(This is the second chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy)
On the pages of a comic book and on screen in the movies, super heroes often have the power to do extraordinary things.
Super heroes come in all different shapes and sizes and they employ a varying degree of different specialties. Those that are immortalized in print and film tend to be able to save or change the world with their abilities and, generally speaking, we, as mere mortals, are unable to learn how to do what they do or even fully comprehend their greatness.
I happen to be more interested in the super heroes among us who have faced fears and conquered obstacles and, in the process, have become experts in mastering the challenges of everyday life. These super heroes are otherwise completely ordinary, except that they have developed powerful skills that help them effectively stare down the same fears and obstacles that deter and derail others.
The Guiltless Wonder is an example of one such super hero. She has effectively eliminated guilt from her life and her thought processes and, therefore, lives with a clear conscience and a powerful ability to assess situations and events for what they really are. Her judgment is never clouded by second guesses and, because her mind is clear of guilt, she enjoys every new day for what it is and gets the most out of it.
You may ask how the Guiltless Wonder has achieved such an admirable skill. I asked her that very question and she was very happy to share her process and very confident that anyone who follows his process can learn to do what she does and eliminate guilt from their life.
The Guiltless Wonder told me that she employs a three-step process as part of every decision she makes.
1. She pays attention to her instincts.
2. She sets out to be understood rather than liked.
3. She carefully deliberates before she finalizes her decision and takes action.
The success that the Guiltless Wonder has had in eliminating guilt is especially remarkable given the destructive nature of this formidable foe. As you may know all too well, guilt can be one of the biggest detractors you will face in your attempt to make good decisions on a consistent basis. When guilt is present, it can dampen your joy, subtract from your peace of mind, and rob you of the confidence that is essential as you move forward through life.
At its core, guilt is something that you feel when you regret an action or an event that has already taken place and cannot be changed. By the time you experience guilt, there is rarely anything that you can do about what has already occurred. Guilt is a harmful additive that is likely to have clouded your thoughts and created unnecessary anxiety for you at some point, if not on a regular basis.
A feeling of guilt can also compound whatever negative emotions you have about a prior event or decision by influencing decisions you try to make going forward. Now, instead of the event being an isolated case that is addressed and dealt with, guilt pervades other thoughts and actions and may project onto other people and situations that otherwise have nothing to do with the original event that gave rise to the guilt to begin with. This is the definition of taking a bad situation and making it much worse.
So, let’s take a cue from the Guiltless Wonder and minimize the damage your feelings of guilt have already caused you by setting a course that will effectively block it from ever having undue influence over you again.
The first step that the Guiltless Wonder takes to steer clear of guilt is to be in tune with her instincts. She incorporated this idea into her decision making early on when one of her elementary school teachers instructed her not to change her answer on a test she was taking. Her teacher cited some source or data that indicated that your first answer is usually the right answer. The Guiltless Wonder interpreted this suggestion as another way of saying that she should pay attention to her instincts and her instinctual answer is often the first one that comes to her mind.
While she always reserves the right to change her mind if new or more detailed information comes to light, she now knows that her first response is typically the one that is most natural and the one she arrives at before she may start to over think anything. If she has a natural or “gut” feeling for a direction that she may want to take or a decision that she needs to make, she takes a positive step toward avoiding guilt because she is following the course of action that came to her naturally and instinctively. There is no need to second-guess her actions if she simply is true to her instincts.
This is not to suggest that she simply gives way to her primal drive when it comes time to make a decision. Her moral compass and her own will power also play a vital role.
The Guiltless Wonder never worries unnecessarily about what someone may think about her or the action that she takes. She realized long ago that whether she was liked or people liked what decisions she made was a highly subjective thing. If she based the validity of her decisions on what other people thought, she would face a constantly moving target and probably set herself up to always feel guilty.
Instead, and to the extent that other people can influence her desired outcomes, she determined that it would be far more worthwhile to focus on being understood. If her actions are understood, she stands a far better chance of avoiding a guilty feeling after having decided.
Developing an understanding of a situation, a circumstance, or a decision also helps her to clarify motives and reasoning. Even if someone doesn’t agree with her, they will not be left to wonder why she ultimately did what she did. An understanding builds some common ground and, if that exists amongst people, there is much less room for guilt to develop.
The Guiltless Wonder develops an understanding with others simply by being able to articulate her thought process and explain what factors she considered and didn’t consider. To do this effectively, she always takes care to carefully consider her options and the ramifications of her decisions prior to making them. Careful and considerate deliberation is yet another way for her to avoid feelings of guilt after the fact.
If she has done her homework up front and she is comfortable with the process that she went through to arrive at her decision, there just isn’t much of an opportunity for guilt to develop. Once she has the confidence that she has taken all of the steps necessary to make a good and informed decision, there is no reason to worry about the course she has taken.
If there is an art to her decision-making it is that she makes choices with all of the passion and personalization that she can summon without letting her personal tie to the situation at hand cloud her judgment or dilute her conviction.
By being alert to and acting in concert with her instincts, setting out to be understood rather than liked, and employing careful deliberation when considering her options, the Guiltless Wonder has accomplished an extraordinary feat. She lives peacefully and guilt free and you can too if you follow her example.
This is the second chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series.
Be sure to check Scott's Spot on Patrolmen's Dispatch for each chapter of his Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy; and his ongoing Serial Decision Maker series.