Mental Choices and Emotional Consequences: Are You on Autopilot?

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Our Feelings: The Emotional Consequences of the Mental Choices We Make.

That’s the premise on which I base my thoughts about what I refer to as Emotional Accountability.

Whether it's in your office, your school district, out in the field with clients or in your home, the implications of the statement above are broad and profound. Our feelings are not the emotional consequences of the people and situations we encounter. Yes, those factors do have impacts on us, but  people and situations do not create or cause our feelings.

Emotional Victimhood – The Status Quo      Here's the more common belief: “Our feelings are the emotional consequences of the hands we’re dealt”. Sound familiar? Probably not, since few of us have given it much conscious thought. But as a belief, it exerts tremendous influence over the quality of both our professional and personal lives.

Much of the suffering we associate with the “bad hands” we’re dealt is not so much caused by the hands, as it is by the mental choices we make about them. I’m not saying that there are no negative consequences of the setbacks we encounter. What I am saying is that the mental choices we make about those setbacks have at least as much impact on us as the setbacks themselves.

And that is great news, considering the uncertainty we face in every facet of our lives. In the changing world of people and situations that comprise our life experiences, setbacks are inevitable. People do not always behave in the ways we would like, our life situations do not always work out positively and  some of our goals remain unachieved. The hands we’re dealt are not always good ones.

Mental Choices and Emotional Consequences.

Here’s the way I see it playing out. The minute we become aware of negative situations, we begin making mental choices about them. And those mental choices do one of two things: They either compound or mitigate the negative impacts those situations have on us and on others.

Pay close attention to what I’m saying here. The mental choices we make don’t have any direct impact on the situations themselves, but they do have impacts on us. They produce emotional consequences, our feelings.  And our feelings either contribute to or detract from our effectiveness at dealing with the situations. Feelings like anger, frustration and resentment cloud our judgment, often leading us to say and do things that prolong and intensify the bad situations.

Disengage Your "Autopilot"                          

I would compare most of our mental processes to an airplane’s autopilot. When functioning correctly, the autopilot maintains altitude, airspeed and track. But what if it malfunctions? After engaging the autopilot, what if the plane went into a steep dive? The conscientious pilot would disengage the autopilot and take manual control of the plane.

Our minds function like autopilots. We do not consciously make or even acknowledge the mental choices we make, even the ones that create negative, limiting feelings. The question is: what can we do? First, let's disengage our mental autopilots. And then, we can acknowledge the mental choices we're making and the emotional consequences those choices are producing. 


The hands we’re dealt do matter. The choices we make about the hands we’re dealt matter more.