is the leading cause of disability globally (20:47)
- Outstripping cancer, outstripping heart disease. And so, you know, really we are coming into an age. It's an age where there is incredible complexity where technology has really outstripped our capacity psychologically to thrive. And so more and more of these skills of being able to be with oneself in ways that are healthy, in ways that are emotionally agile, these are fundamental skills for ourselves, our families, our children. You know, because what happens is, if you think about in organizations, all organizations say, oh, we've gotta be agile, we've gotta be creative, we've gotta be innovative. But in reality, when people are faced with huge amounts of information and complexity, they tend to do the opposite. They shut down, there's black and white thinking, there's huge amounts of rigidity. And emotional agility is the skill that is critical because you don't get agility and flexibility and innovation without opening yourself up to difficult emotions that might come with innovation. You know, the flip side of that is, the innovation doesn't work. Or success, the flip side of that is failure. So, you know, there is a fragility that is interwoven in life. We are healthy until we are not. We are successful in our work until we are not. And so these skills that I'm talking about are the skills that help us to deal with the world as it is. Not as we wish it to be in some Pollyanna reality, you know, or in Pollyanna fiction, of just be positive and the singular dimension of success. It's about being able to be healthy with ourselves. - What are some specifics from the quiz? 'Cause I want, like, I'm so intrigued by how you help people map their value system. I'd love to know, and I'm sure we can link to it as well so people can really get into it, but at like just a quick sort of nutshell version, what is a quiz walking people through? - Sure, so what the quiz basically does is it takes people through questions around whether they push their emotions aside, whether they agile with their emotions, what some of their core values are, and some of the skills that can be developed. So let me give you a practical example of how we can be with our emotions more effectively and how they can start signaling our values.
Whether they push their emotions aside (23:10)
Imagine you come home from work and someone says to you, how was your day? And what do we often do? We often use these very big labels to describe how we're feeling. So I'm stressed is the most common one I hear. I'm stressed, you know, every day it's like, just a bit stressful. But there's a world of difference between stress and disappointment, or stress and that like knowing feeling of, I'm in the wrong job or the wrong career. So what I found in my work is that when we do something that's actually fairly simple, which is to move beyond this big label of unstressed, and instead we go into one or two other emotions that we might be feeling, this psychologically is called emotion granularity. It's becoming more granular with our difficult emotions. It's an incredible experience to do this. So you go from unstressed into undissapointed or unexhausted. And what we know psychologically is when we label our emotions in a more granular way, it immediately helps us to identify what the cause of the emotion is and helps us to start taking active steps. So unstressed, I'm feeling like I need more support here. You know, I feel unsupported. Might be really what's going on. And that starts to put you in the place of, how can I get more support? Or moving away from unstressed into actually I think I'm in the wrong job? Or what it starts to do is it starts to develop out what is called the readiness potential in our brains. It's this part of our brains. It starts moving us from the space of being in our heads into being in action in our bodies. And so you start getting your resume together. You start getting your CV together. We know that this emotion granularity is critical to our well-being. In fact, children aged two, three, four years old who are more able to accurately label their emotions. Their longitudinal studies showing that over time those children land up doing better. Because you can imagine a 16 year old who can't label his or her emotions. And someone says, "Oh, I've got a great idea. "Let's go let the air out of the school principal's tires." And that kid wants to be part of the group. So a child who is more able to accurately label their emotions is a child who says, "I wanna be part of the group "but I have a sense of disquiet about what's going on here. "You know, maybe this isn't the right action." So we know that just the simple way of being which is to move beyond big emotions and to be more granular with them is extra ordinarily powerful. In fact, I had a client who I was working with in an organization who always used to say, everyone's angry, you know, he was angry, his wife was angry, his team was angry with him. And we started working on this, you know, what are two other options? What are two other things that the team might be feeling? That are not about anger, it's about something else. And he started to say, "Maybe it's that they don't trust me yet." Or maybe what's going on is that they feel a bit overwhelmed here. And you can see that when you go into a meeting with other teams angry versus they need more trust, it's a completely different conversation, it's a completely different way of being. And months later, the SCAR's wife said to me that it completely changed their relationship because he would say to her, "Oh, it looks like you angry with me." And she was like, "I'm not angry, I'm just tired." Or, you know, "I'm not angry, I just wanna be seen more." And so labeling emotions can completely shift things. There are other practical strategies I can give as well, but tell me if you've told them that. - I would love to go into more, but first I wanna talk about that idea of the emotional granularity. I think that's hugely important. And once you have the language for something, all of a sudden you do start to begin to differentiate between things. And I'll say one of the biggest breakthroughs in my own marriage is very similar to what you were just talking about, which was the ability to articulate in the moment what I'm feeling and maybe even more importantly, why I'm feeling it. And so my wife and I say, "Don't argue about the T," right?
