R. Paul Wilson On: An Extremely Powerful Habit To Help You Avoid Really Bad Decisions

R. Paul Wilson On: An Extremely Powerful Habit To Help You Avoid Really Bad Decisions

Gambling is a concentrated experience where risk and reward collide in a heady (and for some an addicting) cocktail of highs and lows that can be as thrilling as a bungee jump and equally deadly if you don’t check the rope from time to time.

Problems in gambling happen when we become too focused on the experience and lose sight of the desired outcome or the potential repercussions of going too far.

We all know that feeling, even if we have yet to succumb to true addiction, and when playing for money, most of us limit our bankroll and manage our money to keep a fair check on our emotions.

Or do we?

Only Human

Drunk man dancing

Truthfully, I think we are all playing with fire when we drink more than we should, party too hard or gamble irresponsibly but from time to time we definitely need to blow off some steam.

For most people, cutting our own leash occasionally is the best way to reboot ourselves before returning to our usual routine once that hangover wears off.

Playing with fire is a necessary human need that teaches important lessons that might prove valuable in other walks of life (like “don’t get burnt, dummy”).

Letting go of our inhibitions is a psychological necessity and can lead to personal growth but can become damaging if it gives way to compulsion or addiction.

Alright, enough of that – have fun but keep an eye on your mental and physical health; this is about a mechanism that’s needed to protect ourselves from going too far when caught up in emotion or distracted by other factors.

Checkpoint Reached

Person feeling regretful

In every mistake we’ve ever made, one of the things that often haunts us is that moment we remember before we stepped off that cliff and there was no going back.

This point of commitment is where our intellect failed us (or was never invited to the party) and our emotions took over and urged us to jump.

You see it when poker players are on tilt or losing players keep buying-in despite having long lost the ability to play effectively.

We see it when con artists manipulate people into falling for a scam or when a sucker reaches for their bankroll because they know for sure that the pea is under that middle shell.

It’s when the hook is deep, the line is pulled, and raw emotion is in the driving seat with the pedal pressed hard to the floor; these are the times when we make a wrong turn or take leaps of faith.

We see it in ourselves when we lose our temper or react based on how we feel rather than how we should be thinking but, in these moments, there is real opportunity for all of us to flex a much-needed muscle and perhaps prepare for more dangerous situations in the future.

The Power Of Stepping Back

The idea I’d like to propose is simple and we have all tried and failed to do this in various scenarios throughout our lives.

When we feel our emotions are high or that we might be caught in a wave of enthusiasm or ideology, we must find a way to step out of that mindset and observe our own behavior and the environment or conditions that might be causing us to feel or think in a certain way.

When we are angry at the news or when we argue with a loved one or when we get caught up in a heated debate, we have the opportunity to try and evaluate our reactions before we commit to saying or doing something we might regret, or that might cause a negative or unwanted outcome.

These things happen often and by consciously aiming to observe our own behavior whenever we recognize our emotions are high, there’s an increasing likelihood that we will learn to step outside of our emotional mindset and reassess what’s happening intellectually in the future.

This is not a guarantee that you will be right or wrong in any particular situation, but it can foster the extremely powerful (and protective) habit of stopping to think before committing to a course of action you might later regret.

In gaming, this is a priceless skill to have though for many it might seem like a killjoy compared to the thrill of just letting it all ride but to each his or her own; you’re the driver of your own meat wagon and you can play any way you like.

In life, it can be extremely useful when applied properly but don’t mistake this as being risk-averse, which is also often dominated by a lack of understanding or emotional hesitancy.

Stepping back is about checking that the bungee cord is tied to both your feet and the platform, that it isn’t frayed or about to break or is strong enough for your weight while short enough to be sure you won’t hit the ground and bounce back in 40 wet lumps of what used to be you.

Knowing in advance what the risks are, what you have to lose and how far you are willing to go are simple steps anyone can take but having the internal mechanism to double check ourselves (and that metaphorical bungee cord) just before we jump can identify flaws, dangers or deceptions BEFORE it’s too late.

And when it comes to deception, this ability to self-check before commitment is the con artist’s worst enemy and the sucker’s best defense.

Your Best Defense

I’ve spoken before about how to question any situation that might be a con game, but we can ask ourselves simpler questions in everyday situations when we feel our emotions trying to grab the wheel and take us for a ride.

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • Why does the other person feel or think this way?
  • Do I really understand what is happening?
  • What is the best (and worst) possible outcome?

Apply these questions to matters of business or personal interaction whenever matters become heated or you feel yourself and others being carried away by excitement, anger, or enthusiasm.

Doing so will create a useful (but imperfect) buffer between your feelings, your decisions and your actions but more than this, it practices the habit of self-monitoring your thinking in day-to-day scenarios to create a reflex response to re-evaluate when the stakes are much higher.

Start today.

Make stepping back mentally a habit and you’ll be surprised at the effect it has on situations or interactions you might previously have found difficult.

And if you’re unlucky enough to be caught in a con artist’s web of lies, it might offer an intellectual lifeline to escape their trap.

Or maybe convince you to fold that pair of deuces.