Everyone asks me one question: What is the most common psychological issue entrepreneurs struggle with?
The answer is indecision.
At the highest levels of business success, there is just one final obstacle. Procrastination eventually gets beat. Purpose gets discovered. Basic fears get demystified. Only indecision remains.
Those who make good decisions swiftly… win.
Though it’s a skill that is honed over lifetimes, there is a single tactic that you can get to grow your decision making muscles 100X. Overnight.
The problem with Radical Honesty and decisions
There’s a weird movement, founded by a guy called Dr Brad Blanton, called “Radical Honesty”. Bear with me, because it serves as a great example for the decision making strategy I’m about to let you in on.
Radical Honesty is simple enough to understand: You can’t lie.
In fact, you basically say what’s on your mind at all times. Sound interesting? You bet.
Radically honesty experiments will produce VERY interesting results in your life. Particularly with loved ones.
I don’t recommend it.
Radically Honesty, as a philosophy, is quite broken. While it promises to increase intimacy between people by removing inauthenticity and the various BS white lies we tell… it has some nasty side effects. Especially when it comes to decision making.
When you give yourself permission to say whatever is on your mind, whenever and where ever, you’re allowing your emotions to run the show.
Every time you communicate, you’re making a decision based on what’s going on in your mind and body at that moment. Radical Honesty, at it’s core, is putting the moment-to-moment side effects of your brain chemistry out in public. Without filters, you’ll say whatever is on your mind no matter how shitty your emotional state is.
Humans get into some nasty states. Not all of them make for great decisions.
It’s also worth mentioning that letting our emotions dictate what we say and do socially isn’t “intuitive”. There’s nothing heart-centered about your 3pm blood-sugar flatline making you a radically honest asshole.
Our emotional state varies vastly more than we’d like it to.
No one knows for sure, but our ability to tell white lies may have developed to meet our social-survival drvien need to maintain relationships with the tribe… even in moments when we’re drowning our brains in negative emotion.
Keeping quiet while you’re really angry, for example, is perfect.
Profound anger (like any negative emotion) has a massive influence on our ability to make good decisions – something studied by author/researcher Dan Ariely at Duke University – so keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves represents a clever “anti decision” on the social level. According to Ariely, negative emotions reduce our ability to think about long term consequences.
So by shutting the hell up, you protect yourself from yourself. You avoid “digging a hole” by telling someone something that could cause problems in the future.
If this seems as obvious as a handlebar mustache on a cheerleader, you’re getting it.
Most people are pretty great at shutting up when their emotions might betray them. You have a built in tendency to avoid making “conversational decisions” when you shouldn’t. It serves you well.
The problem is: Most people will not hesitate to make horrendous decisions about their LIVES, even when they’re in terrible emotional states.
Negative Emotion + Important Decision = Epic Fail
We’re careful about our conversational consequences, but often try to reconcile life’s biggest decisions from the worst places possible.
Recognizing this is the single best thing you can do to instantly improve your decision making prowess.
And, the opposite is also true: Your best decisions are made when you’re in peak states. As my buddy Mark put it: “… by getting in touch with where you are when you’re at your best…”
Ariely’s research shows Mark nailed it, in a study where subject’s emotions were triggered by watching video clips of popular TV shows proven to elicit happiness and anger respectively. Even though the video clips used had zero connection with the game the experiment used to test decision making, the emotional hangover effect of a bad state was inevitable:
Angry subjects made significantly worse choices.
So how do you get in touch with “where you are when you’re at your best”?
The answer lies in some psychological research so ancient it’s practically folklore: Pavlov and his dogs.
Ariely used clips of the TV show “Friends” to trigger a happy state in his test subjects, because previous research has conclusively demonstrated that Friends can be relied on to trigger positive emotions in most adults.
It’s the human equivalent of the bell Pavlov used to make his dogs salivate.
