GUEST: Ken Struys
Ken is an engineering leader who’s built the majority of his professional career as an engineer and management leader at Yelp. Outside of work he’s always had a passion for cooking, from fine dining to molecular gastronomy to pasta. More recently, he’s been fascinated by human psychology, in particular cognitive behavioral psychology and how to apply it to engineering leadership.
Guilt can easily lead us off track at work. We don’t like feeling it, and we think the fastest way to make it go away is to go do whatever task we’re feeling guilty about, even if it has no relation to our main priorities. I’ve had to rush to finish projects on deadline because I let guilt pull me into so many other small things along the way that weren’t really needed.
Once we realize that a life of constant reaction to guilt isn’t serving us, we try to solve it the only other way we can think of — by resisting it. But that just gets us stuck in the loop of resisting emotion. And by now you know that that never works.
What if there were a third option?
Today I want to show you how you can feel guilt but remain focused on your biggest priorities. No emotional battle AND no distractions. 100% win.
I’m also going to show you why you think you need guilt in order to keep you on track and working hard – and why that’s not true.
Then we’ll generalize that problem and I’ll show you how to fix one of the biggest reasons your models don’t look quite right: Mixed Models.
IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL LEARN
- How to stop distracting yourself from your most important priorities
- How to not get stuck “spinning” in guilt
- How to separate mistakes from feedback for the future
- Why it’s critical to process our emotions
- The relationship between honesty and guilt
- Identify a place where you think guilt is bringing you a positive outcome. Break that model apart into two models so you can clearly separate the actual result guilt is bringing you and discover the true thought and feeling that are creating your positive result.
Download this week’s Podcast Guide for a printable copy of this week’s exercise, deeper explanations of this episode’s main takeaways, my Manager Notes with tips from my conversation with Ken, and printable quote cards to help you remember key lessons.
Guilt + Unmixing Your Models with Ken Struys
Many of us get derailed by guilt and waste time on tasks that aren’t that important. What if you could easily stay focused on your main priorities instead? Join me as I talk with Ken Struys about how to do exactly that. After that we’ll fix a common problem when creating thought models.
GET THE FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPTDownload Transcript
Welcome to Emotional Leadership, the podcast for high achieving leaders. Because healthier emotional lives means stronger leadership, thriving teams and much bigger results.
Welcome. Today we are talking about two really exciting topics: the emotion of guilt and the tool of unmixing your models. I know I mentioned this a few episodes ago, so hopefully you’re excited.
So what is unmixing your models? Well we’ve been talking about the self-coaching model. The self-coaching model has five pieces: Circumstance, Thought, Feeling, Actions and Result. My guess is as you’ve been practicing them over the last few weeks, you’ve encountered a few moments where you put a thought like “I will never amount to anything and my career is over” in the thought line and you ended up with a result that was like “I get a promotion!” And something felt a little off because you remembered my comment about how the result is supposed to match the thought in some way. And you might’ve even remembered the comment about how emotions like frustration don’t lead to positive actions and positive results.
So we’re gonna demystify a little bit of that this week. I want to talk to you for a moment about guilt and why I think guilt is such a great fit for this particular tool. I know, I always like to give this explanation, but I had fun putting these pairings together and I really think I found some combinations that are…that give you a deeper picture of both the tool and the emotion when you look at them through the lens of each other. It’s like when you put together really good wine and food pairing, they make each bite or each sip stand out differently, instead of just feeling like they kind of come from the same place and they reinforce each other. So, I like the lens that guilt gives us to unmixing our models and it’s because I think it’s a place where we think guilt is useful.
I’m just going to tell you upfront – it’s not. Guilt isn’t an emotion that gets us to an exciting or useful place. It’s an emotion we want to allow. Note — whenever I tell you that an emotion isn’t useful to us, that doesn’t mean that you should resist or avoid it. It means you should allow it and then you should move on to an emotion that you choose intentionally that gets you the result you ACTUALLY want.
So why doesn’t guilt get us where we want to go? Well, let me tell you a little bit about some places that I experience guilt at work.
One of these is when I’m sitting in a one-on-one–actually both of these have to do with one-on-ones it turns out–but I’m sitting in a one-on-one and when someone says, “Oh, I haven’t seen that document, could you send it?” Or when I find myself saying, “Oh, I’ll send you that.”
