We all know that our emotions affect our decision-making. In the language of Applied Emotional Intelligence, this phenomenon is called “Emotional Reasoning.” You know the song by Johnny Nash “I can see clearly now” from the early ‘70’s? I think he was singing about this exact thing.
When we feel negative or unpleasant emotions, they tend to narrow our thinking. We feel gloomy, pessimistic, and slip into a mentality of scarcity. We become blind to possibilities and it’s much harder to engage in creative thinking. Conversely, when we experience pleasant emotions, they tend to broaden our thinking. We feel more upbeat, hopeful, and can see potential abundance.
Dark clouds or Sunshiney day?
My family has been planning a trip together for a couple months. We were all going to meet up and go camping for a few days before our oldest, who is living in another state, starts college. The prospect of sitting around a campfire, going for hikes, and kayaking was exciting. We could see that “it’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiney day.”
Then this eldest child got a new job. We have to cancel the camping trip. Our only option for still seeing him for a full day and parts of a couple other days is to go to where he lives and stay in a hotel. But he’s exhausted from this intense training. We’re all tired from a long week. My dark clouds are making me blind. The more I think about this trip in its current form, the more convinced I become that we’re going to be collectively unhappy. That we’ll start to nit-pick each other. That we won’t have fun. That it will be a very expensive trip that potentially damages the relationship with the child we don’t get to see much anymore.
What’s the right answer?
Each member of my family is weighing the options and thinking about what to do. We’re keeping in communication with each other. We’re trying to objectively weigh the pros and cons of this visit. I don’t have an answer yet. The situation is unresolved as a I write this. But I’ll keep you posted.
The bottom line is that life is full of situations like this. We’re not unique. We can’t avoid unpleasant emotions. But what we can do is recognize how they narrow our thinking and impact our decision-making. We can be intentional about reaching out and asking for input from other people. Awareness puts us in a better position to see clearly.