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CEO – Chief Emotions Officer?

January 12, 2012 ,

How Emotional Equations Can Change Your Life

by Dan Schawbel, Contributor,, Jan 12, 2012

Excerpt from Q&A with Chip Conley,  author of Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success.

I believe all leaders are CEO’s, Chief Emotions Officers, as leaders are the emotional thermostats for the groups they lead. When my emotional thermostat was low, I was reading Viktor Frankl’s landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning, and I turned that into an equation so that I could use it as a mantra: Despair = Suffering – Meaning. Ultimately, I shared this equation with my top 80 leaders in the company and we started teaching equations on Anxiety, Disappointment, Happiness, and Authenticity in our corporate university. I was inspired to write the book since so few of us have ever been taught about the mystery of our emotions and how to make sense of them.

 Which equation helped you out the most when you were suffering?

That Despair = Suffering – Meaning equation saved my life (I write about this in the book). Think of Suffering as the constant and Meaning as the variable in this equation. Suffering is ever present (it’s the first Noble Truth of Buddhism), especially in a harsh recession, but Meaning is what you make of it. When I was having a particular difficult day, I would need to ask myself, “What’s the learning or lesson in this?” Or, better yet, what kind of emotional muscles am I training in this emotional boot camp I’m living through?

There’s a famous study of young women who grew up during the Depression. They compared these women later in life – who’d lost their husbands – with other women and they found that these women whose formative years had been the Depression were better able to handle the resiliency, independence, and courage necessary to become a widow. So, whether it’s compassion, humility, persistence, or curiosity – there’s some positive emotional power that may come out of this difficult time that can serve you for a lifetime.

How can emotional equations make people more successful in the workplace?

The truth is that most of us are very reactive with our emotions, but we aren’t always conscious of that. Yet, what we’re unconscious of often holds power over us. Daniel Goleman taught us 16 years ago that the most successful leaders have strong emotional intelligence and the foundation component of EQ is self-awareness. Emotional Equations helps people to understand their emotional patterns and reactivity such that they can exhibit more healthy and productive emotions in their work.

How do we know when we can’t use an equation to make a change in our lives?

These equations are meant to help people respond, not react to life, which can be helpful in the context of business when we want to use logic and reason in considering something. But, for some things in life – like the joy of seeing your baby born or falling in love – reacting is the most natural way to allow your emotions to gush just like they should. For me, I call this being emotionally fluent.

It’s nice to be emotionally intelligent, but it’s valuable to be emotionally fluent. In other words, you may go to Paris and know this history of the French language and all its dialects, but if you aren’t fluent in actually speaking the language that knowledge isn’t serving you in a practical way. Emotional Equations provide practical benefit, but my suggestion is that people don’t labor too much over the logic of the equations.


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