Emotion & Objectivity: How to Balance Both for the Best Outcome

So right now I am reading a really fascinating book called Give And Take By Adam Grant. In the book, Grant states that he believes that people can be behaviorally broken up into three categories: Givers, Matchers, and Takers. Givers, Grant states, are those who give to others more than they receive on a regular basis. Takers are those who take more than give, and matchers pursue interactions and outcomes that are even. I just read this quote and it got me thinking,

“Just as matchers will sacrifice their own interests to punish takers who act selfishly toward others, they’ll go out of their way to reward givers who act generously toward others.”

Could it be that matchers are more malleable and influenced by givers and takers? The act of punishing is generally seen as an emotional justice rather than objective one. While our emotions play a vital role in making wise decisions, the purely emotion decisions we make are often self-centered and focused on the immediate outcome. In this way, punishment and purely emotional justice would be the behavior of a taker. There is a story of a Native American tribe in which an individual from outside the tribe murdered an individual within the tribe. While the family of the murdered man pleaded with the chief to execute the murderer as punishment, the chief, after listening carefully to everyone who spoke, decided that the murderer should be taken into the tribe and to be “loved as the one who was taken from us was loved.” In response to his decision, the murderer lost his composure and broke down sobbing. This act of giving and loving; of acceptance and belonging, taught the man more than any punishment would. A matcher following the taking role would have pushed for an eye for an eye and had the man executed. However, the chief pursued the giving role. He took the emotion and struggle of the situation and matched it with objective problem-solving. Giving does not have to be naive; in fact, it rarely is. The issue is that we mistake idealism with naivety. In fact, I believe that the most pressing issue is that matchers may be the least objective of the three personalities; allowing their emotions to dictate their actions, and reactions.

I feel that to best explain the interaction of Matchers with Takers and Givers is through two spectrums in conjunction.

When I began reading Give And Take, I imagined the three personalities like this:


This gradient would show the amount of giving that an individual does, and that we all land somewhere on this line.

However, taking into account the thought that Matchers may be the more emotional of the three, I believe that Grant is actually trying to explain the spectrum as this:


In this spectrum we focus on what CBT therapists would call the level of “mindfulness.” With the emotional mind on the left (matchers) and rational mind on the right (takers), the center of the gradient would be a balance of both emotional mind and rational mind, creating the “wise” mind.*

With Matchers, and their behaviors, being more easily swayed by their emotional response to the actions of others, they respond accordingly to Takers and Givers. Takers, on the other side of the spectrum, focus on calculated actions that focus on their own outcomes. Both Matchers and Takers are acting out of a fundamentally selfish perspective, as their actions are more short-sighted. That is, they look to an end or an accomplishment that is foreseeable from their actions. This puts Givers right in the middle

In the same way that emotion and objectivity individually can pose a challenge, but the balance of both is ideal, Matchers and Takers can pose challenges to those around them and even themselves, but the Giver mentality is ideal. Givers, as stated before, are rarely naive, and they are even more rarely calculating. They are a perfect balance of the motivations for Takers and Givers, which creates a beautiful symmetry of both strengths with neither of their weaknesses.

Givers are altruistic in nature, focusing on how to benefit others because it makes the world a better place. This perspective would not be possible without connecting to the human element and utilizing emotion as a fuel for our rational, objective engine. It is why we do things that drive change, but it is how and what we do that puts that change into action.

If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to pick up his book. You can find it here.




*terms “Emotional Mind,” “Rational Mind,” and “Wise Mind,” are from a psychoeducational treatment called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

What we can learn from business innovation to better ourselves.

Recently, I had the chance to watch a few presentations given by Simon Sinek. For those of you who have not heard of Simon until now, he is a speaker, business consultant, and the author of the bestselling books Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last. If you would like to watch his TED talk, click here. In his talk, Simon discusses the idea that companies that do not only survive, but thrive, do so because they are in touch with the “why” aspect of their job. Not only do successful, innovative businesses know what they do and how they do it, but they also have a complete understanding of WHY they are doing it. Simon repeats in the presentation that people do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon’s presentation got me thinking… If one of the keys to a successful business is found in maintaining a connection to why the company does what it does – not so much what they do or how they do it – then wouldn’t it make sense that the what and how of a business can, and at times must, change in order to align with the fundamental purpose of the company? To that end, I submit that innovation, in it’s nature, is only possible within companies that are viscerally connected to why they do what they do. Otherwise, the desire to push and stretch and improve would be drowned out by the pursuit of accomplishing what they do. So, establishing this thought, let’s discuss the topic posed of this post: What we can learn from business innovation to better ourselves.