Arguing About The Work, Not The Issue (28:13)
We were always at the surface level about what the argument was. And once we realized, "Okay, wait a second, "when you can get into that granularity of, "this is actually unease, it's not anger," or, "This is, you're triggering my insecurity." And now let me feel, "Why am I feeling insecure about this?" It's surprising even to me. And then you begin to sort of dig under that and find it. But if you don't have the words for it, if you don't know what sort of that array of options is to be able to choose the one that fits just right, you stay in that to a hammer every problem is a nail scenario. - Yes, yes. And this is where even starting to connect with what it feels like in our body, because again, we so often live our lives, yeah, in our heads. And when we live our lives in our heads, really our wisdom and our compassion and our courage and our being, our authenticity, like all of the things that make us thriving human beings are often not the things in our heads. Our minds will walk us off a cliff. Our minds will persuade us that we are right and another person is wrong, even if it means destroying a relationship. Even if it means not speaking to a person because I'm right and they're wrong. And I can't remember exactly what this person does. All I know is I haven't spoken to them since. Our minds will walk us off a cliff. And really as human beings, being effective, is often about moving away from our heads into our hearts. - Okay, I've heard you say the before.
Be Present In The Body (29:55)
I'm gonna pin you down on that one. So what does that mean? Like to be in my head, I understand, to be in my heart. - What it means is being in our ability to breathe, to be centered in ourselves. - And are you talking about the Victor Frankl space that I've heard you mention before? Say to breathe? - Yes, yes, yes. Yeah, it is that. I mean, what is Victor Frankl who survived the Nazi death camps describes this idea between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space is our power to choose. And it's in that choice that lies our growth and our freedom. When we are hooked, when we are emotionally in agile, there's no space between stimulus and response. He started in on the finances, I left the room. I'm being undermined, I'm gonna shut down. Okay, so there's no space between stimulus and response. What are we doing to create the space? What we need to be doing is firstly, do away with this idea that some emotions are loud, some are not allowed, I feel what I feel, gentle acceptance. Secondly, recognize that our emotions are data, but they are not directives. Okay, so we wanna be able to observe our emotions, not get stuck in them, but also not push them aside. We wanna be able to observe them wisely. Another way that we can start just generating that data not directives space between stimulus and response is to simply notice our thoughts, our feelings, and our stories for what they are. They are thoughts, they're feelings, they're stories. What do I mean by this? If we can instead of saying, I am sad, we start to say, I'm noticing that I'm feeling sad. I'm noticing this is my, there's no point, thought. I'm noticing that this is my, I'm not good enough story. What you're starting to do is you're starting to notice your thoughts, your emotions, and your stories for what they are. Their thoughts, their emotions, their stories, they're not facts. They're not scripts that you have to live into. - And when people begin to notice that, when they recognize their story, do you teach them to rewrite that story? - Well, what we often wanting to do is we wanting to say, this is my story, and who do I wanna be right now? So, you know, for example, this idea of getting hooked on the story of I am right, we've all had that experience. Okay, human beings love being right. So, I'm right and they are wrong. And we all know this, you know, we all know that when you've been in a relationship for any period of time, you can have a fight with someone, and finally the waters calm, and you get into bed and you turn out the light, and then something compels you one last time to turn on the light again and tell the person why you are right, and they are wrong, and all hell breaks loose again. You know, wars are made, and countries are devastated by people being hooked on the idea of being right.
