Emotional Bank

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

In 2018, I started the year off on the darkest timeline. I was on the receiving end of eight rejections from our local musical theatre community and each rejection was driving me deeper into the darkness of despair. I was working hard - taking voice lessons and seeing an acting coach. The feedback I was hearing from them both did not align with the results of my non achievements. I thought about Einstein’s quote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I started to consider that maybe this was the universe telling me it was time to throw in the towel, that it was time to surrender a dream that was not meant for me. From a business perspective it was definitely time to reassess as I was not seeing a return on the investment I was making in myself. Although it will seem like I rationally came up with the idea that it was time to try something new, please let me be clear that this was not easy. This was accompanied by frequent heaving bawls, much gnashing of teeth, some wailing at the moon, and every now and then I shook my fist to damn the stars. I likened my love for the theatre to an addiction or abusive relationship. If my partner treated me this poorly and made me feel this depressed, surely I would hope to have the courage to say, “No. You can’t do this to me. I deserve better.” But here I was, always going back for one more hit.

Ultimately I decided that if I wanted to continue to pursue theatre, I need to approach it from a new direction. This fresh perspective was based on the theory of an emotional bank account (coined by Stephen Covey and used again by John Gottman). The theory is based on the premise that all of our positive interactions leave us with an advantageous balance in our emotional bank account and that our negative interactions deplete the balance. My personal goal was to find a way to build up my positive balance so that if/when bad news (a rejection) came, it would no longer have the power to devastate me. I would be able to move on with my life and refrain from dwelling on it, analyzing it, and making it totally about “Why don’t people like me?”

And so the pursuit of building up my emotional bank account began. I researched wellness and self-care. I treated myself to facials, pedicures, and massages. I explored different types of massage including Ayurveda, Hamman, and Shiatsu (where they put their elbows so deep inside me, I left feeling violated). I even drove off the beaten path to discover energy healings, reiki and soul retrieval by a shaman. In my quest to improve my emotional well being I read countless self-help books and found a gem in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. While I have found that I do enjoy a little bit of the hippie-dippie, the best thing about this book is that it is rooted in Harvard research. I mean that has to count for something right?

Achor says that: "Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe."

Achor outlines 7 keys to boosting happiness in The Happiness Advantage:

  1. Meditate

  2. Find Something to Look Forward To

  3. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness

  4. Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings

  5. Exercise

  6. Spend Money (but not on stuff)

  7. Exercise a Signature Strength

Regardless of all the other self-care/wellness books and practices I have appreciated over time, these key principals have proved themselves to me over and over again. To learn more about the principals and how to practice them, I encourage you read the book for yourself, please purchase at your local retailer.

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