Want to Make Better Decisions? Here’s a Mental Trick

Donald Miller

HERE’S THE MENTAL TRICK: To make better decisions, imagine your life one year from now. From that perspective, look back on where you are now and think about how you wish you would have handled your current situation.

I was talking with a friend recently who was going through a tough breakup. He was angry, to be honest, because his girlfriend hadn’t been faithful.

It’s easy to get caught up in a moment like that. Our subconscious, squirrel brain takes over and we want to react, vent, seek vengeance, and basically trade pain for pain.

As I talked with my friend my advice was simple.

“A year from now,” I said, “when you’ve mostly healed from all this, and perhaps seeing somebody new, how will you have wanted to deal with your current situation?”

*photo: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

*photo: Oleh Slobodeniuk, Creative Commons

The question was sobering for my friend. He realized he was making all sorts of mistakes. He realized immediately he was reacting and his reactions were going to make things worse.

Humans have the unique ability to self reflect.

We are not like other animals, always being motivated by pre-programmed instincts. We have those, for sure, but we also have the ability to override them. And those who practice overriding their base instincts are considered wise.

Instead of reacting, we took out a tablet and wrote some words he could live out of for the next month or so. Words like strength, kindness, truth, forgiveness, resolution and so forth.

My friend realized a year from now, he would likely no longer be angry, but instead would feel sorry for his ex-girlfriend. She certainly had a lot of issues to work through and was in no shape to be in a healthy relationship.

It wasn’t easy, but my friend decided to live out of that wise, one-year removed place rather than in reaction. He was tempted to react, of course, but when tempted he returned to his notepad and read the descriptors, and every conversation he had with her, including e-mail and text messages, came from a place of strength and forgiveness and also resolution. He didn’t take her back, but he also didn’t seek vengeance.

Because of his strength, his ex realized she’d lost a great man.

And she grieved and made some changes. If my friend would have reacted like an animal, it’s doubtful she would have changed. She would have just felt like they were even, both hurting each other.

I know most of you aren’t going through a breakup, but what are you going through that could be helped by removing yourself from the situation? My advice would be to imagine yourself a year from now and look back to ask how you’d do things differently. Get out a notepad and write down some words and maybe even a few phrases you can use in your interactions with key people and live out of that wise, one-year removed place.

Wisdom can see the present in hindsight. (tweet that)

We can all learn from each other. Even if you aren’t going through a breakup, what would you want to have done differently in this season of your life if you were looking back a year from now? Would you want to have finished a project, faced some conflict you were avoiding, been more devoted to a cause? Share what you’d want to have done differently in the comments section to stimulate more thought for the rest of us, would you?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is a student of story. He helps people live a better story at Storyline through this blog and the Storyline Conference. He helps leaders grow their businesses at StoryBrand, where they get an entire marketing education in 2 days at his Workshop. Donald lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Betsy, and their chocolate lab, Lucy. For regular updates, follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller) and Instagram. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.