Learning from the Past: How to Use Past Mistakes to Make Better Decisions in Your Future

Throughout our lives we will make mistakes. Some of us will make more than others, and still others will feel like all they make is one mistake after another. We are human. It is our nature to be imperfect, and as such, we cannot be flawless in our decision-making. What we can do, however, is learn from those mistakes so that we make better decisions in the future.

Before being able to learn from the mistakes in your past, you have to be able to honestly and non-defensively look back and examine instances in your past when you made self-sabotaging and self-esteem-lowering life choices because

1.    Your choices weren’t well thought out;

2.    Your emotions clouded your best judgment; or

3.    There was some other decision-making breakdown or flaw.

Once you acknowledge the mistakes you have made, you can move on to learning valuable life lessons from them. In preparation for a future life-choice opportunity, review and think through what went awry the last time you made a self-defeating or self-destructive life-choice!  Take time to decide on what will be a more constructive or beneficial way to handle a similar choice the next time around. Essentially, you will be creating some inner conversations that acknowledge a flawed life choice was made in the past and identify a more effectively thought out strategy for your future.

To illustrate, let’s consider an example. Suppose you had made a past decision to drive under the influence of alcohol, which resulted in you getting a DUI. The inner dialogue for a better future decision might go something like this:

“The last time I was offered too much alcohol at a party/dinner, I continued drinking because I wanted to be social and it seemed harmless at the time. The lapse in judgment resulted in my getting a DUI and I lost my license. It was awful and devastating in many ways.

Next time, after one drink, I will resolutely say, ‘No thanks!’  I don’t want to risk the unthinkable consequences should I lose my license again, and this time, permanently!  Nor do I want to risk the far worse consequence of injuring my children, myself, or someone else should I get into an accident while driving drunk!”

The key to learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge the mistake in the past and develop a revised and significantly more beneficial game plan to implement in the future. The aim of these steps is to secure a far more desirable result the next time a life choice involving a particular stimulus is presented.

Fear: The Highly Potent Affect Fear Has on Decision Making

A few years ago a friend of mine, Danielle, came to me for help about a problem she was having. She had become separated from her husband due in large part to his destructive and unsavory behavior that had caused him to be out of work for over five years. The couple’s savings were severely drained and they were living primarily on Danielle’s income as a real-estate broker.

The recession hit and had a huge impact on Danielle’s business. Her father implored her to get out of real estate and into a job with steady income and security. Danielle was scared and panicked. She was totally responsible for her son’s financial support and she was in real trouble, but the thought of working at a boring corporate job made her cringe. She had worked so hard to build up her real-estate business and hated to walk away from it. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was being forced to make a snap decision and she was terrified.

When you are overcome with fear or panic and have to make a decision, one of two things happen:

1.    You’re frozen by your fear, so you can’t or don’t think or act rationally; or

2.    You react without thinking clearly and take an inappropriate or, worse, a self-sabotaging action.

I am told that many years ago an experiment was conducted with mice in a cage in order to learn how they would react to facing the unknown. As I understand it, one-half of the cage floor on which the mice were standing was electrified. At various intervals, the feet of the mice were shocked, which made them jump and squeal in pain. After the mice received a series of shocks, the middle of the cage was opened so that the mice could flee to the other side of the cage, with the possibility that they could escape the shocks. The incredible result of this experiment was that not one mouse went over to the other side of the cage in order to avoid the shocks.

For our purposes, at least two conclusions can be drawn from this study:

1.    The fear of physical pain was preferred by or less daunting to the mice than was the fear of the unknown or the fear of change; and

2.    The fear of the unknown seemed to be intellectually crippling to the mice, as it appears to have caused them not to think or act rationally. This may be one reason why not one mouse ventured over to the other side of the cage to see if “life” over there would be less painful.

When Danielle contacted me, she was virtually paralyzed by her fear and unable to think, reason, choose, or act productively. I encouraged her to slow down, relax, and think things out rationally and clearly. She eventually was able to decide on a career path that would meet her financial and personal requirements and was able to continue supporting herself and her son, her most potent Gold.

When you are filled with fear and are panicked, avoid making life decisions.  The fear will get in the way of making the best choice, which could have a lasting impact on your life.

Intellect and Emotions: Often at Odds when Decision Making

Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting one of Oprah’s producers after a presentation I gave on the “Components of Constructive Decision Making.”  He approached me and basically said, “All of the decision-making theories that I’ve heard in the past focus on the intellectual component of decision making. But you deal with the emotions. And, while most of us intellectually know what we should do in a given situation, when strong emotions come into play, we often make terrible decisions. If you can show people how to separate their emotions from their decision-making processes, you will be able to help a great many people and thus make a real contribution!”

