Over the weekend I visited one of my favorite places. It didn't matter that I hadn't been there in a while, or didn't know most of the people I encountered. The second I walked in, heard the noise, saw the walls… even the way it smelled… I was transported.
It’s incredible to think about–a room could magically change the way I felt. A physical room with the right memories can do this in just a heartbeat. So can a metaphorical one, even a brand.
The states of your emotions (your moods and passions) are like rooms in a house.
Anxiety, flow, joy, fear, exhaustion, connection, contemplation, emotional labor… each one can be visited at will if we choose. Sometimes by entering a real room, but more often in metaphor…
Do you have a friend you can have an intimate, tearful conversation with anytime you pick up the phone? Is there a topic that if you bring it up with your boss, it will quickly lead to contention? Is there a place or a memory that never fails to bring melancholy along with it?
Occasionally we encounter emotions at random. More often, we have no choice, because there’s something that needs to be done, or an event that impinges itself on us. But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.
Stop for a second and reread that sentence, because it’s certainly controversial. I’m arguing that more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.
Why check your email every twenty minutes? It’s not because it needs checking. It’s because the checking puts us into a state we seek out. Why yell at the parking attendant with such gusto? Teaching him a lesson isn’t the point–no, in that moment, it’s what we want to do, it’s a room we choose to hang out in. It could be something as prosaic as getting involved in a flame war online every day, or checking your feeds at midnight or taking a shot or two before dinner. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.
There’s a metaphorical room I can go to where I’m likely to experience flow–a sense of being in the moment and getting an enormous amount done. Down the hall is the room where there’s a lot of anxiety about something I can’t change. I can visit that room if I choose, but I don’t. And yes, it’s a choice.
Great brands figure out how to supply a ‘room’ to anyone who chooses to visit. Soap opera fans, for example, can count on being put into a certain state anytime they tune in. The Apple store is carefully calibrated as an architectural and retail room that will change how you feel when you enter it. Chiat Day built offices in New York and LA that triggered huge waves of creativity. And there's nothing like the face of a kid eating a Hershey's bar…
YouTube isn't just video. It's a room. Not everyone uses it the same way, but most people use it the same way every time they use it. If it's the site people go to see stupid pet tricks and write stupider comments, then they know why they're going and it's going to be hard for it to become something else…
Is your brand providing the right room to the right people at the right time? Most products, most services–they provide a thing, a list of features, but not a room for my emotions.
This insight about our moods and your brand is all well and good, but it becomes essential once you realize that there are some rooms you’re spending way too much time in, that these choices are taking away from your productivity or your happiness.
Why are you going there again?
Every time you go to that room, you get unhappy, and so do we. Every time you go that room, you spend more time than you expected, and it stresses out the rest of your day. Every time you go to that room you short-circuit the gifts you give to the rest of the team.
Once your habit becomes an addiction, it’s time to question why you get up from a room that was productive and happy, a place you were engaged, and walk down the hall to a room that does no one any good (least of all, you). Tracking your day and your emotions is a first step, but it takes more than that. It takes the guts to break some ingrained habits, ones that the people around you might even be depending on.