You are a fish on a line. Getting Unhooked.

Miroslav Minar - woman

“Sixteen thousand—that’s how many words we speak, on average, each day. So imagine how many unspoken ones course through our minds. Most of them are not facts but evaluations and judgments entwined with emotions—some positive and helpful…others negative and less so (He’s purposely ignoring me; I’m going to make a fool of myself; I’m a fake).

The prevailing wisdom says that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place at the office: …leaders, should be either stoic or cheerful; they must project confidence and damp down any negativity bubbling up inside them. But that goes against basic biology. All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear. That’s just our minds doing the job they were designed to do: trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls.

…Leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line. This happens in one of two ways. They buy into the thoughts, treating them like facts (It was the same in my last job…I’ve been a failure my whole career), and avoid situations that evoke them (I’m not going to take on that new challenge). Or, usually at the behest of their supporters, they challenge the existence of the thoughts and try to rationalize them away (I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…I know I’m not a total failure), and perhaps force themselves into similar situations, even when those go against their core values and goals (Take on that new assignment—you’ve got to get over this). In either case, they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important resources that could be put to better use.

This is a common problem, often perpetuated by popular self-management strategies. We regularly see executives with recurring emotional challenges at work—anxiety about priorities, jealousy of others’ success, fear of rejection, distress over perceived slights—who have devised techniques to “fix” them: positive affirmations, prioritized to-do lists, immersion in certain tasks. But when we ask how long the challenges have persisted, the answer might be 10 years, 20 years, or since childhood.”

Read more on how to use 4 practices to Get Unhooked by Susan David & Christina Congleton here


  • Harvard Business Review Magazine titled Emotional Agility by Susan David & Christina Congleton
  • Image Source: Thank you Anake Goodall for Miroslav Mlinar painting.


  1. Wow ~ great post David! 16K words a day huh?


  2. just have to realize when you’ve been caught on the line, cut bait and quickly swim away from it. you’ve already used up some of your words on this post today, so cut back on the rest of the day. turn off the negative tape that runs through your head. put on a nice piece of cuban jazz or string quartet instead and melt into it.


  3. I saw another post somewhere that said, “Don’t believe everything you think.” But, wow, 16,000 words per day??? Not here, that is for sure. 🙂


  4. And some use way more than their 16K. Shudders! Think “wilting ears.”


  5. I definitely need to listen more and talk less….


  6. Very true David, I hope you have this on linkedin too. Warmly, Sheri


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