His words not only offered some much-appreciated encouragement, they also highlighted the fact that two distinctly different influences can play major roles when you make life choices:

  1. Your intellect, or what you know and think; and
  2. Your emotions, urges, and impulses, as well as what you feel.

These two influences can be at odds with one another when a person is faced with an important life choice, and I discuss these components of decision making throughout my book, Your Killer Emotions. What you will learn and begin to practice is the ability to allow your intellect and your emotions to act in concert. When they do, you are able to attain your most dearly beloved goals and live the life you dream about.

Let . What you will learn and begin to practice is the ability to allow your intellect and your emotions to act in concert. When they do, you are able to attain your most dearly beloved goals and live the life you dream about.

Let me illustrate this point with an example that most of us can relate to. Many of us are faced with the daily challenge of making healthy or unhealthy choices. From the moment we get up, we begin making a series of decisions that can be heavily influenced by our emotions even when our intellect tries to lead us in the better direction.

  • Do I get in some exercise before starting my day or blow it off?
  • At lunch, do I go for the roasted turkey half sandwich or the double cheeseburger?
  • I’m feeling hungry and tired in the late afternoon. Do I grab a cup of coffee and a candy bar or take a quick walk around the office and eat some fruit and mixed nuts?

When making these decisions throughout your day, you will often receive conflicting information from your intellect and your emotions. Your intellect knows that getting daily morning exercise benefits your body, helps you have more energy throughout the day, and improves your mood. However, when the alarm rings early in the morning, your emotions are begging you to skip all of that sweating and sleep in!

Harmonious collaboration of your intellect and emotions is the goal. Your Killer Emotions will teach you how to come to a place where your intellect and your emotions lead you to the same decision through diligent practice and performance of the skill sets presented.

 

Dealing with Family: Tips for Reducing Tension with Your Extended Family

If you dread getting together with your extended family, you are certainly not alone, but you may be able to make things better the next time you all gather around the table for dinner, celebrate a holiday, or take a vacation together. You may be able to improve the situation greatly by addressing your emotions head-on and learning skills that will help you better cope with a stressful family dynamic.

When dealing with your extended family, keep the following tips in mind to make the most of your time together and avoid ugly confrontations and tension:

  • Remember this is temporary. You will only be around your extended family for a limited amount of time and will, presumably, have a long stretch of time between visits.
  • Keep your children in mind when interacting with other family members. You don’t want your kids thinking it’s okay to bicker with someone nonstop, and you don’t want them to wonder why things are always so tense when Uncle Joe is around. Also, try not to bad-mouth the family member in front of your children after the family leaves. It sets a poor example for your kids.
  • Keep your spouse in mind too. If the source of your family stress is your spouse’s sibling or parent, don’t lose sight of the fact that though this person may annoy or aggravate you, he or she means a great deal to your spouse. Put yourself in his or her shoes and imagine what it would feel like to have two people you love dearly at odds with one another.
  • Try to find some good things to focus on about the family member(s) who are causing your emotional reaction. It’s easy to lose sight of the positive attributes of a person when you react emotionally to one aspect of that person’s personality.
  • Communicate with your family member about the problem if at all possible. Go to neutral territory, such as a coffee shop, and talk openly and honestly about the issue that is driving a wedge between you and affecting the family dynamic. Allow time for the other person to talk and really listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Remember that you are only in charge of your own emotions, not others’. You may get very lucky and be successful at getting another person to change his or her behavior, but you have a very good chance of success at modifying your own behavior. You have full control over you and only you. Focus on your actions and reactions rather than the family member’s actions.

Tension among family members is a very common problem faced by many of us. You can help make family time more enjoyable by taking responsibility for your emotions. For more information on mastering your toxic emotions, pick up a copy of my book, Your Killer Emotions.

Toxic Emotions: What they are and how they affect you

As the founder of Life Choice Psychology™, I have counseled thousands of individuals over the course of thirty years. I have helped them master the toxic emotions that get in the way of making life choices that lead to goal achievement, fulfillment, and living the life they desire.

But what exactly do I mean by toxic emotions? Like a toxic chemical or poison that would physically affect your health, toxic emotions are those that damage you mentally. They can be very evident in their expression or they can lie buried in the deep recesses of your mind, making you unaware of the damaging affect they are having on you.

