Consider Three Things Before Doing Something Stupid.
December 19, 2021
You have a decision to make — and you want a guarantee it’s the right one. Intellectually you know that’s nuts, but emotionally you want it anyway.
So, when you don’t get a guarantee, maybe you don’t decide anything. Or you figure, screw it, and impulsively act on whatever idea enters your head.
Here’s a better way. Start using a tool to clarify what matters when making important decisions. Of course, one tool can’t ensure a successful outcome. But it will make sure you’ve done due diligence before responding impulsively or failing to respond at all.
Draw a triangle. Label the left side My Needs, the right side Your Needs, and label the bottom side Reality.
Most of us are good at considering at least one side of the triangle in our decision-making. But, unfortunately, few of us nail all three.
At first, it may sound like too much work, but it only takes seconds to ask yourself if the next thing you say, or the next step you take, is considering (1) your needs, (2) the needs of everyone else involved, and (3) the state of things as they are — rather than as you wish they were.
If you ignore any side of the triangle when making an important decision, be prepared to pay a steep price. If you don’t meet your needs you’re going to end up feeling resentful. If you don’t meet their needs, they’re going to suffer. And if you ignore reality, there can be all hell to pay.
IGNORING MY NEEDS
Suppose you are someone who will do anything to keep others happy. That means it’s unlikely you’ll consider your needs in a balanced way.
For example, have you found yourself in the same relationship over and over again, even though you’re dating different people? Somehow, they all end up looking like different heads plopped on the same selfish, self-absorbed, narcissistic model who doesn’t care about what you want or need.
You’ve forgotten what you like, because what they like has become all-important. Pleasing them has turned into a job. And you spend a lot of time wondering “Why don’t my needs matter?”
Or have you found yourself at the same job for years without ever asking for a raise, while those around you are rising in title and salary? You tell yourself asking for what you want isn’t worth the risk of hearing something you don’t want to hear. Even if that information might spur you on to find a more lucrative position.
IGNORING YOUR NEEDS
Ignoring your needs is when I’m so focused on mine, I’m oblivious to the impact of my behavior on you, or on anyone else involved.
If I’m clear what I want for myself, but spend little time thinking about what might matter to others, I’m unlikely to see beyond myself. So I risk ending up with few deep emotional connections. Most people aren’t willing to stick around forever if they’re treated like doormats.
An example is divorced parents where one or both stay fixated on getting back at each other at the expense of their kids. Of course, there will always be folks with whom it’s challenging to co-parent, but if one person has their eye on the triangle, those kids have a role model that will see them through the tough times.
Bridezillas have become an over-used meme. But they represent something important. They depict someone whose world revolves around their own wants and needs, ignoring the impact of their behavior on others, leaving the people around them feeling stressed and unfulfilled.
Taking reality into consideration may be the hardest part, because we’re all a little bit delusional. Not in a clinical sense, but in terms of seeing what we want to see.
Many years ago I worked with a client who wasn’t in touch with reality when she came into an inheritance of $50,000. On a whim, she took herself and five friends to Vegas, where they spent her entire windfall on cocaine and gambling in one weekend. It seemed like a good idea at the time. She sobered up and regretted that decision for years.
If you’re still bemoaning the job you didn’t get twenty years ago, and using it as the reason for your dreary life, you’re out of touch with reality. You’re not impulsively ignoring reality; instead, you’ve fallen into the world of “I don’t know what to do, so I won’t do anything.”
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
If you struggle with meeting your own needs, ask yourself, “If I go along with what someone else wants, will it satisfy my needs, or will I one day end up resenting them because I caved?”
If you struggle with considering others’ needs, ask yourself, “If I demand this from someone, will their caving in to me bring us closer together or create distance between us?”
If you struggle with reality, ask yourself, “Is what I’m considering going to create greater stability, health, and well-being for me and the others involved or create chaos now or down the road?”
If any of your answers suggest you haven’t fully considered all sides of the triangle, consider three options before making a final decision:
. Give yourself more time to consider what could go wrong and develop alternatives.
. Get more information to ensure you’re considering all three sides of the triangle.
. Ask for feedback and reassurance from reliable sources that you haven’t lost your mind or yourself.
(Triangle image by Kim LeClair, East Willow.)