Our Feelings are Temporary
Blood surged through my body as my heart rate increased. The adrenaline doing its job, as anger triggered my body's senses to prepare to react to what had happened.
As I approach the traffic lights, so they changed. I almost jumped them, but hesitated and decided not to. So, I pulled up in front of the traffic light controlling the car, it's red glowing brightly – even in the morning sun.
The two vehicles behind me had other ideas.
One a car, and the other a van. Both pulled out to overtake me and spend on down past the cones that cordoned off the ongoing road works. “What the hell…” I spluttered to myself at the shock of what was taking place. I was furious, rage and anger rising from within – all because someone else had jumped the lights. My feelings had gone from one of calmness to absolute rage in the blink of an eye.
Those two drivers had broken the rules; a red light means stop.
I wanted to educate them, I wanted to shout and tell them they had done something dangerous. They could have caused an accident. That’s why I was angry. My momentary anger found its vent; first with me striking the airbag in the middle of the steering wheel, and then again when I found the button for the horn.
A greater level of rage might have seen also jumping the red light and giving chase. All to serve justice.
It was pathetic because I had achieved nothing.
A Stoic Approach to Temporary Feelings
I suspect many of us experience the same rapid change of emotion as we witness acts such as the one I describe. Accepting our feelings are temporary is the central message contained in the following quote from The Daily Stoic:
"Something may happen today that upsets you. Someone might be rude, your car could break down, or an employee might mess something up despite your instructions. Your instinct may be to yell and get angry. It’s natural. But just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Remember Marcus Aurelius’ observation, “how much more harmful are the consequences of anger...than the circumstances that aroused them in us.”
Yelling might make you feel better for a second, but does it solve the problem? Of course not. Arguing with a rude person only offers them more opportunities to be rude. Getting worked up over car trouble doesn’t fix the car, it just raises your blood pressure. Berating an employee who messed up? Now they’ll either resent you or they’ll be more likely to screw up again in the future because they’re nervous and self-conscious."
"Anger only makes things worse. Remember that today."—The Daily Stoic
My ‘road rage’ highlights how impactful – and short-lived – temporary feelings can be. My negative feelings couldn’t stop those drivers from doing what they did. So why should I waste energy on them?
Anger only makes things worse.
Your feelings; Your choice
As a result, I’m constantly reminded of a quote from Stephen Covey.
“In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose. Ultimately, this power to choose is what defines us as human beings. We may have limited choices, but we can always choose. We can choose our thoughts, emotions, moods, words, our actions; we can choose our values and live by principles. It is the choice of acting or being acted upon.” —Stephen R. Covey
Appreciating how temporary our feelings are, gives us the space to pause and reflect. Separating our decision-making from our temporary feelings is a big step. Indeed, knowing you can do this can make you less eager to make permanent decisions.
If you’re still struggling with temporary feelings, then we need to call upon a mental model to bring us perspective.
The 10/10/10 Mental Model Decision Rule
A mental model is a thought process that help’s with thinking and decision-making. Furthermore, there are many different mental models – all developed from other people’s experiences.
The 10/10/10 decision rule offers three questions that give us some perspective on the permanent decision you're about to make.
- How will you feel about this decision in ten minutes?
- How will you feel about this decision in ten months?
- How will you feel about this decision in ten years?
Asking yourself these questions offers you the chance to put some distance on the 'now'. Right now, emotions—good and bad—will be swirling in your head, creating a fog of temporary feelings.
Let’s consider buying a new car, a purchase most of us would consider a permanent one.
How would you feel about it in 10 minutes?
Excited about having something new and relieved you have now got a reliable car, but what about 10 months from now?
How will you feel about the monthly repayments and the effect it is having on your disposable income?
10 years from now, you might not even have the car. You might have sold it, or the re-payments were too much, and you might have damaged your credit rating as a result.
When you put an unfamiliar perspective in place, you begin to think beyond your temporary feelings as other factors enter your mind. You may still decide to buy the car, but it will be on the back of a more considered & thought-through decision.
My earlier road rage would have benefited from a nudge from Stephen Covey on recognising that feelings are temporary. Let alone what the 10/10/10 mental model would have done to settle my thoughts.
Ten minutes let alone ten months would have shifted my view of the incident completely. I would have realised that I couldn’t undo what had taken place and moved on. Those drivers alone were responsible for their actions – not me.
For me, this is the whole point of using mental models because they give an immediate shift to your point of view.
They take you beyond your temporary feelings.
Mental models offer powerful ways of applying well thought out models to our thinking. When it comes to making permanent decisions – the model offers a filter to gain a new perspective. Of course, there are many other types of mental models you could use. Many biases can muddle our thought processes. Our inbuilt aversion to loss – or our views on the sunk cost fallacy all cloud our judgement.
The 10/10/10 rule isn’t perfect. But it is a start to help you make permanent decisions with temporary feelings.