Decision Making and Negative Emotions

by Scott Jeffrey

Last week we observed how negative emotions distort reality and alter our perceptions of what is, leading to misunderstandings, conflict, and suffering.

Now, let’s see how negative emotions affect our decision-making abilities.

Effective decision making requires discernment: the ability to evaluate and assess a situation accurately, externally or within us.

Discernment arises in the absence of negative emotions. The more negative emotions we have, the less discernment we have.

We’ve all made ill-conceived decisions. Influenced by negative emotions, we’ve made important decisions from places of fear, anger, guilt, and pride.

And even when the “outer” results of these decisions appeared benign, with inner honesty, the deleterious effect they caused us (internally) is apparent.

Tony Robbins points out that “any decision made from fear is the wrong decision.”

You can replace “fear” with any other negative emotion and the statement still holds true.

Negative emotions signal that we’re seeing the world through a distorted lens.

Making a decision based on negative emotions creates more problems in the future because we’re weighing options based on illusions, not facts.

Stock investing provides a useful illustration, for what is stock selection but a series of decisions.

Warren Buffett, the most successful stock investor in the world today, notes that temperament, not intelligence, is the most important quality of a successful investor. It takes a steady temperament to curb one’s urges and avoid making decisions out of fear, pride, or excitement.

When Negative Emotions Strike …

When overtaken by a negative emotion, often the best course of action is to do nothing, to simply pause.

A brief pause before making a decision can mean the difference between financial success or ruin, between growth in a relationship or decay.

When caught in a wave of resentment, don’t fight it. Ride out the wave, allowing it to pass over you.

Then, you can catch your breath and gain your bearings. Centering yourself, you’ll be able to “process out” the resentment instead of aimlessly splashing about in the rough waters of contempt.

See also: How to Center Yourself to Reduce Anxiety, Gain Control, and Focus

When your mind is occupied by anger or fear you’re not in a position to utilize your reasoning faculties (executive function) nor listen to your intuition.

Making a decision from a place of anger, fear, or pride is like a wounded soldier, stripped of his armor and weapons, trying to storm the enemy lines single-handedly instead of tending to his wounds, waiting for reinforcements, and developing a military strategy.

Failure is certain; his efforts will be in vain.

Get into the habit of pausing for an “emotional check” before making a decision.

Visualize yourself having made the decision and notice how you feel. Are you at peace, are you neutral, or are you afraid? Peacefulness and neutrality are likely signs of a green light.

Fearfulness provides you with a warning indicator, a subtle message to pause and re-assess.

Sometimes, however, fear is just another form of resistance. Learn to sit with the fear, to experience it fully, allowing it to subside. Then, proceed ahead.

Mastering your emotions is a critical factor of effective decision making.

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