Irvin Yalom, a Stanford professor, gave one of the best random pieces of advice I've run across. My good friend recently reminded me of it the other day during lunch. And while simple to say, understand, and remember, it's difficult to actually do (like most words to live by).
Strike while the iron is cold.
Don't quit your job, leave your spouse, or engage in nasty Facebook feuds when emotions are running hot. If you have the urge to strike, sleep on it, hit the gym, take a long walk, or binge watch "The Americans." And then read's (aka FBI Agent Stan Beeman) answers on Quora.
Fortunately, I haven't blown up and left my husband. But I've learned the hard way that it's not always best to do or say something drastic when I'm tired, pissed off, or otherwise heated.
One example is if you're hot on an eBay item and bidding and get outbid, it hurts and you feel like someone has taken something from you. But you can't simply add money to your bid to win it back. Not only will the other bidder come back, but you'll heat up the market and end up jacking the price. To pay the lowest price, you'll need to keep calm and cool -- patiently wait until the end and place a decisive bid.
In 2009, at the absolute bottom, I sold all my carefully saved Johnson & Johnson stock at $50 because I got scared and angry. Ironically, I invested in the stock in the first place after a lot of research and specifically because it was "safe" and I was planning to hold. But I sold in a moment of panic (along with a lot of other people and large funds!) and it was a huge mistake. Today it's sitting at $103.
I own some Apple stock and it cratered from $700 down to $390. Unfortunately, while I had bought some beneath $390, I'd bought more at $600 and was down. I had that big redline in my portfolio for a long time and felt stupid for buying Apple at such a high value. However, each time I felt angry, I told myself to sleep on it, and after my experience with JNJ, I waited. Now I'm breathing easy with the stock back to $650.
Taking feelings, ego, and emotion out of behavior and decisions is not easy. When the mind begins racing, the heart is pounding, and the blood pressure is skyrocketing, it's a good idea to take notice and pause.
Yet, it's funny how hard it can be sometimes to see that you're under stress and about to act impulsively. My husband notices that I start to freak out about the house being a mess, and begin yelling at him about being totally disorganized whenever I get emotionally stressed. Knowing this, I head to the swimming pool to clear my mind whenever I have the urge to scream about how our house needs to be reorganized.
After I get home from the pool, I'm usually relaxed and hungry, so I happily settle into watching TV and eating a home-cooked meal that my husband made. I realize he cooks for me, and am thankful, and no longer feel the urge to scream about all the magazines that need to be thrown out.
By waiting to strike, you usually realize you don't have to. And if you do, you can act in a deliberate fashion. Any hot emotions have simmered into a more meaningful cool determination.
Physiological evidence also indicates that access to the rational part of our brain is essentially cut off when we're stressed. We instinctively begin our "fight-or-flight response." Knowing this, I've tried to err towards temporary flight. Instead of immediately fighting back, or leaving, it's best to strike while the iron is cold.
This question originally appeared on Quora. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google . More questions: