“Thanks so much for your email.  I cried when I read it but, this time, the crying was good – felt nourishing.

The emotion of “dignity” feels very right.  I was trying to get to “hope” because I thought that that would be the emotion that would serve me.  I could not get to “hope.”  Dignity, was right there.

So, I have been wearing ‘dignity’ for a few hours today, and have come up with this declaration: “I will not stand idly by as people spew their ill-will and hate.  I will stand up for my own legitimacy as a human being and for others. From this moment on, I stand to protect, cherish, and nourish humanity – mine, yours and everyone else’s”.

Since I connected with my dignity I have noticed that I am no longer afraid to declare that I am a Muslim.  After 9/11, I kept it quiet, and avoided the issue as much as possible. If I disclosed, I often qualified it with a “but I not like the extremists.”  I no longer feel the need to hide that part of my identity. Yes, I am still a bit scared, but not petrified, ashamed or apologetic.”

Recently this email arrived from a former student and coach.  She is someone who uses emotions in her work with clients but, as you can read, has learned to apply their power to her own situation.  For me this letter is not just about her individual learning and journey but about our collective human journey.  Learning to understand and even befriend emotions is one of the most powerful things we can learn as human beings.

Dignity is not necessarily an emotion we think about on a daily basis but maybe we should.  We often relate it to roles such as queens or judges or those we consider beyond ordinary like Mother Teresa.  In other words, we think of it as an exceptional emotion rather than one each of us has access to.  Many my coachees are not clear what dignity is or whether they have it.

Dignity is the belief that “I am worthy and legitimate as a human being the way I am.  I do not need anyone’s permission or acceptance or approval.  I decide”.  In the writer Viktor Frankl’s words:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

When we believe we are “enough” we are experiencing dignity.  When we set a boundary or limit in terms of how others treat us we are acting from dignity.  When we stop someone from crossing those boundaries we are practicing indignance.  When we say “no” we are exercising dignity.  I find that often when people say they want greater self-confidence what they are actually looking for is dignity.

I remember being told when I was young to “sit up straight” and to “pull your shoulders back and hold your head up high”.  At the time I thought the concern was for my posture but there is something deeper to these.  Adjusting our body in these ways is consistent with producing the emotion of dignity.  Picture the way a king or queen (real or imagined) sits, walks, stands and speaks.  They have learned to live in the body of dignity and it supports them in their responsibilities.   How could dignity shift the way you are moving through your life?

I’d love to hear your stories of how you have cultivated your own dignity.

I’m Dan Newby, A Coach, Coach Trainer And Mentor, Teacher And Writer In The Area Of Ontological Coaching And Leadership. My Passion Is To Help Make These Distinctions “Common Sense” In The World In The Way Literacy Has Become A Given In So Many Places



So, tomorrow is the election.  No matter how things turn out one thing is absolutely certain:  About half of the people wandering around your part of the world, that you run into at the supermarket or that you are stuck in traffic with will be disappointed. They may also be angry, disgusted, incredulous, irritated, despondent, livid or resigned but they will be above all disappointed.  Or, it might be you I’m talking about.

The other possible emotions are a bit more difficult to predict but disappointment is not.  It was completely predictable all along.  Ask yourself why that is.  What is it about the emotion of disappointment that makes it something we can expect and prepare for?  

To answer that question, we need to know what disappointment is.  Where does it come from?  What provokes it?  And finally how can we deal with it, work with it, navigate it?  

Since the late 15th century to disappoint has meant exactly what it sounds like – “failure to keep an appointment”.  Previously it meant “to take away an office, position or appointment” in a governmental context. Both make a lot of sense given what has just happened.  

Human beings have an incredible ability to think about the future.  In fact, for most people it is difficult not to.  We think about what we will have for lunch, or the drive home or the weather on the weekend.  We are constantly imagining about how things could be.  It is a kind of planning but at the level of possibility.  A funny thing happens though when we begin to believe that the possibilities we’ve imagined are real.  When we move from thinking how the future “might” be to how the future “will be” or even “is likely to be”.  That shift moves us into expectation.  We begin to believe that our vision of the future is how the future will be when we get there.  And sometimes, often unconsciously, we get attached to the future being the way we imagined it. Then we have an imagined story evolving into an expectation of what reality “should” be.

Disappointment as an emotion is triggered the moment we begin to realize that “our imagined future” and “the world” are not in alignment.  We imagined a sunny weekend and it is raining.  We imagined a significant raise and got less or nothing.  We imagined being in a relationship with someone we are attracted to and find out they are not interested.  We each live a hundred examples each day.  Some are small and some are big but they all occur for the same reason.  Our expectation and reality don’t line up.

It is possible to accept this misalignment with equanimity or even amusement but many people react with the emotions outlined at the beginning of the blog because they believe the misalignment triggered a story means that “something is wrong”.  And we generally blame reality for being wrong rather than our invented story.  

So, I thought x would happen, it didn’t happen, I realized it, I feel disappointment and I blame the other person or the world for being “wrong”.

Sound familiar?  “I thought my candidate would win, he/she didn’t, I realize it, I’m disappointed and I blame “them” (media, other candidate, stupid people, the Russians, a conspiracy of evil people, etc.).”

So, now what?  Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it but we have lots of choices.  And they all depend on what emotions or moods we have access to.  If we can shift to acceptance our story will become “it is as it is” and we will be at peace.  In ambition we will see new possibilities and go get them.  If it is curiosity we’ll investigate why we believed what we did or why so many people believed something different and look for answers.  Resignation, the belief that nothing I do will make a difference so why try, will bring some rest.  Even resentment, “that it isn’t fair” will get me unstuck.

