You don’t walk into the grocery store and just see one brand of tomato sauce or one flavor of ice cream on the shelf. No, you have many choices on what to buy. You don’t open your closet and just see one shirt hanging there. No, you have options from which to choose what you will wear today.
We live in a world full of choices. We have the freedom to make small insignificant decisions like what groceries to buy or what outfit to wear as well as decisions of more consequence. But how we conduct ourselves in the small choices will determine how we handle the big decisions.
When confronted with a choice, we often make it based on how we feel in the moment. And while this can be fine when making small decisions, (“I feel like wearing this shirt today!”) that method doesn’t work for big decisions.
This default process is what we call Feel-Act-Think. This is where we allow our emotions to drive the decision making process instead of our values. Your emotions can alert you to the fact that action needs to be taken, but they do not do a good job of directing that action to its proper end.
The process of Feel-Think-Act yields much better results. With this methodology, we still feel our feelings, but instead of allowing them to bring us into action, we stop and think about what they are indicating and how an action might align with our values before carrying it out.
We make choices based on our values every day without realizing it. We might choose to buy organic produce because we value health over cost, or ready-made meals because we value convenience. When picking out an outfit, we might dress a certain way because we value comfort, professionalism, or being seen as a stylish person.
But when it comes to making a decision of consequence, sometimes we freeze and act on impulse rather than acting on our values.
The reason we often have a hard time translating this skill into other decisions is because of System Thinking. System One is where your brain functions almost on autopilot, using past experiences and information to fill in the gaps. In this mode, you act before thinking. If you’ve ever accidentally turned to go back home when you meant to go somewhere else, that’s System One.
System Two thinking occurs when you think before acting. This mode requires intense concentration and intentionality to consider a situation with new eyes instead of making assumptions. Spend time gathering information and focusing your attention on the sole task, making a slow decision, to practice System Two thinking. In order to act more in alignment with your values and make the most out of your freedom of choice, you must practice shifting into System Two.
We need System One to help conserve energy, it would be exhausting to spend all of your time in System Two. But strengthening your System Two and training yourself to Feel-Think-Act will help you to make the best choices to help you get There.
Gracie McBride is the Content and Systems Management Coordinator for The Crossroad.