March 26, 2018 Have you live your life on tilt?

In life adverse events can very easily cause distress. Even the smallest negative occurrences can make you think that an entire day or week simply isn’t going your way. While caught up in the minutiae of your days may sometimes dictate the ebb and flow of your emotions, it’s important to keep your eye on the big picture, which is almost always positive. As in: be grateful. Here you are, alive! This is existentially important for your mental health in general, but also if you succumb to negative emotions in insignificant moments, your decision-making will suffer for it.

Annie Duke in her book “Thinking in Bets,” describes us all as “ticker watchers.” She says we have a tendency to obsess over abnormalities in our lives’ routines, even if they are insignificant in the grand scheme. We look at the stock ticker and we obsess over the minute-to-minute or day-to-day performance, even though the reason we invest in the first place is generally for long-term gain. If we get a flat tire in the middle of the highway, we’re “watching the ticker” and exclaiming, “I can’t believe this is happening!” But in all likelihood, you’ll get the tire repaired and forget about the event in a matter of days. So why not acknowledge the big picture in the moment rather than freaking out?

When a poker player cracks under the pressure of particularly unfortunate outcomes, they’ve been “tilted.” Losing sight of that long-term, big-picture goal is tilt. Tilt can compromise your decision-making clarity, which can result in additional bad outcomes. The signs associated with tilt are typical of someone who has become too upset and are generally visible in behavior, and audible in tone and language. Someone who holds an angry face, sighs deeply, or mutters to themselves, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!” is tilted. If you identify that you’ve become too upset following poor outcomes, it’s often best to disconnect from the situation entirely. The heightened emotional state you experience can easily cloud judgment and exacerbate the situation.

Duke describes a technique called 10-10-10, which can be used as a ubiquitous reminder to keep an eye on the big picture. When faced with a particularly momentous decision, or an unfortunate outcome, ask yourself, “How will I feel about this (decision or outcome) in 10 minutes? 10 months? 10 years?” Mental time travel to specific points in your future can help you associate the moment with specific developments and goals you expect. And remember: don’t be afraid to ask your pod for support in moments of tilt as well. Ideally, they should be able to spot the warning signs before you do.

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