Every day we make decisions that feel right in the moment. Sometimes you just have a certain feeling as to what you should do. This can be a good feeling, such as wanting to get something off your chest that has been bothering you for months, or it can be a negative feeling, such as not wanting to say that same thing.
We have all been in situations that could have turned out better. We say the wrong thing at the wrong time, and torment ourselves simply because we struggle to understand why we made such a ridiculous decision. Often appearing in hindsight, regret for our choices is something that we are all too familiar with.
But, ultimately, we make decisions because we think we need to. Because it feels right.
As humans, we are driven by emotions and hormones. We think we are making conscious decisions — but most of the time — it is the opposite. We are driven like cogs in a machine by desires and past experiences that force our decision-making process into a state of auto-pilot. It is only by understanding what that wanting feeling truly means, that we can begin to gain a grasp of our desires, and in turn, tailor them to create the life we really want.
But why do some decisions feel so right?
It turns out it’s actually not that difficult to decipher the feelings behind our actions. We are on the one hand, extremely complex, but, we are defined by our habits and our past, which compounds to develop our character. We, usually, do things for a reason. But this reason may lie deep beneath the surface.
It could be after the time you ‘just had to call Shelley a bitch,’ or the time you let the third girl of the night slip away without saying a word, that you finally take a step back and think, “why?”
Our initial thought is to attempt to translate what we are thinking and feeling into words. This usually occurs in the most primitive way — as an emotion. Our rapid heartbeat and moist hands quickly become a feeling of anxiety, and our feeling of despair becomes melancholy.
This is an extremely important aspect when attempting to understand our actions as it helps to define the physical feeling (some people can’t even manage to do this), which then gives us a sense of control and understanding of what is happening.
But, is that really enough?
We have all felt anger. But is anger towards an irritating co-worker the same as the anger you feel when your sports team loses in the final seconds of the game? Chances are, they might feel the same, but they likely developed from very different places. General emotions are simply too broad to actually provide us with enough information to move forward. We must continue our meditation and push deeper.
To understand where the emotion came from, we need to understand the trigger. Emotions require a trigger to become active and subsequently cause us to make bad decisions.
This is where the second question of why becomes imperative. The first why provides us with the general emotion, but it is the second that provides context.
The thing is, emotions don’t just spontaneously develop. They are often the first foothold that we grab onto as we free-fall down the cliff of bad decisions, but they aren’t sufficient. We need to understand the origin of the emotion, and why it is specifically being expressed here and now.
Maybe someone called you ugly or broke one of your belongings. The trigger shifts your entire mindset and physiology in an instant. Flooding your body with emotion.
Triggers are a step beyond an emotion. They help us navigate the true reason behind our emotionally fulled actions, by providing context to our state.
Triggers are the specific events that caused us to feel the emotion.
But triggers cannot exist on their own — similar to the relationship between a light switch and an electric current, the trigger requires a reason to become active.
Defined as “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event,” reason is the next and last piece of the puzzle.
Reasons provide background as to why the trigger exists. Unlike emotions, they are specific to each individual and are highly circumstantial.
For example, consider the classic scenario of boy meets girl. The boy approaches the girl and asks her for her phone number. The girl politely refuses and leaves. The boy feels sad and angry. The boy insults the girl.
Broken down, the scenario looks like this:
Emotion (s) — sadness, anger
Trigger — being rejected
Reason — being rejected means that you are not good enough
Now take the same scenario, but substitute in someone who understands that other people, attraction, and relationships are complex. This time, the boy recognizes that the rejection he just experienced is more likely due to a plethora of other reasons than his own personal value.
This removes the reason from the chain and causes the trigger to become ineffective. No negative emotions are then produced, and the boy avoids making any terrible decisions.
How to Use This to Your Advantage
By understanding the relationship between the reason, trigger, and emotion, it becomes clear that the process is a chain. However, this chain relies heavily on the reason — therefore, by removing its power we can prevent the trigger from firing.
The thing is, most people fail to question their actions and only ever get as far as understanding their emotional triggers. But, by pushing through and understanding the reasons behind them, we can clearly see our limiting beliefs. Through deep introspection and personal work, we can begin to unravel them — eventually breaking the chain.
The first scenario mentioned above, presented someone struggling with self-esteem issues. By recognizing this, and wanting to change, they can begin to understand their emotions and take the steps to remove this limiting belief.
Another example could be a person struggling to stick with a specific diet plan. By constantly cheating (trigger) they feel angry and depressed (emotions). But once understood that this is likely due to the fact that they are simply tired (reason), they can begin to alter their beliefs — in this circumstance, they could choose to look for healthier food and more rest when tired.
Most of our problems continue to exist simply because we struggle to understand why they exist. By following this method we can begin to take the necessary steps to remove our most problematic aspects of ourselves, and, through great effort and introspection, begin to live the life we have always wanted.