One thing I always want to be doing is keeping my commitments and one tool I’ve been using for that is when I say, “Oh, I’ll send that to you,” just pausing right there in that conversation, looking it up and sending it. Now this little bit of guilt pops into my brain: I shouldn’t be using their time for this. I should just be using my own time for that. Never mind that it was a document that they wanted. Never mind that it’s something that’s going to be immensely useful for them. That 30 seconds while I searched through my Google drive and then I send them a Slack message, I am wasting their time. And then I think that, I feel guilt, and when I feel that guilt, I tend to do things like just pause halfway through and not send the document. Or I go so far as to not write down that I made a commitment to this person to send something.
How likely do you think that makes it that I actually follow through and send it later? Not so good, right? As managers, there’s lots of little things throughout our days that we need to remember to do later and it’s so easy to forget if we don’t take the time to write them down or in this case to do it right away. Now, I do not want to encourage you that you should always do everything you think of right away. It’s just in this moment when there is a document to be sending someone who’s right in front of me, great thing to do right away. Then you just don’t have to remember it anymore.
So one other place I’ve noticed guilt come up a lot for me recently is in my one-on-one meetings with team members. A lot of those are scheduled for 30 minute one-on-ones and often at about 28 minutes in, we are having a great conversation and it feels like, you know, we’re going to get to an interesting, even meatier bit in just three minutes if we can just run over by a tiny bit and I feel guilty for cutting them off early. But I also feel guilty for running over that allotted time and using more of their time than they had committed and running late for my next meeting. It would be so easy to think that it was that second sentence of guilt, “Well, if I run over, I will be late to my next meeting and I’ll be inconveniencing those people.” That’s why I wrap up my one-on-one and I leave on time. But it’s not, because from that place of guilt, guilt is not a place that we take action from. When we’re actually feeling guilty, we sit there and we think on exactly what we’re doing wrong. We really stew in it, right? So the place where that moves to action of me wrapping up that meeting, of me moving onto my next one on time, that’s coming from a different emotion. For me, that emotion is usually something about commitment to my calendar and to other people or pride in wanting to be someone who shows up on time.
So how do we tell those two things apart? Well, it’s really straight forward. Basically we look at the sentence, that thought, and we say, when I think this thought, do I really feel this way? When I think this thought and I put it in my brain and I let it stew there for a minute, what is my body doing? And if our body, when we really concentrate on that thought, feels like it’s in alignment with the emotion we wrote, then that part of the model checks out. We’ve kind of QA’d it, it feels good.
The next thing we do is we look down to the action line and we say, is it plausible that each of these actions really comes from a place of guilt, right? In this case, if we’d had a model that said, I feel guilt, so I get up and walk out of the door really fast, we would question that, right? When we say I feel guilt, so I went back and did an amazing job rewriting that project that I was supposed to have turned in that I felt like I didn’t do super well for my class. That’s not an action we take from guilt, those kinds of going and getting it done, we take from a different feeling. So check your actions like that.
And then finally, we can look at the result line and we can say, if I took these actions and just these actions, would I be producing this result? And if the answer is no, or if you have a positive result from a particularly negative thought or feeling or a particularly negative result from a positive thought or feeling – stop and rethink that as well.
So the process of unmixing your model is basically the process of doing quality assurance on it. It’s looking at it. It’s asking yourself that question at each step of “Does this piece match the pieces on either side of it?”
And now as you listen to my conversation with Ken, keep in mind, where are the places that we’re talking about taking action and what emotion is that action coming from? What are the actions that we talk about taking from a place of Guilt and how are we shifting to a new model and out of that Guilt when we take more positive or more constructive or more active action?
Begin Guest Segment
Good morning. I’m so happy to be here with Ken Struys and Ken, tell us a little bit about who you are.
I’m Ken Struys. I’m an engineering manager who spent most of his career at Yelp. Outside of work I love to cook and I spend a lot of time with friends and family in sunny, beautiful San Francisco.
What do you love about managing and leading?
I think I started off driven by wanting to build things and finding the best ways of doing that. And eventually that led me to recognize the best way to actually accomplish things was to do it with people, like getting folks to actually be able to build the things that are aligned around the mission of a company. I think that’s where I started wanting to go into management, but then it became much more personal of helping other people grow and seeing the value in seeing their growth. That really made me excited to be a manager.
