How to use far sightedness to get past emotion and make better decisions:
Emotions are amazingly powerful. They help us process data based on things like intuition, emotional content, and subconscious understandings before we even have time to break things down logically. In fact, this is why I say that intuition is more valuable than logic for many scenarios. It helps you with decisions BEFORE things happen, whereas logic tends to be valuable in hindsight to reflect and break down the components of what did happen. It’s that little voice that says ‘hmm…that guy is acting weird’, ‘that’s not normal behavior’, or ‘there’s something a little off but I can’t quite put my finger on it’. Things like this that tell us a person’s true motivations might not be what’s being displayed at face value. It’s logic that allows us to pick apart exactly what was “weird” or off after the fact-The tempo of a person’s responses was off, the context didn’t match, or the facial and body expressions seemed unusual,absent, or contradictory. Of course, if given enough time a person can apply logic in advance but for most split second decision making, it’s more of a feeling or muscle memory than a carefully thought out course of action. Things like evaluating day to day social interactions as they occur are sometimes better guided by intuition but there is a down side….
When it comes to addressing things that are bothering us, oftentimes the tendency is to focus too hard on the emotional component of an issue at the expense of, getting sucked into dwelling on the problem with those powerful emotions, instead of finding a logical solution. I know I’ve been stuck in an emotional feedback loop more than once when faced with a potently charged problem. This doesn’t mean that we should all walk around like cyborgs or Dr. Spock. It means to simply be more aware when we are stuck in a rut, trying to focus in on the emotion of a problem, and never advancing to a usable solution. In this context emotions might be best separated from the situation as much as possible.
Below are a few strategies that worriers, and over analyzers, like myself have had great success with in the past. I hope you can use some of them to solve an issue you’ve been meaning to make a tough decision about, but can’t seem to get past the strong emotions associated with it.
1) Acknowledge possible outcomes.
This will help get rid of the overwhelming feeling that has a tendency to dominate our decision making when dwelling on the emotions of a decision, giving us a limited, logical set of potential outcomes. After you’ve written these out ask yourself what you’ll do in the case of either outcome.
2) Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is and work backwards from that.
I don’t mean to project this on you, but my mind always goes to an undefined place of seemingly infinite dangerous outcomes when faced with a stressful emotional problem. This is almost never the case when I back up to think about it rationally. There is one worst case scenario and when I actually acknowledge it, I’m also forced to acknowledge (If I don’t immediately realize) how highly improbable it is that it will materialize. Then I just say ‘Ok so if that’s probably not going to happen then how can I prepare for what may possible really happen?’.
3) Write it down on a piece of paper, put it in a drawer and don’t worry about it for a week.
After a week, open the drawer and see if it’s still bothering you. Dale Carnegie coined this method and it helps to let go of worry and shine a spot light on the fact that our deepest fears are usually only in our head.
4) Just say “so what” to emotional problems.
“So what if this happens? What would I do then? What would be the next step” and then have a plan to handle that. Prepare if necessary. This is slightly different from item number 2. Number 2 works to limit the impact of a problem. The approach here is different in that it seeks to simply not give a shit about it anymore. It sounds something like this in my head: ‘If Bob finds out that I invited Frank and Ernie to the party and didn’t invite him he’ll be sooo pissed off at me and…..’. This is the part where you change your inner monologue to say ‘So what.’. ‘So what if he is?’. ‘I guess he’ll be pissed off at me then and that can mean whatever he wants it to mean. I’m not worrying about it’. Try it next time you find yourself worrying about an outcome. You might be surprised how often you find that you were making it out to be something bigger than it was. ‘What if I write a stupid article, post it on the interweb, and everyone thinks I’m a dumbass. Uh, finds out I’m actually a dumbass?’. Crap.