Our best states get “anchored” to certain stimulus in our lives. Ritualized behaviors can be counted upon to pull us out of negativity by flooding our bodies with natural, happy brain chemicals.
If you want to be a great decision maker, you need to know your triggers.
Becoming a swift and effective decision maker is EASY when you have guaranteed state-change-tools in your back pocket. Conversely, the most victimized horrible-decision-making individuals out there operate under the deeply flawed assumption that their emotional state is dictated to them by circumstance.
When you start noticing, recording and even creating powerful positive emotional anchors in your life, you are building a tool kit. You’re realizing that you’re in charge of your mind, and therefor your results. And you’re well on your way to becoming a decision making pro.
Getting started is as easy as figuring out what makes you feel good. Taking it to the next level is as simple as ritualizing those stimuli. The final step? Hack your life so those things are easily accessible to you.
One of my good friends – a massively successful entrepreneur – keeps a Ducati parked handy to his office and home. Why? When something throws him into a negative state, he can suspend all serious decision making and blast off for a 30 min wild ride.
State change GUARANTEED.
He’ll come back to the office – and it’s various dilemmas – grinning like a little kid, deeply psychologically cemented into a powerfully positive state. Good decisions get made.
Creating and using these state change opportunities is the one big short cut to becoming an ace decisive entrepreneur.
My question for you is this: How can you construct your life so that such powerful, positive anchors are instantly accessible to you?
Your thing might not be motorbikes – sometimes it’s as simple as some really good music. However some of the most powerful state-change anchors are the most exotic.
The range of anchors between different people is inspiring in it’s breadth, while also being pragmatic. We can learn from each other here, because baking this stuff into your life requires some creative thinking…
… So share one of your top state change tools in the comments below this article. We’ll all become better at state management – and decision making – together.
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When I need a change of state, I go and do something kind towards others.
It always works. Especially when I’m able to be fully aware and present in the act.
There’s something magical about intentionally and conscientiously taking a loving action. It always changes me.
It’s true… there is actually a lot of scientific evidence that supports the theory that social contribution increases key “happiness” variables
Interesting. For me it’s more a mindset and focus thing: the conscious act of doing something kind seems to bring peace to my mind. It helps me focus.
Even a few minutes with my cat will do it, as long as it’s not some absentminded petting. Don’t remember where I read about it first, but it was an amazing discovery.
Music. Definitely music. Sometimes reading cartoons – I used to do that after arguments to get me back to a better frame of mind so I could have a productive conversation.
Hey You! 😉
Great to hear. I never thought about the cartoons before – I was a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan
– Listening to music
– Spending time with my cats
– Cleaning (a super-clean house makes me happy!)
Haha I think I know a few people who use Cleaning for positive state change… I am not one of them though!
Your totally derisive depiction of Radical Honesty is simplistic and unworthy of your good work. Unfortunately, Dr. Brad Blanton’s own lifestyle belies the value of his work, in that he doesn’t practice what he preaches.
As for as I know, Blanton does not advocate that “… you basically say what’s on your mind at all times,” nor “… you give yourself permission to say whatever is on your mind, whenever and where ever, you’re allowing your emotions to run the show.”
I know several people, including me, who cleared up long held animosities and reunited with loved ones after learning Radical Honesty. It’s very likely that some of the people who have taken Radical Honesty training came away with radically negative beliefs. Some people will misinterpret what they should have learned, no matter what the subject matter.
There are probably some people who misinterpret your statements, maybe even mine.
I see this piece hit a nerve. I have to be overly simplistic, because this piece isn’t a criticism of Radical Honesty – I’m just holding it up as an example of a principal in action. So yes, you may have me there… perhaps it deserves a more comprehensive criticism.
However, I do stand by the criticism I did make. I’m positive Radical Honesty has helped a bunch of people’s interpersonal relationships, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best strategy for doing so. I’m glad it worked for you, but I wouldn’t recommend it to my clients.
