Strategy and unreliable emotions

Formulating effective strategies involves a balance of feelings and thinking. We need to rationally handle the challenges and opportunities. Then we need to get a good feeling about our proposed approach to handling them. If we don't get a good feeling, then it's back to the drawing board for some reformulation.

It's possible we'll never get a good feeling about any strategy we've come up with. We may choose one out of frustration instead. When this occurs, we've likely adopted a false premise that precludes any effective strategy. If we presumed we could sell real estate on the moon, our strategies to succeed in that market space would never give us a good feeling. Our negative feelings or lack of feeling are reliably telling us to question our assumptions.

Unfortunately, it's likely we'll get overtaken by unreliable emotions when formulating strategies. We'll become irrational and imbalanced. In Jonah Lehrer's wonderful second book: How We Decide, he reveals how most participants in the World Series of Poker drop out after the first round by making bad decisions. These flawed strategies fail to keep them in the game or win back their $10K entrance fee. In Laurel Mellin's book I explored last week: Wired For Joy, this setback could be characterized as becoming more stressed out and falling from Brain State 2 to 4.

There are many reasons why strategy formulation is so susceptible to misleading emotions:
  • Competitive strategies often deal with rivals who appear threatening, dangerous and hostile which get our fight/flight emotions to kick in and lure us to overreact.
  • Financial strategies often pursue increases in extrinsic rewards which spawn urges to maximize gain at all cost, regardless of looking greedy, short sighted or selfish to others.
  • Dating strategies often pursue an ideal mate that no human one can live up to which runs the emotional gamut from falling head over hills in love to crashing in rejection and realizations.
  • Persuasion strategies often try to "put on over on the buyer" by manipulating their gullible impressions which fuels the urges to be superior, arrogant, controlling and abusive.
  • Production strategies often deal with scheduling, budget and deadline pressures which raise anxiety levels and spawn emotionally satisfying coping mechanisms or shortcuts.
  • Tournament strategies often face sudden death playoffs and elimination rounds which evoke desperate, survival instincts rather than wiser acceptance and confidence.
  • Military strategies often orchestrate retaliatory strikes against enemies to bring the fight to their turf and teach them an unforgettable lesson without regard to the consequences.
We need to realize how susceptible we are to stirring up our unreliable emotions. We need to discern the difference between our irrational urges provoked by the situation and our reliable feelings which arise when we're balanced, centered and self aware. We can then challenge how we've become emotional rather than follow those urges, skewed perceptions and flawed strategies.

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