What Was I Thinking?
Ever wonder, “What was I thinking?” when an action you took did not turn out as expected? What you did or what you said, which you thought was no big deal at the time, had serious unintended consequences!
- What made you buy that stock at the high price and sell at the low? Damn, that was dumb!
- What made you say “yes” to that invite when you knew you shouldn’t have gone to a party with so many people mingling? Damn, I hope I didn’t catch the virus! That was stupid!
- What made you lose your cool and say such hurtful things to your kid, just because you were upset? Damn, he’ll never forgive me! I hate myself!
You know better, yet you screw up. You’re smart, yet you make stupid mistakes. Your brain doesn’t always do what you want it to do. If it were up to you, you’d replace it with a better brain – one that can fire on all cylinders to make the best decisions at any moment in time!
But alas, you’re stuck with your brain – a brain that has momentary lapses of attention; a brain that finds it hard to stay on task; a brain that’s often led astray by emotions; a brain that’s notorious for zoning out, a brain that only pays attention to what’s staring you in the face at any moment.
Yes, it’s true. We’re all stuck with imperfect brains. Still, we can increase our ratio of smart decision-making to dumb decision-making. Here’s how.
- Revisit your decision.
Negative emotions like fear, sadness, and anger as well as positive emotions like excitement, enjoyment, and entertainment can hijack your brain. Sure it’s good to feel your emotions but don’t allow them to dictate the roll of the dice. Let time pass. It could be a few moments, a few days, a few weeks. During that time consult both your head and your heart, as you ponder what to do. Then decide and notice how your decisions are turning out to be pretty good!
- Expand your options.
You may be thinking in binary terms. It’s this, or it’s that. It’s good or it’s bad. You’re smart or you’re stupid. You’re scared or you’re brave. If you’re having trouble deciding between options A and B, expand your options to C and D. Can’t imagine any other options? Ask the smartest person you know, whether he’s 5 or 50, whether she’s 7 or 70. I bet your chosen whiz will come up with some good ideas!
- Slow down.
We live in a fast society. We make impulsive decisions without thinking them through. We live in a busy society, with many distractions, with multiple choices. So, when it’s time to make an important decision, it’s essential to slow down and focus on what you’re facing at the moment. Tired of kicking yourself for all the stupid decisions you’ve made? Then give your decision the time and attention it deserves!
- Remember that nobody is perfect.
Every regrettable decision is not a dumb mistake as it’s impossible to bat 1,000. Maybe you made a stupid decision, but it’s not so stupid if you’ve learned from it. So, judge yourself kindly. Nobody experiences life without any regrets. Just make sure you don’t keep making the same mistake over and over again.
We live and we learn. Or, at least, some of us do. If you wish to minimize the times you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” follow the guidelines above. Then notice your regrets are few and far between. Time to rejoice!
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist, coach and author in private practice who specializes in helping people become the best they can be. You can reach her at LSapadin@DrSapadin.com Visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com