“There are probably some people who misinterpret your statements, maybe even mine.” <--- Never was a truer word spoken 🙂
This really hit home for me. I’ve suffered financially from being radically honest. You are correct when you say your emotions run your life. I had a job from the age of 19 to 29 where I could say and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I had complete and total freedom of being myself. I worked when I wanted and could get a job anywhere in a day which allowed me to stay home most of the time and wallow in depression for all those years. And, I was always broke. I only worked enough to pay the bills. Freedom cost!
I now want to be financially free but have to fight the emotions that keep me from being successful. I focus on logic as much as possible but it is a struggle to beat the long time habit of letting my emotions run my life.
I made some terrific friends during that time in which I could care less what anyone thought. I was my real self always, which drew them in. They felt safe to be more of their authentic selves without being judged. However; now that I care what people think because I see it directly relates to money, I live in an emotionally scared state that my long term habit of running my mouth, controlled by my emotions, will cost me the ultimate goal of financial freedom.
Sounds like the best work you can be doing is focusing on building emotional strength and flexibility now. THis isn’t an internal process of meditation or whatever… it’s actually an external process that happens when you implement things in your life that will create those positive emotion stimulus.
You can do this! Let me know if you need help 🙂
I love the question… what are my top state change tools? I’ve never really thought about it, although I have slowly become aware of the fact that I often stop breathing in certain situations (when I’m angry, when I’m afraid, when I’m upset). Just taking a deep inhale releases a lot of tension for me.
But now, thanks to your post, I’m going to give some thought and attention to the things that change my mood for the better, and intentionally make them available in my life.
Thanks for this!
It’s a bit inaccessible to a lot of people, but breathing practices are a fundamental state change tool built into most marital arts and eastern bodywork practices. It really works!
I learned recently that breathing OUT is a state changer. Most practices focus on breathing in but evidently a deep exhalation stimulates the nervous system to create a calming effect. A deep belly laugh will accomplish the same thing because it stimulates the same pathway. I’ve tried faking a deep belly laugh when I’m stressed which ends up turning into real non-stop laughter which changes my outlook. Ever try laughing Yoga? Fun and relaxing!
Making music works event better for me than listening to music.
wooooooord. This is a great point.
Skateboarding was a hobby growing up. Now I keep my board in my trunk in case I find myself slumping. Normally I’ll take 20 minutes and really go at it.
My favorite “happy” trigger though is taking a shower, where I get my the most energetic and focused ideas. Too bad I can’t stick that in my trunk… 🙂
You should check out my posts on the inner child – you’re totally rocking the principal when you indulge yourself in a little skating!
Try a cold shower next time for next level state change 😉
Peter, I admire how brave and truthful you are.
“I don’t recommend it”
“This is bad, don’t do it”
I think it’s hard for most people to watch themselves for triggers. This is one of my biggest struggles. “Ok I made a mistake, I’ll do better next time. It’s too much trouble to dig deep and ask why until I know”
But I won’t know how to do better next time, cause I didn’t bother to find out what I did wrong.
I think that’s one of the guru’s appeal: “No need to think! These are your problems, here’s how to solve them!”
Thanks for the clear, entertaining, and useful post. I’d love to read more posts about better ways to making yourself notice your own triggers 😀
When I am in negative thought I discuss matter with my dear ones. This helps me to come out of confusion and negative thoughts.I try to avoid talking to people for sometime. Also I hear the songs I love. Even i try doing meditation for 15 mins. After becoming normal I try to find the solution of the problem.
I definitely suffer from letting my emotions control me more than I control them, even though I believe that it is possible to consciously alter your emotional and mental states. What I like about this post is that is suggests a deliberate strategy for achieving emotional state alteration, rather than simply trying to change it with sheer will alone.
So, here’s my idea: I love rock climbing, and I always feel great during and after a good climbing session. So I may try purchasing a few holds and building my own mini bouldering wall to keep at home. This way I can just throw on my rock shoes and get do a few minutes of climbing to get that positive energy flowing.