Nice. So today we’re going to talk about guilt. I’m excited for this emotion because I think it’s what a lot of us run away from. We don’t like it and we want it to stop. But I think the way that we try to make it stop is often not particularly useful for us. When have you noticed yourself experience guilt at work?
I’d say it’s primarily when I feel like I’ve let someone down. It could be an individual, it could actually be a team, it could be the entire company. It also could be things in my personal life that I feel like I’ve let people down. It’s definitely a feeling like that I want to react to immediately, but often have to think: “Is it reasonable that I’m feeling guilt and what do I actually want to do about it?”
Yeah. When you said you often want to react to it immediately–What do you want to react and do?
I think it’s empathize with someone. So I’m Canadian and Canadians are notorious for saying “sorry” at the end of everything we do. I think that’s where it kind of comes from. I think its from my roots as a Canadian to–when you see someone upset or disappointed–you immediately jump to saying “I’m sorry”.
So you mentioned you often feel guilt when you feel like you’ve let someone else down. What do you notice from someone else’s behavior or inside your own head that makes you think you let them down?
Yeah, I think you can visibly see it on their face and especially if it’s in person, or if they’re emotionally aware, they will be vulnerable and actually say it. It’s like very obvious that someone is going through that emotion and I feel it in my core, which is where the guilt comes from.
Yeah. Okay. And so what does guilt feel like for you?
Good question. I think just like being in touch with any emotion and trying to recognize if it has like a physical manifestation is really valuable. I think it’s like a sinking chest kind of feeling. Yeah, its just an emotion that you want to avoid.
Yeah. So you have this report in front of you. They said like, “Ken, you let me down. Why did you do that?” You feel this sinking feeling in your chest and you said you want to get rid of the guilt. What is that driving you to do? What’s your first instinct for how to get rid of it?
I think my first thing to instinct is to say sorry. I’m sorry that that happened. And I think there’s a distinction between that I’ve learned between just saying sorry and actually apologizing for something. Saying sorry, is expressing empathy for whatever that person is going through and experiencing. Which I think people often end up confusing with an apology. An apology is admitting wrongdoing, that you’ve done something that you’ve decided is wrong and as a result you’re going to change the way you behave. Versus, sorry is simply a feeling for that person.
Yeah. So how do you distinguish between empathy: “This person is in a rough place,” and guilt: “I think I did something wrong?”
Take your time. Don’t go on your immediate instinct to answer what you think is the right thing to do at that moment.
Yeah. And once you’ve kind of created that time for yourself, how do you pick apart and notice the difference?
I try to go through my thought process and figure out what did I do, did I do something that was thoughtful? Did I try my best? Did I do my best given the resources and time that I had? And I try to make a decision of whether or not I actually did let that person down or did I just miss something. I think everyone makes mistakes and you can admit that you made a mistake and try to change it. Or someone might be expressing frustration and there’s not much you could have done about it. Especially if it has an external factor, like someone else made the decision.
Yeah. That feeling of capacity is when I’ve been exploring a lot over the past year. I changed jobs and one of the things that I noticed about changing jobs is that all of my habits and all of the triggers for my normal habits all disappeared. All of a sudden everything took me way longer even if I already knew exactly how to do it, because the ways I was used to noticing that a particular part of my flow with someone was important and needed to be triggered weren’t there. I didn’t know my new reports as well. They didn’t know me as well. They didn’t know how to interpret what I was doing. We spent a lot more time explaining why we were doing things, but I also had to spend a lot more time understanding how the company wanted me to engage in certain situations, like how did it want me to give status updates to my management chain.
Everything just had a little tax of taking a little bit longer. And yet I’m sitting here with this picture in my brain of how much I should be able to get done in a given week. It was totally unrealistic! And I noticed for me, that created such huge feelings of guilt because I felt like there were all a little nice-to-haves in my job. All the little ways I wanted to make things easier for my team members by giving really clear explanations or making sure that I was following up with feedback after a presentation they’d given really quickly. I kept feeling like I didn’t have time for it. And you just felt this pull, like I used to, what’s wrong with me? And I had to really play with that idea of capacity, which was just because I can imagine it doesn’t mean it was reasonable to expect that I could do it this week.
