Tom Brady has been doing a lot of thinking.
It's been about six weeks since the most accomplished football player of all time made the official decision to retire. At the time, Brady cited the deep "physical, mental, and emotional challenge" that professional football requires. "I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore," Brady wrote in his retirement statement.
But a funny thing happened over those weeks. No doubt, Brady gave a lot of thought to what that commitment involves. And after all that thinking, something changed.
"These past two months I've realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands," Brady announced this week. "I'm coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business."
Brady's statement reveals an important lesson, one that's rooted in principles of emotional intelligence, and that is especially useful to entrepreneurs, business leaders, and decision makers everywhere:
Every decision has an emotional element. Learn to manage your emotions, and you'll make decisions you don't regret.
What's emotional intelligence got to do with it?
Emotional intelligence is something we hear a lot about nowadays, but the true meaning of the term can easily get lost. Put simply, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions. By developing your emotional intelligence, you get your emotions under control, instead of allowing them to control you--and that helps you make better decisions.
Brady, for example, must have been dealing with intense emotions over the past months. After the Buccaneers' quest to make it to the Super Bowl fell short, Brady likely found the idea of committing so much mental and emotional energy to another NFL season too daunting, especially since he was the among the oldest players in the league.
But it's important to remember that emotions, and degrees of emotions, are temporary. Meaning, the way Brady felt in the few weeks after the end of his season would not be the way he felt as teams began getting ready for the next season.
The transitory nature of emotions doesn't make major decisions any easier. So, how can you make choices that harmonize your thoughts, emotions, and values? And, if you determine that you've made a huge mistake, how can you go back on a decision once you've publicly committed to it?
Here are two emotionally intelligent tools that can help you in cases like these.
(If you find value in these two rules, you might be interested in my full course--which includes 20 rules that help you develop your emotional intelligence. Check out the full course here.)
Use the golden question to travel (mentally) to the future
The first tool is what I like to call "the golden question." It's actually five questions in one, and it looks like this:
When you need to make a decision under emotional circumstances, ask yourself: How will I feel about this in
- A day?
- A week?
- A month?
- A year?
- Five years?
The golden question gives you the ability to travel forward in time, mentally. By imagining how your choice will affect you in the future, you can make a decision that's in greater harmony with your whole self--instead of the emotions that happen to be dominating you at a given moment in time.
Of course, the key is to give yourself time to think these questions through.
Interestingly, in Brady's case, the news of his retirement broke before he made any official announcement. This may have added to an already difficult decision: With his supposed retirement already the talk of the town, and his team waiting on something official as they began to plan for the following season, Brady may have felt pressure to release a statement, which he did.
So, what if, like Brady, you make a decision under pressure that you wish you could take back?
Well, like Brady, in many cases you can.
Use the do-over to travel back in time
Despite what we may believe, few decisions in life are irreversible. There's no law against changing your mind. So, if you want a do-over ...
Ask for one. Tell the parties involved that you've had more time to reflect, and after doing so, you can see clearly that you'd like to reverse course.
Of course, they can always say no--the Buccaneers (theoretically) could have turned down Brady (or traded him). But if that had happened, Brady could still take matters into his own hands and find a solution that works for him. And you can do the same.
Like the golden question, the do-over also allows you to travel in time, but in this case, to the past. This tool, too, can help you minimize regrets and make better choices.
As a business owner, you're faced with difficult decisions every day. But some of those decisions are bigger than others. If you discover you've made a huge mistake, ask yourself:
How will I feel about this in a day? A week? A month? A year? Five years?
Then, if it's clear you'd like to reverse course, do like Brady and ask for a do-over. Because you never want to make a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion.