Asking this is a game changer that can lead to a more fulfilling life.
Most people, myself included, like to think of themselves as rational people who make logical decisions based on facts and reason, and not based on emotion.
The reality, however, is often quite different. We regularly make purely emotional decisions — a fact that sales and marketing departments use all too well to their advantage. Just look around your home: how many things did you buy on the spur of the moment?
When my child entered the world, I realized that more often than I’d like, I would make emotionally-based decisions about what to buy, how to act, and how to solve problems.
As a young mother with zero experience, I was constantly terrified. I often didn’t know what to do. I found lots of advice, but a lot of it was conflicting, so I still didn’t know the answer. On top of that, my child’s crying was a source of stress; I simply wanted to make it stop as fast as possible.
Whether or not you’re a mother, you can probably relate to this state of mind: for one reason or another, the pressure is so high that you’re willing to do almost anything to relieve it.
Fear of the unknown
I will admit that I was often totally overwhelmed during those days. I acted impulsively, out of fear, often without even pausing to reflect on the situation. At some point, I realized that such behavior was counterproductive. Acting impulsively meant I wasn’t really solving problems, so I was getting more tired and stressed. As a result, I didn’t give myself time to think about what my baby wanted to convey to me, and I fought with my husband more and more.
One day, I realized how much fear — fear of the unknown, fear of hurting my baby, and fear of making a mistake — was driving my actions. That was the moment I decided to change.
The question that changed everything
When I had to make decisions, I began to ask myself, “Are you doing this out of love or out of fear?” This one question changed everything for me. I began to notice situations when fear was my primary emotion and motivation, and that realization helped me stop and think. Was my initial reaction really the best solution?
Since then, I’ve started to ask myself this question not only in situations concerning my children, but in practically all circumstances I encounter.
For example, let’s say someone asks to come for a visit … and I feel like I should say yes. Why? Am I afraid that the person will feel rejected if I say no, or is my heart open with love to the visit? If someone asks me for a favor, am I afraid that I will be judged or pressured if I say no, or do I want to help the person out of love and free will?
This is not to say the answer is always black or white; for example, maybe I’m afraid of hurting someone because I love them. Nor does this mean that I should never do something when my first motivation is fear; after, all, my fear may be very justified.
Consequently, we may need to ask further questions. If I am motivated by fear, is it reasonable? If I am motivated by love, is it a healthy and proportionate love? Or, is my love blinding me, leading me to make a misguided decision?
We usually don’t need to take a lot of time; all we need to do is to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and think about what drives us. That way, we can make a decision that may be accompanied by emotion, but isn’t controlled by it.