Practice of the Month

Reasoned Choice (POTM)

We Need To Calm Down
To Find Our Reasoned Choice

A basic concept of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism is captured in the idea of Reasoned Choice. A quote from the Greek philosopher Epictetus sheds light on the meaning of Reasoned Choice.

“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled—have you no shame in that?”

We “hand over our mind,” so to speak, in tension-filled situations by allowing ourselves to be triggered into a reactive response, which is never a Reasoned Choice. This is often followed by our own personal justification: we proclaim someone else or something else to be the cause of our reactive response.

Sorry for my outburst with our colleague. I just lost it when he declared climate change is not caused by Greenhouse gas emissions at all but is only a natural occurrence. He is just ignorant.

Our Reasoned Choice is always available. Where is it found? In our thinking self.

Every action and reaction we have is a blend of what we think and how we feel in the moment. When we think a situation or topic of conversation is safe or right-minded, we are more open and engaged. When we feel threatened or irritated by a situation or topic of conversation, even in subtle ways, we instinctively shift into classic defensive modes. We argue, get up and walk out or sit silently to protect ourselves. And the stronger our feelings of being threatened or coerced, the more likely our emotional self will overwhelm us as we lose contact with our thinking self and any hope of a Reasoned Choice.

What to do?

  • (See) Privately Examine Your State of Mind: Am I able to engage thoughtfully? Or am I in a state of extreme anxiety/anger? Then decide: Engage or not?
  • (Think) If you decide to engage, do so with a dialogue of inquiry. For example:
    • What are the facts here, and what assumptions are we, or am I making?
    • What can I offer to this exchange that will honor my views and beliefs?
    • Am I being open, honest and staying connected in my words and actions?
  • (Lead) Guide your interactions more thoughtfully and less emotionally. This calm, centered approach will not only help you but also demonstrate to others how to live a life of Reasoned Choice more consistently.

Learn more about how to See, Think, and Lead, especially in anxious times:

Mike Nowland

Mike Nowland is a persuasive and empathetic communicator with over 30 years of senior-level experience in Leadership Development and Human Resources with companies like Marriott International, ResMed, and Kisco Senior Living.

John Moyer

John Moyer has 30+ years of experience training and coaching both student and adult leaders. His focus is primarily on individual coaching along with targeted training engagements as a complement to his teaching career.