Let’s talk about emotions…logically. Kind of an oxymoron, right? Logical versus emotional decision-making is something I’ve been analyzing in my own life for several weeks now and I’ve since watched it play out in my friends’ lives as well. Do you typically base your decisions on logic or emotion? I can say with full confidence that for most of my life I have made most of my decisions based much more heavily on logic than emotion. Even decisions about my relationships when there is seemingly ONLY emotion involved. I’ve always analyzed situations as such, these are the facts, this is what I want or do not want, this is how I will get or stop getting this, so I will do XYZ. Problem solved. I am, by nature, a very ‘black and white’ person. No room or time for gray areas. Well boy, have I learned my lesson. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that life is full of more gray areas than black and white ones. So how do we strike a balance between logical and emotional decision-making? Well I don’t freakin’ know, but I’ll tell you how I’ve been learning, actively learning – and failing, and trying, and doing, and learning some more – in my life.
I will toot my own horn for a moment and say that my brain is fantastic at identifying red flags, as well as opportunities, when they crop up. I will also say that my heart is a little slower to get in the game. Most of us recognize at one point or another that our internal logic-versus-emotion meters are actually more well calibrated than we think. I’ve found that when I make decisions based solely on logic that I may be “doing the right thing” or “what I’m supposed to be doing” but feeling like less than a million bucks, and on the contrary, when I make decisions based solely on emotion I may “feel good” or “be happy” but quickly realize that I will not feel this way long-term. As a naturally more logic-centric person, I find that the following quote from one of my favorite books, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, resonates with me on pretty much every level it can resonate with me on.
“Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks. You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You know what else three-year-olds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.” – Mark Manson
I think we can all agree that it’s pretty simple to identify when we’re making decisions based on one without consideration of the other, but how do we know when we’ve perfected the formula and found the right balance? Seriously, let me know when you find out. But what I’ve found for myself is that I make the best decisions when I consider how the decision will impact my long-term happiness. Not my happiness in the next five minutes or day or week or month. This usually takes a lot of sifting around through my own BS and being brutally honest with myself. Here’s a quick look at my crazy for you – the other day I had, oh I don’t know, about a million and one things flying around in my brain all at once (to add more pieces to the puzzle, I am a classic overthinker), and finally I pulled the emergency break on my thoughts, looked myself in the mirror (literally. Talking to yourself in the mirror is not as crazy as it sounds…right?), and said, “What advice would you give your best friend in this situation? Are you doing that?” Immediately, I knew I had been making much more emotional decisions than logical ones, so I gave my little brain a nudge and got it to come to the party.
This may, and probably does, sound totally stupid to you and that’s fair. You’ve probably got this whole decision-making thing down since we’ve been doing it, oh yeah, since the day we were born, but I do not and I’d be willing to bet there are some other 20-somethings out there that are fumbling around with it too. I am going to completely over-simplify this and say – ACT when you recognize that something is no longer serving you. If you make the wrong decision the first time, make a new one and try again. For you other logical people out there, here’s an analogy – if you’re investing in something and continue to get a negative return on investment at what point do you decide to cut your losses and take your money somewhere else? Do what’s right for you. Not easiest. Not immediately satisfying.
So here’s my methodology – ask your heart how it feels and then consult your head. How do your emotions align with the facts? More importantly, how will your decision impact your long-term happiness? I’ve found that when I keep it simple, stay honest, and ACT I make way better decisions. And then, for the love of God, have a drink because grown-up decision-making is exhausting!