The Golden Question: See Into the Future and Make Better Decisions

Have you ever done something really stupid…Only to ask yourself later:

What was I thinking?

I know I have. I almost had one of those moments recently.

We were on a beautiful vacation in France, our first time away since the pandemic. So, we’re waiting at a red light, it turns green…and suddenly, this guy pulls out of now where to make a left turn, right in front of us. He had zero regard for me having the right of way. I couldn’t believe he did it.

Couldn’t he just wait a few seconds? I thought. Does he not care about anyone other than himself?

For a split second, I thought about following him. I’d give him a piece of my mind. Teach him a lesson.

Umm…yeah. With my three kids in the backseat.

Then, I remembered a practice I learned years ago that helps me to keep my emotions under control when I encounter difficult situations. It only takes a few seconds…I like to call it:

What is the golden question?

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

How will I feel about this in:

  • a day?
  • a week?
  • a month?
  • a year?
  • 5 years?

This question can be super helpful, and it has a lot to do with the way our brain processes emotions.

When it comes to high-level, rational thinking, we typically engage the frontal lobe, the largest part of our brain. But when we feel attacked or under pressure, we engage another part of our brain known as the amygdala. The amygdala “hijacks” the brain, taking over with an emotional response.

Emotional hijacks aren’t always bad, but if left unchecked they can lead you to say or do things you later regret.

The golden question helps because it forces you to slow down and use your frontal lobe. And since your emotions are caused by thoughts, controlling your thoughts helps you to control your emotions.

In other words, you “hack” the hijack.

The golden question goes a lot further than just helping you avoid road rage.

For example: Let’s say you’ve been longing to quit your job. You’ve finally built up the courage to do so, along with a plan to work for yourself pursuing your passion. You hand in your resignation, and your boss immediately tries to talk you out of it, promising a huge raise.

That raise is…tempting.

But then, 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.
  • a week?
    Not bad. Time to plan how to spend that next paycheck.
  • a month?
    Hmm. The extra money is nice, but I’m not even sure if it’s worth it.
  • a year?
    Ugh. I hate this job.
  • 5 years?
    Arrrgh. I can’t believe I still work here.

Or how about this one:

You’re in a great relationship with someone who truly makes you happy. But you’re having a bad day, and so is your significant other. They make a thoughtless remark, and you’re tempted to say something hurtful in return.

But first, you ask yourself:

How will I feel about this in:

  • a day?
    Not good, but she deserved it.
  • a week?
    Hmm. I can’t believe we haven’t made up yet.
  • a month?
    Since that fight, things have never been the same. Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I said.
  • a year?
    I can’t believe we’re breaking up.
  • 5 years?
    I wish I could have that day back.

Of course, we all make mistakes we can’t change. And you can’t live in the past.

But that’s the beauty of the golden question… It gives you a glimpse into the future, so you can have a “second” chance at the present.

By learning to control your thoughts and emotions, you can bring your words, actions, and values into greater harmony.

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

Manage your emotions.

Make better decisions.

And live with fewer regrets.

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