Understanding Success And Belonging
The Compulsion To Be Right / Gods Of Right (32:46)
And so, think about this, you know, the more important question for all of us is, I may be right, but is this story serving me? You know, I may be right, but is the serving who I wanna be in my relationship? - That, you, I've heard you mention that before, I think it's so powerful, talk about the gods of right, which I thought was just a fascinating way for people that just carried out to its logical conclusion and see what happens. - Yes, I mean, it's this, you know, it's this idea that if the gods of right came down and said, I give it to you, you are right, you are right, you are right. You still get to choose who do you wanna be? Who do you want to be? And you know, what's powerful with us is that it means that you can operate in a space that, you know, we can call bothness, okay, bothness. And what do I mean by this, which is you can be cross with your husband or your wife, and you may even be right. But your love that you feel for the person and the value that you place in that relationship can lead you to simultaneously be right and to reach out to the person and give them a hug. - You can hear from my accent, I didn't grow up in the US, I grew up as a white South African in apartheid South Africa. And it was a country and a community committed to not seeing, basically to not seeing the other to not seeing. In South Africa, there's this beautiful word, "Sawoborna." "Sawoborna," you hear it if you go to South Africa, it's a greeting you hear on the streets every single day. It's "Sawoborna," "Yebo, saoborna," and it's basically just "hello." It's "hello" in Zulu. But when you translate "Sawoborna," "Sawoborna" literally translated means "I see you," and by "seeing you, I bring you into being." And so much of my work is really focused on this metaphor, this idea of what does it take in the way we see ourselves, our thoughts, our emotions, and our stories that help us to thrive in a fragile and complex world. And that also, it's only when we are more able to see ourselves, that we are more able to see others too. Because, you know, when we aren't clean with ourselves, when we aren't connected with how we feeling and with what's going on, we snapp at people, we judgey, we tense, we disconnect it. But when we see ourselves, we are more able to see others too. Yeah, that is that notion of bringing somebody into existence by seeing them. I don't know if you saw the movie "Avatar," and I certainly do not mean in any way shape or form to cheapen what you're talking about, but that always hit me really hard, like, "I see you." And I say that to my employees sometimes, like, "I see you in an avatar way." Like, I'm not praising you because I'm blind to your faults. I see the totality of who you are, and I'm still moved to this, this comment, this relationship, you know, however you want to think about it. And I've always thought that that is so powerful, and there is, like, when you think about what happens to a human when you put them in solitary confinement, and this sort of mental illness that ends up being born of that, like, crazy, like, to think that just being alone is enough to make you feel like you don't exist. So I really get that sense of, like, by seeing you, there's like a reflection back to you that really does solidify your entire being.
The immense power of "belonging." (37:15)
It's pretty crazy. It's so profound. You know, our human beings have a couple of coordinates. We all have a need for belonging. And you see this, you see this at age two, you know, it's like, Jack wouldn't play with me. I feel, you know, left out. So we have a need for belonging, and this I see you is saying, you know, you belong, there's space for you. And I think doing it for other people as a leader, and in a relationship is so powerful, you know, what do we often do? We often do the opposite of it. Someone comes home from work and we barely put down our phones to say hello to this person that we're sharing in life with. Or, you know, what would it be the experience for our children to feel that they are rarely seen? It's so powerful. And then also, how do we see ourselves? Yeah, I love that. There's something about how even handed you are with blending the head, the heart, the science, all of it, bringing it together. What you talked about earlier, the tyranny of positivity, which I think is to just like such a brilliant juxtaposition of words to get people to understand that if you were just saying, "Hey, if you're sad, then be sad." I wouldn't resonate with that. If it's, "You're sad, accept it." That's where we are. That is the state of things. But now you can, in not fighting that, you don't get that second-order emotion of feeling badly about that, that you don't fall prey to the social contagion of, "You're not supposed to feel that way, but you're not encouraging people to just sit and wallow in it.