Yeah. I think about being kind to yourself and I often think of the phrase “I’m trying my best.” When I feel like I’m not living up to expectation my own expectations of what should happen, thinking in my head, “You know, Ken, you’re trying your best,” and having kindness around that too for yourself. Especially in a new job! That totally makes sense.
So one of the things that I’ve noticed is that our brain can create this dual track. Okay. I have this one track on one side of your head that’s like, “Ken. Okay. You’re doing your best” and one track on the other side that’s like, “You should have known better, let’s turn the guilt knob up.” How do you handle it when you have one voice on one side of your head saying one and one saying the other?
I think I like to, in a lot of cases, use my calendar. I think like the most valuable resource we have is our time. And there’s a limited amount of it and there’s only so much time you’re willing or are able to put into something. So I think when I sometimes have that really strong guilt feeling of “You’re not doing enough”–If you sit there and can look at well, how am I actually spending my time at my job and see am I working too much? Am I working too little? That can kind of bring that balance where you can look at your calendar throughout the day and say, “yeah, like that was filled with impactful, valuable things and I did my best at all of those things throughout the day.” I think that can help you recognize whether or not it’s justified that you’re feeling guilt or if you’re just not living up to some expectation that makes sense.
I love the idea that because we get to choose our own thoughts, we get to choose how we’re feeling. And one of the most powerful parts of that is realizing that we can choose to feel negative things–like when something bad happens to someone I care about, I don’t want to feel positive. And so one of the things that I thought was really interesting about what you were just saying was that sometimes you choose to feel guilty. So I’m curious, when would you choose to feel guilty? What do you find is useful for you about feeling guilty?
I’d say I don’t know if it’s that I choose to feel guilty. I think it’s, I choose to do something about the emotion or not and respond to it. I think the feeling of guilt is there, the question is, is it justified and is it something I want to act on versus something I think I can kind of actually tuck away and say like, no, that’s unreasonable for me to feel that guilt.
Oh yeah. So you’re noticing like your brain went there automatically. Like it generated a sentence, the sentence created guilt and now you’re looking at it and saying, do I think that was a reasonable thing? And then you kind of stop and say, okay, well I could continue to feel guilty and I could spin in it. But it sounds like that’s not where you generally go with it. Where do you go when you’ve decided the guilt is justified?
I think when I’ve decided that the guilt is justified, I try to go along the lines of an apology. So try to figure out what I will do in the future to be better at whatever outcome happened.
Yeah. Do you ever end up in that situation where you realize that it was possible you could have done something better but that it’s just not a high priority right now to get better at that thing?
Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s where it’s valuable to be honest with the person. Which is scary and hard to do. But it’s better to say that you’re sorry and say that you feel for someone versus making a fake apology saying that you’re going to fix something and, in your mind, not actually addressing it.
Yeah. And I think that’s so important at work, right? This is one of the things that makes guilt interesting. Because I think whenever we feel guilty–we do that calculus in our brain and we say, okay, I probably wasn’t perfect here, I could’ve been better–we’re tempted to make this really obsequious apology and these lists like Here are all the ways I’m going to fix it and here’s how I’m going to change and please don’t quit… (Because I think the back of so many manager’s minds is like, my team is going to leave me if I’m not perfect!) And I think we can end up in that place where we break trust with ourselves and with our team. And then it is so much better to just say, you’re right, this wasn’t perfect and we’re not doing anything about it–then at least I’ve been honest.
Honesty is terrifying though. I think that goes into the vulnerability feeling–vulnerability is not about expressing things and getting close with each other. It’s about expressing things that are really hard to say and doing it anyway.
Often it CAN kind of increase trust and increase a feeling of connectedness but that’s not guaranteed–that’s what makes it vulnerability. You might get a terrible outcome and you don’t know and you’re choosing to do it anyway.
So in those moments where you notice your brain has thought a thought and it resulted in a feeling of guilt and you’ve noticed you’re feeling guilty and you say, you know, I don’t think guilt is actually how I should be feeling in this moment. When might you make that decision? What do you do about it?
