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When the time comes to make a life change, whether changing your look, your job, or your relationships, your emotions will either sabotage or support your desires.

There are many fears that can hold you back – fear of failure, fear of disappointing people whose approval you want, fear of looking stupid, fear of regret. They nudge you into coming up with good reasons for staying in a joyless, boring, or dead-end situation. Regardless of your particular worries, you can use other emotions to counteract the impact of fear and move forward even if only one step at a time.

Three of the emotions you can draw on to help you make the changes you desire are anger, passion, and pride. These three emotions will give you the courage to override your fears.

Using Your Anger

You must allow yourself to feel a strong emotion, with anger being one of your strongest motivators, before you fully commit to making a big change. An intense negative reaction to your circumstances revs up your internal motor more powerfully than a lightly held wish. Through extensive research, Jennifer Lerner and her team at the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory found that anger can lead people to believe they can control their future and it can motivates them to take risks in spite of their fears.

This is often difficult for my female clients. They have been brought up to believe that expressing anger is bad. They cringe and get small in the presence of angry people. If they do express anger, it tends to be a knee-jerk reaction to someone's perceived disrespect. They don't channel their anger to a productive end.

The skill is to shift the focus of your anger away from external circumstances to instead focus on what you strongly desire to change within yourself. It is not your flaky boss or overwhelming responsibilities that make you scream at strangers while you drive. You should be angry that it has taken so long for you to realize that you have the power to change your circumstances.

Many times I have asked a client, "Are you finally mad enough at yourself for allowing this to happen again?" The question focuses the anger on their own avoidance mechanisms, disarming the blocks they had for changing.

When you adamantly say, "Enough," you can stir up the energy to raise your feet out of the mud.

Anger can be a great mobilizer of positive action. Many great things have happened in history as a result of someone saying, “I’ll show you.”

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want more of in my life?
  • What have I had enough of and needs to end today?
  • What is missing that I deserve to have?
  • What is making me feel trapped? Isn't it time to break free?

Put your emotions in service of what you desire. Get angry! Then employ positive, powerful emotions to help you survive your journey.

Shifting Anger to Passion

Use anger to motivate your movement, but then shift it to passion to stay healthy. Sustained anger can be destructive physically in your body and externally in the world around you. Anger, frustration, and stress trigger the brain to release adrenaline and cortisol that will wear out your body by causing high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers, hormonal imbalances, a weakened immune system, and a host of digestive problems.

Also, anger can eventually block the result you want. Your negativity can drive people away, people who could help you achieve your goals. Even if you don't direct your emotions at others, the measurable energy your emotions emit repels people, counteracting your desire to connect with people in a new, more positive way. 1

Therefore, once you commit to making a change, you should shift your focus away from what is missing in your life (evoking anger) to what you desire to positively create (inspiring passion). The intensity of your desire for the outcome you want correlates to the likelihood you will do what it takes to make your vision real.

Take time to envision what your life could be like when you make the changes you want. Set deadlines for taking steps to make this vision real. 

Adamantly wanting something to end is a good way to kickstart change. Once you are off and running, you need a positive obsession to sustain your efforts.

Override Humility and Inadequacy with Pride

Your brain needs evidence of success before it will quit listening to your fears. Your brain’s primary function is to protect you. You need to continuously let your brain know that that the changes you are making are not only working, but they are producing positive results.

At the end of each day, instead of looking at what didn’t work or where you fell back on a promise to yourself, notice what you did well even if the step was small. Show your brain you are not only capable of making the changes you desire, but that good things are happening, not the worse case scenario. Your brain will support your changes if your outlook is positive.

Emotions are the drivers of your thoughts and behaviors. Instead of letting fear paralyze you, use anger, passion, and pride to help you muster the courage you need to make the changes you want to see in your life.

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1 Childre, D. & Marti, H. The HeartMath Solution (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000) pp. 33-34.

Article adapted from Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler: 2010) pp. 140-142.

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