Realizing the path that leads to "multi-dimensional success"... (38:56)
It's about recognizing, "This is, now I'm using my own language, but this is the subconscious communicating to you. Now what you make of that is going to determine the trajectory of your life." Right? You've been really elucidating in a powerful way what Shakespeare says in that quote, which is, "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Right? So the way that you're perceiving your life, the way that you're thinking about it, is really going to determine the quality of your life. And I think it is so extraordinary that you have got this system for people to recognize where they're at, not beat themselves up over it, but understand that they, and again, I'm using my own words. I'll be curious to see how you respond to this, but that your emotions aren't necessarily true. You know, what happens when we have difficulty motions is that often what we do is we bottle them, we push them aside, and bottling emotions is associated with lower levels of well-being, but also lower likelihood of achieving new goals. But on the other hand, we could brood on our emotions, getting so stuck in them, that we treat them as fact and that we're so immersed in them, that we aren't actually living our lives, we're just kind of living in our heads. And so bottling and brooding, they look very different, but both are associated with poorer outcomes. And so what does this, you know, effect of third-way look like? It's about being curious, it's about being compassionate with ourselves. It's about being courageous because sometimes we face into emotions that are difficult. You know, sometimes we might be facing into an emotion that tells us that a relationship isn't working out, or that a business that you had put years into actually has zero likelihood of success, and that you could put another five years into it because you just want to go, go, go. But that actually, you know, there's a time to grit, and I know this is something you talk about a lot, there's a time to grit, and that grittiness is powerful when it's values connected, when there's an opportunity of success, when it's aligned with who you want to be. But sometimes as human beings, we need to know when to grit and when to quit. Dude, I think that's really interesting, and this is something I'm glad you brought up again. You mentioned earlier, single-dimensional success, and I'd love to know how do you define multi-dimensional success? Like, what are the dimensions people should really be paying attention to? You know, often when we talk about success, people imagine that success is, you know, financial metrics, and to me, I think about success in a very different way. I'm thinking about success being, you know, are you living a life that feels concordant with your values? You know, that's fundamentally, and again, this is the conversation between you and the person in the mirror, and, you know, those values might be values that, oh, you know, I want to live in a nice house, or then that's something that you've identified. It's intentional. It's connected with who you are, and that's, you know, that's your value. But, you know, we tend not to have just one value.
Dr. Davis's definition of success and how you can pursue it... (42:28)
We tend to have many different values, and so sometimes people might say things like, oh, all my values are in conflict. You know, I value having a great career, but I also value my family, and these values are in conflict. And, you know, I think about this very differently. I see values as they just are. You know, your values are your values. Values often have this idea of being very abstract. You know, they're these things written on walls in businesses. But I think of values as qualities of action. And what I mean by that is every single day, you get hundreds of opportunities to either move towards your values or away from your values. You get a choice point. You know, when you go into your kitchen, you get a choice point of, do I take the muffin or do I take the fruit? One might bring you towards your values, one might take you away from your values. So often when we think about values, it's this abstract idea, but I think about values as qualities of action, that every single day we have hundreds of opportunities, and it's actually very rare that values are in conflict. Your values just are, you know, they just are. They are the things you care about, they life directions. So what is often in conflict? What's often in conflict is not your values per se. It's your goals, okay? Your goals are in conflict. There's a difference. A value is a life direction. A goal is often something that is very explicit, it's circumscribed, it's time-limited. So, you know, I might value my career and value my family as an example, but my goal of giving a talk in Australia at the same time that my son has a really important, you know, competition at school, it's those two goals that are in conflict. It's not my values, they're my goals. And this is really powerful because this allows us to move out of the space of internal conflict. Oh, what's more important, you know, is it my family or is it my career? Well, it's both. It's both, and it can be both. So what it allows me to do is to say it's the specifics of my goals that are in conflict.
The Punch Line of Life Is (44:52)
How can I, you know, recognize that actually giving that talk in Australia is also earning an income and allowing me to do something that supports other aspects of my life, including my children? But how can I be in Australia and connect with my son in a way that's meaningful? Because now I've moved away from this internal, like, oh, my goodness, my values are in conflict, and I've moved more into the space of this goal versus that goal. As much as I want to pretend I am, I'm not omnipresent and omnipotent, I need to choose. I need to remove so much of the conflict and the difficulty that I think so often is part and parcel of, you know, when we think about goals and values and what's more important. And it allows me to be in a space and all of us to be in a space where we can say, okay, both of these things are my values. So how can I be in one place and create a meaningful connection with this person? Dude, that's an amazing breakdown, I love that, and to sort of bring this all together, I've often said to people, look, you talk about that single dimension of success, people often define this financial, I can just, hey, I'll give you the punchline, it isn't, the point of life is definitely not money, it's not fame, it's not notoriety, anything like that. The punchline of life is how you feel about yourself when you're by yourself, and your entire world, all of your work is about that internal life, and I think that that is so incredible.
