How are you feeling, really?

Get the RSS Feed

I asked my friends on Twitter the other day (in typical 140 character limit fashion):

"question for day:  given financial meltdown, where are healthy corners of market?  needed services, useful products, etc."

In addition to useful answers like "anything that serves the wellness/lifestyle needs of boomers, driven by unchangeable demo shift, not short term trend or economy," (thanks Jonathan) I got a good one:

"Crisis counseling." (thanks Matthew)

Naomi at Ittybiz has an interesting take on this, responding to my post on Lehman and the New York Times article (which also got picked up at US News & World Report) with her post Blood in the Streets: Home Business Economics in Troubled Times. Penelope Trunk adds her perspective on career development in today’s economy with Three things to learn from the career-crashing of the super-rich.

If you can agree intellectually that there may be upsides to all this carnage but still are feeling quite stuck and panicky, you may need a little help working through your emotions.

In that spirit, I wrote this post for Martha Beck’s blog, entitled "How are you feeling, really?"

I hope it gives you some tools for moving from "bad afraid" (vague, generalized anxiety about things you can’t control) to "good afraid" (a bit of trepidation about a career path that is within your control).



If I were to attach a giant magic probe to foreheads across the U.S. right now, what emotion do you think would be off the charts?

Fear, anyone?

Market meltdowns, government bailouts, war, natural disasters and election uncertainty make this point in history a pretty unsettling one, at least for those of us in the United States.

However, I would guess that under the general feeling of panic, there are some other emotions which are causing people to feel paralyzed.

As my friend Colleen Wainwright said recently, "What is really harshing your mellow?"

Chapter Eight of Martha’s book Finding Your Own North Star offers an extremely simple but highly effective way to decipher your emotional state, asking the question: "Are you more sad, mad, glad or scared?"

This works like magic with my clients that feel foggy, conflicted and totally stuck.  When I ask "how do you feel?" they often do not have an answer.  But with the question, "are you more sad, mad, glad or scared," most will immediately choose one of the words, like "mad" or "scared."

Once the primary emotion is identified, we dig down and find out what is causing it. With the cause identified, we define what course of action is necessary to get them to feel better.  Once they see a path forward, the original emotion almost always dissipates, or at least does not feel so overwhelming.

So if you are feeling stuck and uncomfortable in some part of your life but don’t know what to do about it, try this 4-part exercise from Finding Your Own North Star:

Magic Question #1:  What are you feeling?


1.  Right now, are you feeling more sad, mad, glad or scared? Even if your feelings are very mild, try putting them in one of these categories.

2.  Now write down at least six different words, besides those listed above, that describe your feelings at this moment.







3.  Think of three works of art (songs, movies, images, poems, plays, books, etc.) that resonate with your current emotional state.




4.  What do these works have in common?

5.  Complete the following sentences. Don’t think about grammar or spelling; just shoot for emotional accuracy.  No one has to see this but you.

a.  I wish …

b.  I hope …

c.  I’m angry that …

d. I’m afraid that …

e. I’m sad about …

f.  I’m happy about …

g.  If it weren’t embarrassing, I’d feel …

h.  Even though it’s stupid, I feel …

Magic Question #2:  Why am I feeling this way?

Those of you who have young children will immediately recognize this exercise.  It is attributed to the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota who used it in their rigorous quality program to drive production efficiency, but we all know that they just stole it from a bright toddler (Mom, do I have to eat this ohitashi? Why?  Why?  Why? Why?  Why?).


1.  What was the strongest emotion that emerged as you did the exercises from Magic Question #1?

2.  Why do you feel this way?

3.  Why?

4.  Why?

5.  Why?

6.  Why?

When you get to the real reason you are not feeling good, you may find the answer is not one you want to hear.  Martha says: Read the rest here.

5 Responses to “How are you feeling, really?”

  1. “Scared”

    Thanks for this. I’m planning my own escape from Cubicle Nation, and wondered if my timing wasn’t as good as it could be.

    I’m not sure it could be better. Bad things will happen, people will loose their jobs and there’s never been a guarantee that any company will look out for me. I’m starting to suspect that I’ve been looking for safety in the wrong numbers.

    If there’s a rough road ahead then maybe I want to drive – because nobody cares about my safety more?

    I liked this too:

  2. Thanks for this, Pamela. This is *very* helpful.

  3. As you’d guess, I love your analytical approach – your techie side showing, I suppose! For me a big plus of my cubicle escape is that during times like these I feel more flexible – more able to handle major changes. It comes down to a perspective on security: It’s an illusion. Working at a large firm for many years makes us feel safe. But as you point out, there are no guarantees. I think us self-employed folks know that in our bones, having intentionally made our lives temporarily (hopefully!) “unsafe.”

    Re: “bad afraid” vs. “good afraid” – I like! In personal productivity terms, it might be translated to “Is this a problem, or is it reality.” Resulting behavior: Solve or cope, respectively.


  4. 5 whys, the circle of concern, and a financial crisis

    Facing recent financial headlines such as “the worst financial crisis since the Depression,” and news of bailouts, many are understandably worried. There is plenty of discussion out there about what to do with your money, the long-term effects on the…

  5. DonF says:

    I’m angry. Some at my employer, some at myself. The most important thing for my employer (by volume of communication) is getting our inaccurate timesheets filled out before end of day on Friday! “Yeah…about those TPS reports…”
    I’m mad at myself because I didn’t push myself hard enough to get a job I loved while I was laid off. I MUST correct this!

    Hey, knowing you are angry is half the battle Don!

    Good suggestion for getting some of the anger out of the way …

    Start a “hate and rage” journal which you will use for your eyes only. Write to your heart’s content about everything you are mad about. After a few pages, you may feel a bit better! More suggestions are in North Star in chapter 9. Go to a Barns and Noble at your lunch hour and read that chapter under “what to do if your compass reads “anger.”

    Best of luck figuring out the next stage of your career path.