Among the toxic emotions that are prevalent and damaging are these:

Rejection
This toxic emotion can impact your confidence and self-esteem. Also, studies have shown that rejection can actually cause physical responses that increase a person’s risk for asthma, depression, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Disappointment
Suffering from disappointment can lead some people to wallow in blame or frustration or even become depressed. There is a debated theory called the disappointment affect that links immune system compromise to the experience of disappointment in optimists.

Anger and/or Rage
A person who experiences anger or bouts of rage lives with a nearly constant heightened stress level. The physical damage stress can cause to the human body is well known. From an emotional aspect, anger and rage stands in the way of having healthy, meaningful relationships and can affect a person’s ability to maintain a job and therefore take care of him- or herself.

Betrayal
Whether you have been betrayed or you have betrayed another, the psychological affects can be debilitating. Loss of trust extends beyond the parties involved and can make it more difficult to establish trust with others. Experiencing betrayal causes great distress on both sides, which certainly impacts life choices during that time and, potentially, long after.

Shame
People who have shame erroneously feel that they are bad people. They also tend to avoid social interactions and can become isolated. It is easy to see how this type of perspective and behavior can cause harm in a person’s life.

This list is not exhaustive but will give you a sense of the types of emotions that can be labeled toxic. My 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery system presented in Your Killer Emotions teaches you how to tackle these toxic emotions and make them your allies rather than your enemies.

Foundations of The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery: Crunch Time!

Over the past few weeks, we have begun laying our foundation for understanding the key components of The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery. We’ve covered Energy Charges, Your Gold and Your Truth, and PETS. In this final installment of our foundations series, we will discuss the point at which all of your work will culminate and you will be put to the ultimate test: Crunch Time!

Put simply, Crunch Time is the point of time at which you will be faced with a life choice. You will either make a decision that is in line with Your Gold and Your Truth or you will make a self-sabotaging choice.

If your goal is to lose weight and make healthy meal choices, then you will be faced with Crunch Time at each meal and snack time throughout the day. If your goal is to never drive while under the influence of alcohol, which puts everyone around you at risk, you will be faced with Crunch Time anytime you are at a social function where alcohol is being served. If you are working toward a financial goal by saving as much of your income as you can, you will be faced with Crunch Time anytime you feel the desire to shop for things that you don’t absolutely need.

If you learn, study, and implement The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery presented in will confidently access Your Gold and Your Truth and make the best life choices for yourself at Crunch Time.

But even the most seasoned emotion master must remember some guidelines in order to be in the best position to succeed.

Below are some general pitfalls you should avoid when faced with a life choice. These pitfalls will make it more difficult for you to make your best decision at Crunch Time.

  1. DO NOT make life choices when you are enveloped by potentially toxic emotions and urges.
  2. Do not opt for a quick fix or fail to use appropriate discipline and delayed gratification when they are called for.
  3. Do not make important life choices when you are tired or under the influence of intellect-dulling influences such as alcohol, caffeine, or stress.
  4. Always be Consequences Cognizant, by considering your consequences of your acts BEFORE you act.
  5. Do not increase the risk of failing by being in a position that correspondingly increases the energy charges from sabotaging emotions that will potentially overpower your best judgment.

You will be faced with Crunch Time over and over throughout the course of your life. Some decisions will be big and some will be small. If you want to be sure you are ready to face those decisions and not sabotage yourself due to your emotions, pick up a copy of Your Killer Emotions and learn how to master your emotions beginning now.

Foundations of The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery: Energy Charges

Today we continue to go through some of the foundational aspects of my 7 Steps system with a discussion of energy charges.

When we talk about emotions, we generally discuss them from an intellectual standpoint. We rarely look at our emotions from a physiological standpoint. That is, looking at our emotions as a catalyzing physiological force that can be strategically used or channeled to our advantage.

In my book, Your Killer Emotions, I focus on the physiological side of emotions. The focus is not on the emotion itself, but rather on the highly potent energy charges triggered by the emotion.

In order to strategically use these energy charges to your advantage, you must first understand what they are.

When you fall in love, you have a feeling of utter elation and motivation. When you experience anger or rage, you are filled with a huge rush of adrenaline. When you finally accomplish something you’ve been working hard and dreaming about achieving, you are bolstered by it and feel like you are on top of the world. You are charged up!

What you are feeling in those instances are energy charges generated by your exceedingly strong emotions.

