“Decision making is intrinsically linked to our emotions.”
~ Catherine Price, writing for Oprah.com
“For those with ADHD, chronic problems with recognizing and responding to various emotions tend to be a primary factor in their difficulties with managing daily life.”
~ Dr. Thomas Brown, leading expert, psychiatrist, and author in the field of ADHD.
Struggles with managing daily life. That may sound familiar.
Think about it: If you can’t read other people’s expressions and emotions well, how well can conversations at home and work possibly go? Or what happens when you stuff your emotions, ignoring them for too long? They hijack your day or your mind boils over, feeling as if it is shutting down. And your executive function capabilities are indeed shutting down.
Clutter blocks us from making decisions. Physical clutter distracts us. Mental clutter has a way of swirling around in our minds and not stopping for anything. And we have emotional clutter: Emotional “stuff” we need to acknowledge, deal with, let go and only then we can move on.
6 Ways to Make Better Decisions …. with Less Emotion
1. Who do you know who is pretty good at making decisions? Imagine you are that person, confronted with the decision you need to make. How would he/she make the decision?
Sometimes one of my clients will say “I asked myself: What would Sue do?” This makes it easier to take your emotions out of the decision making. This is a great way to practice. Eventually, you’ll be able to stop asking what I would do, and ask yourself what you would do.
2. Pretend the problem belongs to a friend or colleague. How would you advise the colleague?
This is why people tell me I have “great marketing ideas” for their business and yet it is so much more difficult to think about my own marketing!
3. Visualize putting the emotion in a vase or box. Temporarily ignore the emotion. Set it aside. Or write the decision on a paper and imagine holding it over a candle’s flame. You’ll make concrete progress on your decision, and the emotion will be less intense by the time you bring it back into to your decision making process.
4. Use a metaphor to get unstuck. These come up a lot with my creative clients. Again, you’re detaching from the emotion and seeing the decision almost like an observer.
For example, you’ve built a sand castle on the beach. The tide is low, but as the water (and your emotions) build up, the water reaches the castle, and starts to flood it. Not overpowering it, but inching away at the foundation of it. What could you do? You could build a moat around the castle. You could build little rivers to take the water away before it reaches the castle. The moat and rivers are metaphors for thinking differently, finding different ways out, pushing aside some of the emotions until you can build a newer castle, further away from the water. All ways to solve a problem before it floods your brain.
5. Making a mindmap is a way to get everything out of your head, whether it is a logical or emotional issue with the decision. After everything is out of your head and on a mindmap in front of you, it’s far easier for the brain with executive function differences to see things as they are and to organize the thoughts so you can make the decision. I use SimpleMind.
6. Ask yourself: If I didn’t have to worry about how so-and-so would react to my decision, what would I do? How many times do you get yourself worked up, thinking about how the other person involved in the decision will react to what you’ve decided? And how much longer does it take to make the decision? Set aside how you think the other will react, because really, we can’t read others’ minds and hearts. Being empathetic is the right thing to do. Taking on more responsibility than you can realistically own for the other person’s reactions is not healthy.
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Next Steps for Your Decision
Think about what decision you need to make that has been or will be difficult.
Read through these 6 possibilities and try on a new way to make your decisions.
Use the decision criteria, written down if you’d like, to make better decisions. [See the other newsletter article here.]