Home Article and Opinion How emotionally intelligent people use the 'Golden Question'

How emotionally intelligent people use the ‘Golden Question’

Use the golden question to manage your emotions, make better decisions, and live life with fewer regrets.

You really wanted to quit your job.

After months of careful planning, you figured out how to turn your side hustle into a full-fledged business–and you built up the courage to do so. So, you handed in your resignation.

Immediately, your boss tries to convince you to stay, promising a huge raise.

You start having second thoughts.

Some years ago, I learned a practice that helps me to get control of my emotions in challenging situations like this one, so that I make better decisions.

It requires asking myself what I like to call, the ‘golden question.’

The golden question

The golden question is actually five questions in one, and goes like this:

When you need to make a decision under emotional circumstances, ask yourself:

How will I feel about this in:

The reason why this question is helpful has much to do with the way our brains process emotions.

When it comes to higher level executive functions (such as the capacity to plan, organize, and exercise self-control), we typically engage the frontal lobe(s), the largest part of the brain. But when we feel some type of emotional threat, another part of the brain known as the amygdala “hijacks” the brain, often resulting in a fight, flight, or freeze response.

Emotional hijacks can be useful in certain situations. But they can lead us to say or things we regret.

Here’s where the golden question comes in.

By forcing yourself to see how this decision will affect your future, you switch back from using your amygdala and re-engage your frontal lobe.

In other words, you “hack” the hijack.

For example, let’s go back to the scenario at the beginning.

Before agreeing to your boss’s offer, you ask yourself:

How will I feel about this in…a day?

Pretty good. It’s nice to know my work is valued around here.

Not bad. Time to plan how to spend my raise.

Hmm. The extra money is nice, but I’m not even sure if it’s worth it.

I can’t believe I never started that business. Where would I be by now if I did?

Of course, the benefits of the golden question aren’t limited to your professional life.

For example, let’s say you’re in a great relationship that makes you happy. You and your significant other have your moments, like everyone. But nothing you haven’t been able to work through.

But today is a bad day–for both of you. Your partner makes a cutting remark, and you’re tempted to respond with something you know will hurt them.

Before you do, you ask yourself:

How will I feel about this in…a day?

Not good, but (s)he deserved it.

Wow. This is the longest fight we’ve ever had.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I said.

I can’t believe we’re breaking up.

I wish I could have that day back.

Of course, we’ve all made mistakes. And you shouldn’t dwell on the past.

But that’s what makes the golden question so special: It gives you a glimpse into the future…so you can have a “second” chance at the present.

So, the next time you’re faced with an emotional decision, use the golden question to:

And live with fewer regrets.

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