Hi, I’m Susan David, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School. I’m the author of Emotional Agility: Get Stuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, based on the concept that Harvard Business Review heralded as a Management Idea of the year and has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other leading publications. For years I’ve been researching how the way we navigate our inner world - our thoughts, emotions and stories - can determine our success in life. I’m really glad to be here taking your questions, as they relate to the workplace (e.g. stress, work/life balance, or challenges), parenting (e.g. helping your kids deal with frustration), or life (e.g. your attempts to make positive changes to your health and wellbeing).
What is the best tip you can offer entrepreneurs in terms of work/life balance?
@andrewett - 1) Your values are not in conflict. You may value your career/entrepreneurial project AND value family. Just noticing that is freeing. 2) What often is in conflict are your goals. You simply cannot be in two places at once. So my tip: make your time in each place intentional. Make it count. When you're with family BE with family (not checking your phone). When you're with your project, BE with your project.
@fletcherchristy · Founder, Fletcher & Co
How can emotional agility help people become better managers, especially in environments like startups where there is a lot of change and uncertainty?
@fletcherchristy We - managers included, often become so caught up in their own emotions (avoidance of a tough conversation, fear of failure, frustration with staff). Their emotions drive their decisions and actions. In Emotional Agility I describe how our emotions are data, but not directions, and how to cultivate key skills at being able to be with emotions in a way that is effective, so that your values drive your actions. For managers and leaders, critical skills you can ask today are: am I so focused on being right that I'm not being effective; am I getting so caught up in my anxiety about change, that I've stopped enjoying the process of living and leading.
@fletcherchristy Also, I think people can often struggle with the idea that there IS change, i.e. wishing that it wasn't. I think the sooner that we realize and really come to terms with the idea that change is here to stay, and that uncertainty is not going away, we can free ourselves up to actually work through the process and issues.
Coaching - which is teaching first and foremost, is a two way street with coaches imparting knowledge, but also constantly learning from their "students". Often coaches see themselves has having the expert, finite knowledge they need. How do you encourage coaches to embrace challenge, be flexible in their thinking and strategies and continue to learn everyday?
@drmarasmith. I think coaching is about the other person, and about helping them to learn from themselves (i.e. to unpack and connect with what is inside of them) and then to help them shape that. As with so many things, my sense is that when we as the coach, speaker, teacher, leader - make it about us, and about our own learning and ego, we close ourselves off to learning. So I would say: be focused on the present - the person in front of you; truly see them. From there, so much follows. In Zulu - SAWUBONA is the greeting - meaning "I see you" and by seeing you I bring you into being. I think that by seeing the other (the coaching client, the child) and being present to that person, so much comes to life.
@susandavid_phd Thanks so much for this thoughtful answer. Not being distracted away from our presence. As Simone Weil said "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity"
Thank you for showing up for us. I recently launched a Kickstarter project that is not going to reach the funding goal. Any suggestions for people in my shoes NOT to take it as a personal rejection? My product feels like a beloved child!
@mcgrawbridget Yes. First, you have done something wonderful - taken something that you've believed in and brought it to the point where there is a kickstarter. That's wow! Don't let that reality escape you. Second, show up to your sadness, disappointment etc. Don't try to ignore it or talk it away. Recognize it in a way that is compassionate and kind to yourself. You took a risk, made a huge investment of time, and it hasn't worked. There is a lot of grace and dignity in facing into that. And third, think about your product and whether it might succeed and what it needs. If the best entrepreneur in the world was advising you what is needed next - what would that person say? See what you can learn and how you might be able to tweak things so that it isn't just a win/lose. And then finally, one thing that I talk about in Emotional Agility, is the need to know when to Grit and When to Quit. It is critical to know when to keep with something and when to move on. Asking yourself questions like, will this succeed, is it truly values aligned and so on, will help you make this decision. See my recent HBR live for a discussion on this topic.
@susandavid_phd Wow! Thank you for the remarkably helpful and compassionate response. I truly appreciate it and will take it to heart.
Ayrton De Craene
@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
If people could make just one change to their working life to improve their overall mental well being, what would it be?
@ayrton I would say to not struggle with your feelings, i.e. I shouldn't feel this. Rather notice any struggle that you are going through in a compassionate way, and without judging yourself. Acceptance is a pre-requisite to change.
Hi, Susan! I'm curious how you've applied your learning/teaching to your own life?
@rrhoover Ryan, in so many ways. I have had many setbacks and 'failures' in my life'; so many near losses and near wins; people ill and dying. LIfe's beauty is inseparable from its fragility. I always, always try to be kind to myself. This is not the same as ignoring things I've done wrong but just being kind. This for me is so important. Many years ago I caught myself saying things like, "Oh that's so stupid" to myself, and I decided to stop - to really extend kindness. Second, I am focused in moving forward with what is important despite failures and setbacks.
How do you teach a child emotional agility? What are your top tips for parents?
@ems_hodge This is a topic very close to my heart. With the best of intentions parents will often invalidate their children's emotions: "you're okay!" when a child is sad, or "It's alright" when a child is sad. First and foremost is to signal and communicate to the child that ALL emotions are okay - sadness, anger, jealousy, etc. No emotion is off limits. When you do this, you teach the child that emotions are not to be feared and that they are 'bigger' than the emotion. (Note, this is not to say that you're communicating that emotions should all be ACTED on, but rather that all emotions are normal and okay).
@dmwalsh · Integrative Health Coach
Listening, in all its complexity, is a key skill for good coaching. How do you keep at the leading edge of your listening skills?
@dmwalsh Years ago I did this beautiful exercise with a group in which we truly "LOOKED" at each other - as in, into each others' eyes. We tend not to do this - even with people we really love. Now, not suggesting to go and stare your clients out, but opening your heart to them and looking at them, is so critical to listening and hearing.
What is your best recommendation for someone who recently closed a business and is stuck on what to do next?
@jsouls58 Spend some time asking yourself questions: What am I good at? What do I enjoy? What is of value? What are opportunities in the marketplace that are aligned with those. More than anything though, and assuming here that you can pay your rent, don't beat yourself up for not 'having the answer'. I think that the idea that we all have ONE passion and ONE purpose is overrated and likely not true.