When faced with a difficult decision, our bodies often take over, overruling our minds in order to seek survival for the best possible outcome. This is what is referred to as the fight, flight, freeze response, and it is one of our oldest physiological reactions designed to keep us safe from harm. Unfortunately, there is a downside to the fight, flight, freeze response. Our palms get sweaty, our heart races, and the rational thinking part of our brain gets hijacked by our emotions. This can, in turn, wreak havoc on our decision-making capabilities and ultimately sabotage our efforts to achieve our goals if not managed properly.
Emotions are powerful stuff. For they affect our thoughts, and our thoughts become action or non-action. When our thoughts are hijacked by our emotions, we may make less than desirable decisions. For example, when faced with a choice, one may jump in headfirst without thinking. This impulsivity can lead to poor outcomes. Or, we may over analyze a situation (sometimes referred to as analysis paralysis). This overthinking freeze response can result in non-action; thus, the person ends up missing out on a fantastic opportunity. Neither reactions are optimal. The key: finding balance between the two.
Balancing thought with action can be challenging. One very helpful strategy is a proactive thinking approach. From a proactive approach, decisions are:
- Well thought-out.
- Made within a timely manner. Not too much, too soon. Not too little, too late.
- They come from the rational part of the brain rather than the emotional.
- And typically have better outcomes compared to emotional, impulsive, or late decisions.
Simply put, proactive thinking is grace under pressure, and it is a skill that can be both learned and mastered by all. This is important because not only are better decisions made as a result of this intentional way of thinking, proactive thinking ultimately leads to healthier habits, positive patterns, and success. And when things are going well in one’s life, competence and confidence flourish while self-doubt and fear—unwanted consequences of reactive thinking—diminish.
As Dale Carnegie brilliantly said:
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
But do it proactively!
Some words of wisdom:
- “Doing” involves risk. Not reckless risk, but intelligent risk. The only failure that comes is not taking risks.
- “Doing” requires discipline and commitment.
- Not “Doing” creates stress and anxiety. It can also lead to depression if you continue to put off your goals for too long and get caught up in just thinking about doing something rather than actually doing something.
- Incremental progress is better than no progress at all. “Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.” Peter Marshall
- Perfectionism breeds inaction. Don’t get stuck in the thinking and planning stages. You do not have to have an entire plan in place. You will figure it out as you move along.
- Overwhelment leads to either inaction or impulsivity. Allow yourself to take a deep breath before you act, while at the same time be kind to yourself if you need a little extra time to make a decision.
- As you begin to see results from your actions, you will gain momentum. Momentum will give you the drive and energy you need to carry you through.