As I stated: successful businesses maintain a direct link to the why of their brand; the true purpose of their existence. So, since that purpose is always visceral, idealogical, and in all ways human, then how does this translate to human behavior? Does our purpose, if we are attempting to live our lives through that sense of fulfillment, sometimes call for behavioral innovation? What would happen if we didn’t adapt our behaviors to match our purpose?

Take Apple’s first laptop, The PowerBook, for example.

At that time, the laptop was one of the top of the line technological pieces of equipment. It sold because it was an innovation. Today, it wouldn’t be worth buying to be used as a paperweight. If Apple said, “Well, this laptop is selling like crazy right now! Let’s just keep making this laptop and not try to improve on it,” they would have faded in to the blackness with Napster and the XFL. But they didn’t. They adapted and innovated, because they were connected to their purpose and they were driven by it. We similarly suffer and fail when we continue using coping mechanisms that we developed in the past. At the time, those coping skills were what kept us going. However, now they just get in our way. Those working in skills-work recognize that many struggles we chronically face are most often due to our inability, or unwillingness, to adapt. Considering this, I believe that our behaviors at times need to adapt and change in order to maintain connection with our purpose; not just as a more effective means of obtaining fulfillment. Most importantly, they can’t adapt without us having an understanding of our own purpose. Our inability to adapt to our current state, specifically to match our current challenges in the most fulfilling and authentic way possible, often can be the actual reason for our struggles.

It’s as if we were given a square block and a square hole to fit it in. After fitting the block through the hole, another square hole was given. And another. And another. Until suddenly we are given a circular hole. Instead of changing behaviors, we just try forcing the block through. We get frustrated, we get tired, and we feel like we can’t accomplish what used to feel like the simplest of tasks. Maybe instead of trying to force what once worked but clearly is holding you back, you just need to adapt to the situation. Sand down the edges, grab a different block, or create a new approach to the problem. Maybe you just need to get innovative. All that I know, though, is that true innovation and lasting adaptability is never possible without understanding what drives you. Otherwise, those adaptations are just more square blocks and Powerbooks.

If you would like to learn more about Simon and his writings, I have listed his website and two books below.

Start With Why

Leaders Eat Last

Simon Sinek



How Self-Care Can Hurt

I was driving home one evening after a long day at work. All day my phone would not stop ringing and I had multiple deadlines to meet simultaneously. Driving home, I felt exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was to make that high protein, healthy carb meal my fitness class said I just had to make to keep seeing results. I wanted to see results, but I wanted comfort more. So, on the way home, I pulled into a drive-thru and invested in my immediate future.

Because that’s what I really did in that moment. I made an investment. We hear people say, “make an investment in your future!” followed by whatever change in lifestyle they are selling. Eat more greens, do more yoga, run more, etc. It’s seen as an investment when we make lifestyle changes for the better. Perhaps it’s another motivational ploy to keep us committed to a behavior that takes consistency and a lot of time to show an impact. However, I like to think that it truly is an investment, like any financial investment. You simply are investing in your own physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health.

At this particular moment, I just so happened to make an investment; shortsighted as it may have been. Whether it was an hour after eating the food, immediately after the last bite, or just after I handed the employee my money, I regretted that action. However, as the goal-minded beings that we are, I knew that I was in that drive-thru for a practical reason. The only issue was that reason was being misguided by my emotions.

Let me take a moment and state that I am not trying to shame people away from eating fast food and toward home made meals. It simply stands as a good example of what we often do for ourselves compared to what we know we should do. Disclaimer accomplished. Carrying on.

You see, this experience helped me realize something. As we do things to ease our tension and blow off steam, it becomes evident that there are activities that seem to be positive in the immediate, here-and-now, but are not as beneficial in the long run. On the other end of the spectrum there are the actions that require repeated, consistent behavior to see a change and often lead to lasting benefits. However, knowing which is which can be more difficult than one would imagine. In order to be able to make that determination, we need to develop some skills. One, in particular.

The most important step we can ever take in discerning immediate gratification from long lasting, positive, change is increasing our mindfulness.