I don’t think guilt is invalid because I think it’s an emotional connection to what’s someone else’s experiencing, which isn’t a bad thing. The question is, is there something that you would be willing to do differently in the future? And in a lot of cases you’re not going to be willing to do it, and that’s totally acceptable and okay.
Yeah. And do you ever notice moments where your brain’s first instinct is to feel guilty and the moment you kind of look at the situation, you’re like, wait, there’s no reason for me to feel guilty here?
Absolutely. But I’d say that usually comes after the fact. Which is why I’ve become much more careful about apology and the instinct to say sorry.
Yeah. When you say it comes after the fact, what’s that like?
It’s usually when I’ve sat down and kind of processed my own emotions. So as an example, you might be in a one-on-one meeting with someone and they may say, Hey, you let me down. And I might instinctively say, sorry, let me think about what I can do differently. And then I’ll sit on my own, when I’m not in that one-on-one setting and do things like, look at the history of what actually occurred, look at my calendar and try to make decisions about whether or not there’s something I could’ve done differently and then go and tell the person that did that, did that work. But in a much more calm, relaxed setting than the intensity of someone immediately saying, you just let me down.
Yeah. So many of us who are like really high achieving leaders and so many of us who have that growth mindset, we just learned to take feedback as like, you’re right, I could have done something better. And being able to separate out, I think I could have and I should have for me is like the crux of guilt.
Right!? Yeah, absolutely.
Because I always COULD have, and sometimes I actually SHOULDN’T have done it even if I COULD have.
Right. Yeah. And I think that’s an important thing to do too, is learning how to set boundaries around your time. Your time is probably the most important one because sure, you could have done everything differently if you worked 12 hour days, but none of us are willing to do that. There’s limits to our capacity throughout the work day.
I love that because a minute ago I know what it said, I know what I said is, you always could do better. And I think for me that’s such a reflection of that kind of capacity conversation I’ve been having with myself this year is having to admit that actually COULDN’T have always done better. But for me, that’s so ingrained. I hear how often it comes out of my mouth of like, I always could have been better. And really what I need to learn is I always CAN do it DIFFERENTLY in the future. Yeah. Switching could to CAN in the future and switching better to DIFFERENTLY.
Yeah. That’s a good way of framing it for sure. It’s funny how little phrases like that, you can use them and they’re incredibly powerful. Another one that I’ve loved to use is removing should from your vocabulary–you either need or want something. If you should do it, there’s some external factor that’s making you possibly feel guilty that you’re not doing it.
For me, one of the biggest switches I’ve made is I no longer ever say I have to, I just say I want to. I want to: I want to pay my internet bill. I want to pay my taxes, I want to make vet appointments, I want to go to the DMV and renew my driver’s license–because I don’t like the consequences of not doing those things. Taking that ownership has been amazing.
Yeah. And also challenging people on their words when they sometimes use these things. Like, when I hear people say, I should do something. Going back to your point of paying your bills, asking the person, do you think you need to do that or you want to do it? Why do you think you SHOULD do it? I think it helps them to process, why did they actually think that they need to do it?
Oh yeah, the “Who Says” question is one of my favorites. So–sometimes you notice you’re feeling guilty and you don’t want to feel guilty. Right? Most of the answers you’ve given so far have been like, I’m great, I sit with it, I totally handle it like an adult. So, what’s a point where you’re like, you feel guilty and you want OUT. You’re like, we’re not going there, we’re not acknowledging this at all. And why is that a problem for you when you do it?
Hmm. I think if you try to suppress guilt and just push it away, and say like, I’m just not gonna address it at all, you’re probably still going to somehow say something that was an admission of guilt. And when you do that and you do it without explaining how you’re going to change in the future, what you’re going to end up doing is compounding the guilt because you won’t actually address the problem. People will recognize that and that will probably introduce more guilt and just make it worse. So I think the admission of guilt or the decision to not admit guilt is what’s really important.
Yeah. So it’s that like, Oh, I feel guilty and it feels like beating up on myself and I don’t want to beat up on myself, so I’m going to run away from it. And then we end up in just more situations where we feel compelled to beat up on ourselves. So that obviously doesn’t work. So what tips do you have to share with our listeners about how they can handle guilt really effectively as managers and leaders?
