Keeping Your Emotions in Check: Tips for Military Leaders

Today, I want to write about keeping your emotions in check while you are in the military.  As a Soldier, you are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism, regardless of the situation.  Sometimes, this is much easier said than done.  I learned a long time ago that we are ALL emotional creatures.  We make emotional decisions and then justify it with logic!

You might think you are a logical person, but the truth is, there is no such person.  Everyone is a emotional creature.

I’ve been in a few situations in my military career where by emotions got the best of me.  Once I shouted back at my boss because I hit a breaking point.  Other times I chewed out a subordinate when they made me upset.  And other times I lashed out a peers for doing something I disagreed with.  I even made some poor decisions in my career for emotional reasons.

Am I proud of this?  Heck no.  If anything I am a bit embarrassed that I let my emotions get the best of me.  But hopefully you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t let YOUR emotions get the best of you.  Listed below are five simple tips for keeping your emotions in check.

# 1 Think Before You Speak – I’ve always been one to speak my mind.  In many cases, this has backfired on me.  One of the best things you can do is to think before you speak.  Just because you are thinking something doesn’t mean you should say it.  Take a minute or two and process your thoughts and emotions before you start speaking what is on your mind.  This is definitely my best tip.

# 2 Take a Moment to Cool Off – If you are emotional, angry or upset, take a few minutes to cool down.  Don’t speak or make a decision when you are upset, emotional or angry.  It will almost always backfire on you.  Just give yourself a few minutes to let the logic re-enter your brain so you don’t do or say something that you later regret.

# 3 What Would Your Mentor Do In This Situation? – I have a mentor that I respect.  I always myself “what would _____ do in the same situation?”  This normally lets me step back from the situation and look at it objectively.  If you are fortunate enough to have a mentor that you respect, you should ask yourself the same question when you are faced with a tough decision or situation.

# 4 Let Jealously, Anger and Disappointment Be Your Motivation! – Let’s face it, we all experience different emotions throughout the day.  You can let these emotions consume you or you can be the better person and let these things motivate you. Rather than letting anger, jealousy and disappointment keep you down or get you in trouble, let them be the fuel that motivates you to do something extraordinary.

# 5 Accept That You and Everyone Else is an Emotional Creature – Acceptance is a powerful thing.  If you would just admit to yourself that you and everyone you work with is an emotional human being, life will be a lot easier for you.  Realize that everyone is self-centered, makes mistakes, does dumb things, and is not perfect.  Just accept that you are a human being and you will never be perfect (neither will anyone else).

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks.  These are five things that you can do to keep your emotions in check while you are serving in the military. At the end of the day you must realize that you are a human being and that you are an emotional person.  You must also realize that learning how to master your emotions can be one of the most powerful, career enhancing things you can do. Keep your emotions in check and you will be happier, more productive, and more successful.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below to tell me what you think about keeping your emotions in check in the military?  I look forward to hearing from you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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4 thoughts on “Keeping Your Emotions in Check: Tips for Military Leaders”

  1. Some people have already mentioned that this is great advice for anyone in any profession, and I completely agree. This advice is perhaps even more important to those serving in the military, because of the nature of the job. I can think of no other jobs that push you as hard mentally, physically, and psychologically than the majority of jobs in the military. The nature of these jobs can push even strong-minded people to their breaking points. It’s a career path filled with more obstacles than most and as such requires that even more attention be paid to keeping emotions in check.

  2. These tips also will work well with your children.

    I had a supervisor once who would write down everything he was going to say to a subordinate he was upset with. He claimed in the time it took him to write down what he wanted to say he would be calm enough to handle the situation professionally.

    Now, I'm not saying you need to do that, but everyone needs to find a way to be as unemotional as they can particularly when emotions can get high. Having a standard way you deal with it (counting to 10?) can help you control your emotions.

    Also understand that everyone will lose controls sometimes, the goal is to keep these breaks in your cool to an absolute minimum.

  3. Wow – this is good advice for anyone. You are right; we are all emotional creatures and it is sometimes difficult to not let those emotions get the best of us. I especially like your advice to take just a moment to consider what your mentor (or just someone whom you admire for having a cool head) would do in a similar situation. Unless your mentor has been in the same exact situation, you really don’t know how they would react, but it is easy to imagine that it would be in a positive way. Plus, taking the time to think about that may give you the moments you need to calm down. And we can all use that.

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