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Social-emotional learning helps us become the best possible versions of ourselves. While we make this available for children and adolescents, we don’t do so as much for us adults. When we increase our own social-emotional wisdom, we can benefit by feeling calmer, more confident, and improving our relationships. We can also become a model for those around us.

We do our best to be the best we can be. However, we may feel like we are walking the road of life without a map. We try to meet our needs as best we can, but sometimes, our choices don’t lead to our needs being met. Sometimes they even garner the opposite result.

There are times that we do what we do, and after we’ve done it, we wish we hadn’t. Have you ever done something and then wanted to take it back? I have often wished that I could rewind before I yelled at my husband because I was having a bad day!

We always have choices about how to meet our needs but we rarely know it at that time. We are making choices at every moment about what we think, feel and do. You’ve already made multiple choices today. The trouble is, many of the choices we make are made on auto-pilot.

We are often unaware that we’ve even made a choice, or that other choices were possible. Even when we know that we had a choice to make, we often make them by default, out of habit, or based on beliefs without proof, better known as assumptions. These assumptions are based on our attempts to make sense of our world when we were much younger.

They were put together based on the limited information we had at the time and then rarely questioned. They tell us what to think and how to feel and act, like a running monologue in our heads. They affect very area of our lives, from our emotions to our self-esteem to our relationships.

In the blink of an eye, and without our awareness, our assumptions inform our thoughts, which immediately lead to our feeling a certain way which is closely followed by our acting in a certain way. As an example would be a friend calling us to ask for a favor. We are swamped, and the logical choice would be to say no. However we might assume that we have to please and be liked by everybody, think that it would be awful to say no, feel stressed mixed with a dose of guilt and an unbidden “yes” might fly out of our mouths.

In order to meet our needs in the best ways possible, it is helpful to push our “personal pause buttons” . We can slow down the assumption to thought to feeling to action chain, making conscious choices that serve our best interests. In order to begin this process, we can first examine our assumptions for ways in which the limited information that shaped them has led to skewed logic and exaggerations. We can then edit them to represent more realistic information.

Looking at the assumption above, we can use this approach to help ourselves say no with less concern, leading to less overload. We can first examine the error in logic that has us believe that we can predict the future, sometimes referred to as “crystal-balling”. It would be more realistic if we looked at a range of possible outcomes. In our example, these include the probability that we would not lose our friends by saying no and taking care of ourselves. It is likely that a real friend would understand and remain a friend, even if we denied a request.

We can examine the error in logic that that leads us to stretch the truth by generalizing. Using our example, we can question whether or not it is necessary or even possible to please everybody all the time. We can also question whether it fair to please every single person to the exclusion of ourselves.

We can look at the logic error of “awfulizing”, believing something to be far worse than it is. Related to our example, we may not prefer to say yes, but would it really be awful to say no? We might have liked to help out, and some people might not be pleased if we said no. However, it is not realistic to say that it would be awful to say no and take care of ourselves. Armed with all this information with which to edit our assumption, we have a greater chance of getting off our “autopilot” response and saying “no”.

This is just one example of how we can become editors of the “scripts” we unconsciously write for ourselves. The next series of blogs will focus on how to apply this approach to support our best selves. We will edit assumptions to help us deal with difficult emotions, increasing gratitude and leading to more calm and joy in our lives. We will build more self-supporting ways of measuring ourselves, leading to increased confidence. Finally, we will develop ways to approach relationships from a win-win perspective, leading to more positive connections.

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