So I think when someone first goes into management, they want to do their best and grow and it’s understandable that they’ll end up taking on more and more and more. I think the GOOD managers, the ones who become more experienced, are the ones who learn where that boundary is and where the decisions come to say no. And my tip would be, if you’re new to management, it’s okay to take on more and more of this stuff, but know that at some point there’s going to be a limit and you need to know where that limit is. Especially when you go into higher levels of management and you have a larger sphere of people that you are responsible for, you’re going to have more avenues for guilt, more avenues for connecting with a larger people’s set of emotions. And you need to know that limit and learn that limit. Some tactical simple things that I do is schedule out your day very deliberately. So if you need to sit down and just think about something, put that in your calendar and block off the time to actually do it. That way you know that you’ve made the time. And if some other item comes into play, you know that you don’t have space for it in the day. You’ve got to wait and do it another day.
I’ve noticed for myself the intersection of my to do list and guilt is such a challenging and problematic place because it drives me completely out of my priority thinking like I can sit and write like these are my priorities as a leader and the moment I feel bad or that I should have felt bad for not getting something done, I bump it to the top of my list. I noticed this as well during sprint planning where you know you have too many points in the sprint and you just don’t want to cut any of them at all because I think we hate noticing the thought that I’m not going to get everything done I wanted to. Cause I think it brings up all of these emotions and guilt is one of them, right? Like guilt, disappointment, embarrassment, fear of failure, all of this stuff. When we think about having to say no to something that maybe even we never committed to somebody else, maybe we just committed it to ourselves, that we’d do it.
Oh, that’s so much fun. Thank you so much for chatting! This is a great conversation.
Yes, this was really great!
End Guest Segment
Thank you Ken for a fantastic conversation. I’m also really looking forward to releasing a bonus in the next month or two with a great segment of that conversation Ken and I had about calendars and how we show up and follow our calendar and stick to what’s on it.
Now I want to introduce you to our exercise for this week. We’re going to learn to unmix and pull apart our models and we’re going to do it with a focus on feeling that emotion of guilt.
Start right now by making sure that you have 10 minutes scheduled on your work calendar every day. You’ll use those 10 minutes each day to practice the week’s podcast exercise. I call my calendar event “Growth”. If you don’t have this scheduled yet pause and do it right now.
And if you’re not downloading the Podcast Guides yet this is a great week to start doing that. I put all these instructions into an easy to follow pdf.
The first thing you’re going to do is think of a situation in the last few weeks where you think guilt created a positive result for you.
And now we’re going to take that situation and we’re going to create a model about it with guilt in the feeling line. We’re going to start with the circumstance, because usually when we create a model we start by defining what situation we’re talking about. So what are the neutral facts of the situation you were just describing?
Now we’re going to fill in the thought line of our model. What’s the one phrase you were thinking in your head that created the feeling of guilt for you in that circumstance?
And we already know the feeling line; it’s guilt. So let’s move on to the action line. How did you behave when you were feeling guilty? What did you say? What did you do? What did you not say or do?
And finally, what was the result for you when those were the actions that you took? This is the positive outcome you thought of at the beginning of the exercise.
Now, think back to your thought. How well does it match this outcome? There’s a good chance that it doesn’t match very well. The prompt I gave you – to identify a place where guilt is producing a positive outcome for you – is almost guaranteed to produce a mixed model. This is because “negative” feelings like guilt rarely produce strongly positive outcomes.
Now, I will make an argument in a later episode that there is no such thing as necessarily negative feelings. But, for the purpose of identifying when your models are mixed, I think it’s really useful to just remember the key phrase “negative emotions generally don’t produce strongly positive results”.
We usually want to avoid mixed models, but today it’s perfect. Because now I’m going to demonstrate how to unmix them. Remember a mixed model is just multiple models merged together. So to unmix them we just separate out the component parts into several clean models.
Mixing of models can happen in two ways. The first is that you take multiple full models and smash them together. If you ever have two feelings written in your model you know you’ve got at least two models smashed together. Give each feeling its own model, separate out which parts of your mixed model’s thought, action, and result go with each of those feelings, and finish them both off. Or if you have three feelings, create three models. And so on.
The second way we can mix our models is by switching models partway through. This is likely what you did in the model you created above. The thought and feeling are part of the “guilt” model. Some of the actions may be too. But some of the actions and the result belong to a different model, with a more useful thought and feeling.