The Impact Denise Wants to Make in the World (46:17)
Like if I was going to put my finger on one thing that people need to put their time and energy into, it's that. It is literally getting, it's funny when I go to use certain words, I'm like, I'm not sure how she'll feel about this, but getting control of your internal life, like making sure that you're telling yourself a story about yourself that moves you towards your goals. And I hear us saying a lot of the same things, I think it's so useful, I'm so glad that you've taken the time to write this stuff down, to put it out there, the TED Talk is incredible, your interviews are incredible. What is the impact that you want to have on the world? The impact that I would want to have on the world is to help people to be. And really what I mean by that is we live in a life that would have us believe we are in a never-ending Ironman or Ironwoman competition. Just need to keep going and going and going and going and punishing ourselves and beating ourselves up and exhausting ourselves. And I think the power in just being kind to ourselves and in that space of kindness, you know, kindness to the self is often again thought of as being weak or lazy, but it's not. It's in that space of kindness is where you think, "Ah, maybe I'll try this, or maybe I can take this risk." And so you just have this incredible way of creating psychological safety within the self. And so I think about my father and I think about when I was little, before my father died, before he was even diagnosed with cancer, I was about five years old, and I developed a fear of death. You can imagine I'm a fun person for your round. But you know, kids at around five years old start becoming aware of their own mortality. And so I was about five years old and I remember being petrified that my parents were going to die. And I would call my dad at night and I would say to him, "Promise me you're never going to die, promise me you're never going to die." And I would find my way into my parents' bed, night off, tonight off, tonight. And my father would comfort me. He would comfort me with soft pets. He would kiss me. And then he would say to me, "We all die, Susie. It's normal to be scared. It's normal to be scared." And what I understood, and this is I think the impact that I would like to make, what I understood in what he was saying to me through those dark nights is that courage for all of us as human beings is not the absence of fear. Courage is not about like never feeling fearful or never failing or never feeling anxious or grief. Courage is not the absence of fear. And live a life in which the beauty of our life is interwoven with its fragility. We don't get to love without knowing that one day we will grieve. We just don't get it. We don't get to be healthy without knowing that one day we will lose that health. And so this interwoveness, what it means is that as human beings, we need to become more comfortable with not just the so-called positive emotions of happiness, but also we need to develop skills to deal with the world as it is, which is fragile. And so to come full circle is, you know, my father would say to me, "Courage, you know, it's normal to be scared. It's normal to be scared. We all die." And what I understood he was teaching me is that courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. Courage is about feeling your emotions, not pushing them aside, trying to do away with them or rationalizing why you shouldn't feel them. Courage is about feeling them with compassion, with curiosity, and then even if it is uncomfortable taking steps towards things that are of value to you. Uncomfortable because starting a new business is tough. Sometimes reaching for your dreams brings difficulty and this is why we need courage. So what is the impact that I would like to have very long-winded answer, but it is about helping people to be, to be with themselves in compassion, in curiosity? What's going on for me? Why am I feeling this? And in courage, what do I need to do here, even if it's difficult? And I think if I could do one of those things in any small way and even a small percentage, I would feel like I've made an impact.
Connect With Susan David
Where to Find Susan David online (51:42)
It's amazing. I love that. We'll tell people where they can connect with you and you can help them along on that journey. So, absolutely. So the first is a TED. I've got two collaborations with TED. The first is my TED Talk, the gift and power of emotional courage. The second is a podcast that I've just started with TED called Checking In, which is full of fight-size, you know, 20 minutes. And that's been amazing. The quiz we mentioned earlier, SusanDavid.com/learn, and then of course my book, Emotional Agility. Awesome. Well, guys, definitely check all that stuff out. I'm sure you got a taste of it here, but she has an amazing way to get into the internal state of people and help them make changes there, which will promise you they will have an impact throughout everything in your life. There's nothing more important than getting a hold of what's going on inside your mind and speaking of getting a hold of things inside your mind. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Take care. People who are more physically active are happier. They have better relationships. They have more meaning in life. They're less at risk for things like depression and loneliness. If you go further than just sort of that kind of epidemiology and you look at how movement affects the brain.