This election, just like every other part of life, shows us over and over why listening to and understanding our emotions is one of the best investments of time we can make.  Otherwise we are lost in an emotional tar pit that will keep us trapped and unable to take the steps we need in order to move forward.

Pick your emotions with purpose.    

I’m Dan Newby, A Coach, Coach Trainer And Mentor, Teacher And Writer In The Area Of Ontological Coaching And Leadership. My Passion Is To Help Make These Distinctions “Common Sense” In The World In The Way Literacy Has Become A Given In So Many Places.

Electing Emotions

Electing Emotions


To be honest I’ve been hesitant until now to write about the election in the U.S.  It seems to be a never ending saga full of unexpected twists and turns.  There is a mountain being written about it from many perspectives and varying motivations.  My motivation and perspective is to connect the experience we are in with emotions from an ontological perspective because this election cycle has been a veritable emotional symphony.


Emotions are co-creative with stories/beliefs and predispose us to specific actions.  With that as background, what emotions can we discern underneath all the stories we are hearing and all the ones we personally are making up?  I’m not going to analyze specific stories or candidates but rather share the landscape we have been in these past months.


First the groups of emotions I have noticed repeatedly through the electoral season….

  • Incredulity, disbelief, astonishment, wonder and amazement.  We have seen all of these as we’ve listened to the claims and counterclaims.
  • Denial – “no I didn’t” has been an ever present phrase.
  • Anger – “belief we have encountered injustice”
  • Fear – “awareness that something specific may hurt us”
  • Rage – “nothing is worth saving or preserving leaving destruction as the only solution
  • Disrespect no doubt – “uncourteous or inconsiderate treatment of another”
  • Narcissism – “the state of having fallen in love with one’s own reflection”
  • References to and accusations of lust multiple times – “eager, wanton, or unruly”
  • There have at least been attempts at being apologetic – “regretfully acknowledging failure”

….and some of the emotions that strikingly have been missing or showing up very little:

  • Inspiration – “to fill with grace, excite, inflame, to animate as if breathing life into a cause”
  • Admiration – “to wonder at or to consider another wonderful, awe-inspiring, marvelous”
  • Enthusiasm – “with the gods, divinely inspired, rapt, in ecstasy”
  • Awe – “profoundly reverential”
  • Respect – “feeling of esteem excited by actions or attributes of someone or something; courteous or considerate treatment due to personal worth or power”
  • Dignity – “worthiness, privilege, honor”


The difference between these lists explains for me why we have had the election we have.  Whatever we say is driven by an emotion and a simple way of gauging emotional intelligence is to listen to the words and track back to the emotion that is driving it.


As interesting as this comparison is what is most important will be the emotion each voter is in the moment he/she marks their ballot.   It will say a lot about us as a nation if our votes are propelled by rage, anger and disrespect or a driven by inspiration, admiration and dignity on November 8th.  It will also determine our future.


I’m Dan Newby, A Coach, Coach Trainer And Mentor, Teacher And Writer In The Area Of Ontological Coaching And Leadership. My Passion Is To Help Make These Distinctions “Common Sense” In The World In The Way Literacy Has Become A Given In So Many Places.

A good conversation is a great thing. And we never know where we’ll end up.

A good conversation is a great thing. And we never know where we’ll end up.


One of the great things about true conversations is that we end up learning things and exploring places we had no idea existed before. Sometimes they change the way we think and sometimes they reinforce it but somehow we see the world differently.


This week I am in Missouri where my father’s family originated visiting my mother and other relatives. I had a conversation with my uncle in which we were discussing the work I do with emotions. He is reviewing a draft of the book I am writing and offered his perspective. He spent many years as a minister and is also quite the student of critical thinking, the way beliefs come to be formed and how human beings understand the world around them. He shared with me that the writing I had done sounded very much like a branch of American philosophy called Pragmatism. The general idea being that meaning and trust of any idea is a function of its practical outcome. For me that hit home and I had no idea there was a long line of thinkers who had explored this idea.


For me the work in emotions has always been less about what is provable and scientifically irrefutable and more about what works. If it is useful to understand disappointment as “reality not behaving as you thought it would” and that helps you navigate life then it is worthwhile. If there is a difference between empathy, sympathy and compassion that gives you more options about how you interact with people then they are worth learning.


The philosopher Wittgenstein wrote something I always enjoy thinking about. He said “If it is true that words have meanings, why don’;t we throw away words and keep just the meanings?” My understanding of that is we are always living in interpretations rather than definitions and it is our interpretation of what a thing means that is most important. Applying that to the area of emotions means that it is useful for each of us to have an interpretation or clear understanding for ourselves of the meaning of the 250, or so, emotions we could name.


Another of Wittgenstein’s quotes is that “the limits of my language means the limits of my world”. If we cannot name it our world is smaller than if we could. Spending time reflecting on the emotion I’m experiencing, naming it and considering what it means to me is a direct way of self-educating. So what does it mean to me to feel envy, greed, rage or joy? Simply being in that conversation with myself helps me increase my emotional capacity and intelligence.


A good conversation is a great thing. And we never know where we’ll end up.

I’m Dan Newby, a coach, coach trainer and mentor, teacher and writer in the area of Ontological Coaching and Leadership. My passion is to help make these distinctions “common sense” in the world in the way literacy has become a given in so many places.