Energy Charge: The energy that is generated by an emotion, impulse, urge, or compulsion that motivates and fuels you to make a certain life choice.

What my book will help you learn is how to control those super-strong emotion-triggered energy charges to your tremendous benefit. You can achieve the goals you have set before yourself and live the life you have dreamed of. It’s all about harnessing the power of those energy charges and practicing skills that will empower you to think clearly and consistently when faced with a life choice, even when potentially toxic emotions and urges are competing for your attention.

Mastering your potentially sabotaging emotions and their energy charges is what I call your Emotional Imperative.

Foundations of The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery: Your PETS

Previously, we discussed the meaning and significance of Your Gold and Your Truth. We learned that we could mine our most precious Gold and Truth by pondering and answering some questions that require us to look deep within ourselves.

After you have carefully considered those questions, try making two lists:

  • The first list should include the top five things that you most dearly want in and for your life. Write down what will make your heart sing!
  • The second list should contain five of the things that you absolutely detest and abhor, that is, what you absolutely do not want for yourself or in your life.

These two lists will be your initial PET lists. But what are your PETS? Simply put,

Your Gold + Your Truth = Your PETS

PETS stands for your Personal Emotional Triggers. They are those certain people, events, things, experiences, information, and aspirations that trigger the strongest emotion-generated energy reactions within you.

For me, personally, one of my most powerful PETS is that I absolutely HATE the thought of being in a hospital, waiting to be operated on for a life-threatening illness or injury. That scenario is one of my biggest fears. Therefore, staying healthy and out of hospitals . They are those certain people, events, things, experiences, information, and aspirations that trigger the strongest emotion-generated energy reactions within you.

For me, personally, one of my most powerful PETS is that I absolutely HATE the thought of being in a hospital, waiting to be operated on for a life-threatening illness or injury. That scenario is one of my biggest fears. Therefore, staying healthy and out of hospitals is also one of my most cherished PETS. This PET has motivated me to stop eating fried foods for the past twenty-five years.

Here’s another example. My mom was notorious for being late to everything, even her own wedding!  On one occasion, she was supposed to meet my father for dinner and a play. She was more than two hours late, and all the while my father was left standing outside the restaurant, freezing and worrying about her.

When my dad asked her how she could be so mean to him, so uncaring, that was enough for my mom to break years of habitual lateness.

She identified that her PET was that she abhorred being called and perceived as mean and uncaring, like she perceived her mother to be; and she NEVER wanted to be anything like her mother. As a result, she was able to tap into that supercharged energy to motivate her to never be late again!

If you take the necessary time to mine Your Gold and Your Truth and make the appropriate PET lists, you will be well on your way to making the most desired and beneficial life choices when you’re faced with a decision.

 

Foundations of The 7 Steps to Emotion Mastery: Your Gold and Your Truth

As we continue laying the groundwork for understanding and implementing my 7 Steps system, today we will discuss another fundamental component, Your Gold and Your Truth.

First let’s take a look at what I refer to as Your Gold. Your Gold will encompass your most highly valued dreams and goals. It is what motivates you the very most to do your very best. Your Gold is most easily understood as the tangible things, positions, or goals that you want to attain.

Next, let’s take a look at what I refer to as Your Truth. Your Truth is your vision of both the life you want most deeply for yourself and the person you most truly want to be. Your Truth is an idealized, or best, self.

By identifying Your Gold and Your Truth, you will have identified what truly motivates, moves and excites you. You will then be able to harness and tap into the strongest energy charges available to you for a greater chance of success in making the best life choices for yourself.

So, how do you go about finding your purest Gold and Truth? You have to go on a quest to mine them.

To begin, you need to take some quiet, focused time to dig down, heart-and-soul deep, to identify the people, things, and events that will make your heart sing!  Conversely, you have to go through the same exercise to identify those things you most fear, are ashamed of, or are repulsed by. During this time, which may be significant, you can ask yourself such questions as:

  1. What do I want deeply in life?
  2. What kinds of people do I want in my life?
  3. What makes me the angriest?
  4. What would my ideal life be like?
  5. What do I fear above all else?

This suggested list of questions just barely scrapes the surface. In order to mine your purest Gold and Truth, you may need to consider many more. (A more complete list of questions can be found in Your Killer Emotions.)

Once you have taken a deep, careful look within yourself and considered your hopes, dreams, fears, and shames, you will move on to creating some lists that will be your PETS™ (your Personal Emotional Triggers™). PETS are the topic of discussion in our next installment, so stay tuned!