Managing Emotions and Dealing with Your Emotional Junk

Is your emotional junk causing bad decisions or regrettable behaviour?

Past traumas leave emotional junk in your brain, subconsciously affecting your behaviour and decisions. Your true capacity, as a leader, is to learn how to respond with intelligence, not emotion.

How good are you at managing emotions and not responding irrationally in tense situations?

The truth of it is, we all get very emotional at times – whether we’re getting excited, angry, afraid (whatever the emotion happens to be), it has a huge, negative impact on us.

As leaders, when we’re emotional, odds are we’re about to do something that we’re going to regret. I look at it in simple terms: when you get emotional, you get stupid. Your rational brain goes away, and it’s usually an indication you should stop and consider a better path – or consider taking some time to figure out a better path.

Note the quote we have in the beginning of the chapter,

“We are enslaved by anything we do not consciously see. We’re freed by conscious perception.”

Our emotions can enslave us if we’re not aware of them, and they really truly get the best of us. So this chapter is about understanding the situations where you need to be more careful about your emotions so that you can be a much better leader.

Key point:  Get rid of this emotional junk so it doesn’t cause bad decisions or regrettable behaviour.

You need to work on this if:

  • You back down from decisions you really want to make.
  • What others think of you factors too heavily into your decisions. Obviously, it always factors into decisions, but if it’s more than 10%, you probably need to think about looking further at them.
  • You’re sometimes shocked or embarrassed by your own behaviour
  • Your emotional reactions are sometimes disproportionate to the situation at hand.

What happens sometimes (in human behaviour) is you’ll have a situation where the intensity is a 2 out of 10 – like somebody looks at you funny or somebody frowns at you, but then you’ll have an 8 out of 10 reaction, or a 12 out of 10 reaction.

That’s pure emotion. That’s your junk.

And if that’s happening to you as a leader, that means you’re getting in your own way. You are causing situations to be worse than they really need to be.

There’s a great exercise in this chapter to help you understand this for yourself. We’ve all got junk. We’ve all got triggers that mess us up. So this exercise helps you to reflect and take a look at where you get yourself into most trouble – or better said, your emotions get you into the most trouble.


  • Fill out the Emotional Junk Grid to look at bad decisions or regrettable behaviors that you’ve had
  • Write them down, then identify the emotional junk. What’s going on inside that is causing you to do these crazy things?
  • Come up with a workaround or a list of things you can do the next time you’re in this situation.

One of my clients wisely said to me, “Most decisions can wait ’til the morning.”

In situations where they can indeed wait ’til the morning, you’re likely to make a better decision. Go back, figure out the situations you’re likely to have an emotional reaction, and then your workaround to make better decisions.

Going back to the tools – if you haven’t seen or used them already – these are the tools referenced in Chapter 17 of the book. They’re also available as free downloads in the Book Resources section of the site. This is the quarterly review and reset tool. And in the middle of the page for the quarterly plan, you’ll see there’s an opportunity to note the habit that you want to focus on for this coming quarter. Maybe dealing with emotional junk is one of yours.

Emotions are Powerful

In summary, emotions are a very powerful part of our lives. They’re what we use to persuade people to do the things that we want. They’re the things that keep us out of trouble in dangerous situations. But when it comes to leadership, managing emotions and using them as a strategic tool is important so we don’t have them bring out the worst in us.