In any situation you face, there are two choices you must make that determine how you will respond. The first choice is an assessment – do you assess that what you are faced with is a “fact” – i.e., that it cannot be changed and there is nothing you can do about it; or do you assess that there are possibilities?
If you assess something as a fact you will not invest in trying to change it, while if you assess it as having possibilities you may invest in trying to change it.
For example, assessing the speed limit of the road you are driving on as a fact that you cannot change is commonly a useful assessment because it is not worth your time and effort to change it. On the other hand, if it is the road you live on and you feel the current speed limit puts you or your family in danger, then it would be more useful to assess that there are possibilities so that you can take action to change the speed limit.
Once you have made this first choice – of viewing the situation as unchangeable or as having possibilities – you must make a second choice, which is how you will position yourself relative to the situation.
There are two fundamental ways to position yourself: you can oppose the unchangeability, or the possibility, of the situation (whichever you assessed in the first choice), or you can accept it. The interplay of these two choices gives rise to one of four emotions, which are represented in the grid below.
Table 1. Four Moods Model: Emotions that arise from how you interpret a situation
Assessment of Fact
|Assessment of Possibility|
When does Resentment show up?
If you oppose something that you assess you cannot change, you will find yourself in resentment. For example, some people assess that they are unable to change their job, but nonetheless they complain about it constantly. Opposing that which we cannot change is an enormous waste of time and energy. When people in meetings are in a mood of resentment, their behavior can make it impossible to get any productive work done. They talk endlessly about how things should be different, but they make no effort to actually change anything.
Acceptance can lead to peace
On the other hand, accepting the things we assess are not changeable leads to a sense of peace. Our energy is then available to focus on things where we believe we can make a difference. Conceptually this is a simple move, but emotionally making the shift from resentment to peace can require significant effort, and a high degree of self awareness and self management – the first two foundations of emotional intelligence.
Why does Resignation show up?
Resignation is similar to resentment, in that it is oppositional. But in the case of resentment, it is oppositional to things that we might be able to influence. You will recognize resignation when you find yourself or others dismissing any possibilities that are raised. Phrases like “That would never work.” Or “No one would go along with that.” are the hallmarks of resignation.
Seeing Possibilities can create a Mood of Ambition
When you shift out of opposition and accept that there are possibilities, you find yourself with choices rather than feeling a helpless victim of circumstance. Your energy is then available to engage the possibilities, and your emotion shifts from resignation to ambition. As with resentment, shifting your emotional state from resignation to ambition can be hard work, and again, it requires a high degree of self awareness and self management.
Our experience is that these four moods are likely to show up in all kinds of situations. Resentment and resignation are enormous drags on all aspects of the Cycle of Leadership and impact the performance of a culture, while peace and ambition infuse the culture with energy. Learning to recognize them, talk about them, and shift them is an essential skill for high performance.
Consider the following:
- Where in your life do resentment and resignation show up?
- Do you see these emotions showing up for others at work or home?
- What is the consequence of these emotions showing up in yourself and in others?
- What would be the value of developing a cultural norm of choosing peace and ambition inside your organization or family?
- What would it take to establish that cultural norm?