Now we’re going to walk through unmixing your example model. We’re going to pull it apart into two clean models. The first will show you what result you’re actually producing when you’re feeling guilty. The second model will show you what the real thought is that’s creating your positive outcome.
For an example, I’m going to use a manager who is writing performance reviews and has realized that there’s one they need to deliver tomorrow. It’s early evening the night before and they don’t have very much of it written yet.
So our circumstance is “it is 6pm; I’m delivering performance review at 12pm tomorrow; I have 15 words written in review” – notice how I got really specific. I didn’t say very little or not much. 15 words. “I have meetings from 9am-11:30am.”
Notice how those were all factual.
Now my thought is “I don’t have enough time to write a really great performance review.” The feeling here is guilt. The action line says ”get started right away; focus; stay undistracted; capture the most important parts clearly and concisely.” And the result is “I write a great performance review.”
The Thought and Result of this model clearly contradict each other. Right? The thought says “I don’t have enough time to write a really great performance review.” And the result is “I write a great performance review.” It’s a mixed model.
Since I gave you a pretty specific prompt, I’m going to assume that you have a mixed model like the one I just described. Your thought and some of your actions match the feeling of guilt. But your result and the rest of your actions don’t.
And in fact, in my example, I didn’t have any actions that matched the feeling of guilt particularly well.
So the next step is to complete a clean model with the feeling of guilt. So you already have the thought and circumstance, so let’s just start from our feeling and move down. In this case we have the circumstance being “it’s 6pm; delivering performance review at 12pm tomorrow; I have 15 words written in review; meetings from 9am-11:30am.” The thought is “I don’t have enough time to write a really great performance review.” And the feeling is guilt.
So, when you’re feeling guilt, in whatever your situation is, how do you show up?
In this example, I wrote the action line is “beat myself up; focus on how I misspent my time earlier today; stew in how I always do this; tell myself I’m not a good manager.“
And for those actions, the result I wrote is “I don’t write the review at all.” And this matches much better with the thought of “I don’t have enough time to write a really great performance review.”
So for the actions you gave when you’re feeling guilt, what result is that guilt really producing for you?
Now we’re going to work upwards from our original result to complete the second clean model. What was the positive outcome? In my example that result was “I write a great performance review.” What was yours?
What actions did you take to produce that positive outcome? What feeling prompts those specific actions?
For my example, my actions were “get started right away; focus; stay undistracted; capture the most important parts clearly and concisely.” So I decided that focus was the emotion I was feeling that was creating those emotions for me.
And what are you thinking that creates that emotion? For my example, I decided that the thought “45 minutes is all I need to write a clear, thoughtful review” matched my feeling of focus. It matched my actions. And it matched my result of “I write a great performance review.”
So notice that the thought and feeling you just wrote are the thought and feeling that are really creating the positive outcome. You don’t need to feel guilty in order to produce that result. It’s just a shortcut your brain is using right now because it doesn’t know how to go directly to the thought and feeling that produce the result you really want.
I call these Crutch Thoughts. I’ll talk about them more in a future episode.
We’re also going to talk next week about how to learn to practice a new thought so you can re-program your brain to skip that guilt and go straight to the thought you just learned produces the result you really want.
Make sure that you grab the Podcast Guide this week. It has exactly the recipes to use to QA your models and unmix them in more detail than I gave just now, and the example models I shared during the exercise. Just text the phrase MIXEDMODELS, all one phrase no space between the words, to 44222 or click the link in the show notes.
Have an amazing week! Make sure as you’re doing your models this week, and as you’re observing your behavior throughout the day, that you’re really attributing the right actions to the right feelings. That’s usually the spot in our models where we get things mixed. When we think a thought, we’re pretty good at recognizing what feeling that creates for us. But when it comes to taking action, we often ascribe more positive actions to our negative feelings than should really be there. So make sure you’re watching for that in your models and your thinking this week. See you next week!
If you loved this episode and want to dive deeper into improving your own emotional health so you can feel better and have bigger results at work, you have to join me for a one-on-one call. We’ll talk about where you are, where you want to be, and create a solid plan to get from here to there. Just visit go.exceptional.vision/call. See you there!