FFT: Calm down and don't do stupid things
Saturday, September 16, 2017

Reverse insomnia: when you wake up too early but can't go back to sleep

This FFT is inspired by real life and articles I've read over the years about how you shouldn't make decisions when you're not in the right state of mind (confusion, anger, sadness). I agree, and I'm going to try explaining it in a quantifiable manner.

As the saying goes,
You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to them.
There have been uncountable situations where I've done or said something I've regretted after thinking about it moments, days, weeks later. I could've done better if I just took my time to calm down and think about it. Now, before everyone starts trying to over-rationalize everything that happens to them, I'll like to add that your choices made under duress isn't necessarily wrong. The problem is that we can never replay that exact moment and how we feel at that point in time.

A simple example would be when your life is threatened by some external force, say, a robbery where the assailant has a knife. In this example, you happen to own a gun and you're in a position where you can either shoot him, make a warning shot or run. It would not be surprising that a good number of people would choose to shoot him instead of giving a warning shot, not because some people just wants to shoot people; but because they're not in the right state of mind to make the rational choice of giving a warning shot.
(I understand the caveats where the victim is well-trained like a soldier, but their mental state is different from a normal person so the point still stands)

If you belong to the group who shot the robber, would you have regretted your actions if he died? Would you think that you're wrong?

It depends.

Whatever you feel about the goodness/evilness of your actions, it's pretty much universal that if you have had more time, you could've made a choice where you would feel better in the long run. Feelings don't last forever, when all that adrenaline/serotonin/dopamine finally balances out, you're faced with the stark truth of your actions. Which brings me to this graph.

x-axis: time / y-axis: satisfaction

Disclaimer: there's absolutely no statistical evidence backing this up, just plotting how I feel about it

The red line starts off with a really high satisfaction level (point 0), and it's usually the thing we end up doing; because it seemed like a really great idea at that point of time. Compared to the blue option at point 0, it feels leaps and bounds better. But the red line dips dramatically after the initial moments as you start wondering, "why did I do this?", "what if?", "maybe I should've tried something else". It will still feel like a great idea while you're still being fueled by emotions; until it finally hits you at that magical break-even point.

It was at this moment that you realize you fucked up.

The solution is simple, when you're not in a clear state of mind, if you can afford to, hold off on any decision making. Sounds simple and common sense, but applying it in real life is a difficult practice of restraint. Being aware that you're not calm is probably the first step.

Unfortunately, even when I'm aware of my state of mind, I'm not able to always make the best choices.

to err is human
(to forgive, divine)

The way I keep myself moving forward and not be bogged down by the countless of regrets that may arise from some bad choices is simply to write my thoughts down. Put it down in a tangible form that you can experience again, to feel the similar emotions you've felt. In my case, >90% of time I still feel like I have made the right call.
(p.s. the rightness of your choices depends on what you value, will probably write about it some other day)

And life goes on.