I’m not talking about centering our shakkras or achieving spiritual enlightenment. What I am talking about is increasing our ability to, at any given moment, observe and comprehend the state we are currently in. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of increased mindfulness, that is, the objective awareness of our current state physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Among many other things, increased mindfulness improves our mood regulation, or relationships with our co-workers and family, and even our quality of sleep. The reason it is so beneficial is because it gives us the ability to truly observe how we feel and how we react to the world around us. I know that when I started practicing guided meditations and deep breathing practices, my life slowed. I was able to notice how certain situations would cause anxiety that I had never noticed in the past. That added knowledge gave me the opportunity to develop more effective means of focus and self care. Without this developing skill, I would still be trying to take care of myself through means that are short sighted and never fulfilling what I truly needed.

We are always trying to take care of ourselves. Whether we give ourselves a reason to indulge in something that gives us immediate gratification, but with it guilt, or we practice mindful behaviors that honor who we are and what we need, rather than want.

When we invest in healthy and long lasting self care practices, we are better equipped to focus on our accomplishments and fulfillment. Our reduced need to look inward and continually tend to our physical and mental wellbeing empowers us with more opportunities to look outward; to grow as individuals. Take time for yourself, but be mindful of how you do it. You may find that there what you have been doing to take care of yourself has actually been working against you, and all you need is to give yourself the time you deserve to understand what truly feeds you.


Emotion’s Role In Our Actions

I have realized two things over the last five months.

First, I love the mobility and flexibility of my job.

If I feel I would best focus at home for a few hours, then move to the library, the office, or a coffee shop, I am not only able, but encouraged, to work from wherever I am most successful. The best part of working where and when I see fit (and second realization):
I HATE rush hour traffic.

While I sit in the car, staring at the break lights of the cars in front of me, I feel like I am wasting my time. I feel like there are a thousand things I could be doing. I feel useless. But above all, it just plain makes me angry.

I hear unbelievable stories about road rage. Videos of people getting out of their cars to fight. Louie CK does a great bit about how much more willing we are to absolutely lose our minds at one another when a pane of glass separates us from our target of rage.

While I have never felt the urge to actually get out of my car and put my 6 months of 4th grade karate to use, I admit I have felt the flood of pure rage when that BMW doesn’t feel the need to use it’s blinker as it threads the needle between that semi and myself. Oh don’t worry, I didn’t need the rubber on my tires anyway. After all, I have always thought skid marks are the paint to the canvas of the highway. You do you, you rebel artist.

But always after those moments, and many times during those moments, I ask myself, “why is this making me so angry?”

We can all tell our own stories about crazy drivers and our pet peeves while driving, but there are so many times when those very situations that have made us so angry in one instance didn’t affect us in the slightest in another.

So, as the goal oriented theorist that I am, my question is this:

What causes us to experience the full spectrum of emotions from, essentially, the same experience?

Well, let’s look at another theorist for an articulate take on this question.

“Not only does the axis line, the line of direction posited by the goal affect individual characteristics, physical movements, expression and general outward symptoms, but it dominates the life of the feelings as well. It is a remarkable thing that individuals always try to justify their attitudes by feelings… …We can conclude that the feelings always agree with the individual’s viewpoint on his task: They strengthen the individual in his bent for activity. We always do that which we would do even without the feelings, and the feelings are simply an accompaniment to our acts.”

That was Alfred Adler, for the querying types.

So. From Adler’s perspective our “line of direction,” or attempt to obtain or realize  a goal, causes the emotions that we feel regarding obtaining that goal. However, he wittingly points out that we use the emotions created by the axis line to justify our desire to obtain the goal. It is as if an individual who is attempting to obtain significance through intellect uses their anxiety about being in a state of “not knowing” as a justification for their ritualistic and obsessive reading of scientific literature. When, the fact of the matter is, the root of their anxiety is the belief that intellect begets significance. It is an emotion birthed from our actions that we use to justify those actions. Thus, what Adler is stating is that the feelings we have are another means of obtaining the goal we have set for ourselves.

So, returning to our traffic example. If we were stuck in traffic, we can’t have absolute certainty that we will respond with frustration. We may find ourselves relieved that we are stuck on the highway. This shows that it isn’t the situation that causes the feeling which causes the action. The situation simply acts has an opportunity to obtain whatever goal or sense of fulfillment.

We have to look past the immediate situational and ask ourselves, then, why we are experiencing these emotions. How are we benefitting from feeling this way? Does being angry at the traffic gods justify our tardiness? Is our status of being late or on time significant to who we are?

You see, our emotions are a tool just as much as the actions inspired those emotions. They articulate who we are on a deeper level than an objective action. To truly understand ourselves, we can’t stop at looking at what we are doing. We must look at how we justify what we are doing. Then, most importantly, we can find out why; the goal behind all of our actions, feelings, and thoughts.