Problem Solving with Actions, Not Emotions

            Your thoughts and feelings do not make you good or bad. They are natural and part of what makes you human. You do not have to feel guilty about your thoughts or feelings. They are your normal reactions to circumstances. Even extreme, distorted, bizarre, or self-centered thoughts that you may have from time to time do not define you. In small doses they are normal, and everyone has them now and then. What defines you are your freely-chosen behaviors, and it is those behaviors that you need to concentrate on, not your thoughts and feelings.

Instead of criticizing yourself for your thoughts and feelings, accept them as a part of who you are. Examine the benefits of your traits. Such an analysis can increase your sense of control, personal empowerment, and autonomy. Otherwise, self-criticism and self-denial become chronic and bring dishonor upon you. “This is not me,” leads to, “I don’t like myself,” which leads to, “I’m unworthy,” which leads to feeling helpless when confronted with a challenge, which makes you vulnerable to depression.

Carson is the President of a division of a large company. Many nights she goes to bed with a brain filled with thoughts about how to increase productivity. Her ideas usually fall flat when presented to other company executives, and Carson is beginning to doubt her own leadership abilities. She discussed her issues with a motivational psychologist on the company staff, and he told Carson she was too hung up on emotional problem solving, that is, trying to use the power of her ideas and willpower to effect change. “Instead of relying on your thinking in that way, use it to design alternative courses of action, and then test each action to see which one gives you the best outcome.” Carson did just that. She designed three action plans and asked three of her department heads to implement one of the plans. She also assembled an independent evaluation team to assess the results. Rather than rely on just her thinking and gut emotions, she used action-outcome problem solving to obtain data. One of the strategies was clearly superior to the other two. Carson presented the results of her design to the Board and made a specific recommendation on how to implement her design throughout the company to increase productivity. The Board was impressed and gave Carson a budget to pursue her plan.

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