Did you know that there are basically eight core human emotions that we experience on a day-to-day basis? And countless variations and nuances of those emotions that we as human beings experience? The eight basic emotions are joy, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, anticipation, anger, and trust. There are many different models and frameworks identifying the basic ones; this list comes from a scientist named Robert Plutchik, who also created a wheel of emotions to illustrate these emotions in a compelling way. The wheel illustrates the dynamism of emotions, such as what happens to an emotion when it’s left unchecked, is taken to the extreme, or is given too much wiggle room, and what you get when you combine two emotions, such as anticipation and joy.

By definition, emotions are electrochemical signals that flow through us in an unending cycle. They are released in our brains in response to our perceptions of the world. I think that this is super interesting. Even though we often label them as good or bad, emotions themselves are inherently neutral. Their job is to give us signals on how to survive and thrive. The more enlightened we are about our emotions, the more we can learn how to appreciate all of them and the messages they are trying to send us, so that we can lead and navigate more fulfilling lives. 

What navigational app do you use? I use the Waze app on my phone. No matter where I am, whether I’m on my motorcycle or in my truck or in a rental car, Waze can always navigate me back home. In fact, my home address is saved in the Waze app, so all I have to do is hit Home, and Waze navigates me there. With mathematical exactitude regardless of traffic, accidents, or construction, Waze always guides me back home. What’s my point? 

I firmly believe that you and I will always find our way back home— emotionally. You’ll always find your way back to what’s most comfortable for you. Your emotional safe haven. Whatever your core, most-dominant emotions are, you will find a way back to those on a daily basis. 

Have you ever known someone who is self-absorbed, narcissistic, and all about themselves? No matter what the topic of conversation, they always find a way to make the focus somehow about them? Have you ever known someone who is always angry? No matter how great a day they have, no matter how awesome work is, and no matter how great their kids behave or how much money comes in that day, they find a way to find something to be aggravated, annoyed, disturbed, or pissed off about? I certainly have encountered such people. This happens because that person’s emotional home (or, if I can quickly borrow a baseball analogy, their emotional home plate), is anger, and if that’s where their primary emotional home is, no matter what happens in their day, no matter what journey they take on the motorcycle of their life, it will always bring them back to the address of anger. 

Conversely, have you ever met someone who is just a radiant, vibrant, and beautiful light? No matter what happens in their day or what happens in their life, they find their way to joy. They find a way to see the silver lining around the cloud of doubt. They find a way to see something good in the situation. They find a way to always see the glass as half full rather than half empty. That person’s emotional home is happiness, joy, peace, contentment, and balance, and because that is their emotional home, they are always able to find their way back to it. 

What am I trying to say to you? You will always find your way back home. The question is, what’s your address? Is your address resentment, ecstasy, fear, exuberance, elation, fun, excitement, doubt, dread, exhaustion, annoyance, disappointment, feeling marginalized? Regardless of what you call it, every one of us has an emotional home that has been programmed and conditioned into our subconscious mind. 

Daily, regardless of how your day goes, consciously and subconsciously you will find a way back to whatever your dominant core emotions are, whether they be (by your definition) good emotions or bad ones. A foot- note to consider: most therapists and psychologists agree that all emotions serve us in some way and that there is no such thing as a bad emotion. There are emotions that put us in high and low vibrational states. However, most therapists agree that emotions are meant to signal us in some way, shape, form, or fashion. What if you stopped labeling your emotions and started leveraging them? If something makes you upset, ask yourself why you are upset. Figure out how you can be curious about the message that the challenging emotion is sending you. 

So the question becomes, do you like your emotional home, or is it time for you to move? Do we need to call the movers and bring over some boxes, tape, and a U-Haul truck so that we can change your address? Moving can enable you to shift into a higher gear emotionally and move into a much better neighborhood. You’ll have much better neighbors (which we’re going to talk about in the next chapter), you’ll have a chance for your kids to go to better schools, and you’ll shop at better stores and get higher appreciation on the equity in your home.

The above is an excerpt from the new book Shift into a Higher Gear: Better Your Best and Live Life to the Fullest (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 19, 2021), available now.