Avoiding The Downward Spiral

Back in college, I was working on a group project. Everyone in the group had different ideas on how to solve a problem, and for some reason the discussion got very personal and heated. A couple of us lost our cool and said some things that shouldn’t have been said. I ended up storming out of the meeting in disgust.

I was still in a bad mood when I met my girlfriend for dinner. “Those guys are the biggest @#$@ I’ve ever worked with! It’s impossible…” My girlfriend listened patiently as I ranted on and she made an effort to calm me down.

The problem was that I didn’t feel like calming down; I was still looking for a fight. My girlfriend and I ended up having a huge argument over something silly and irrelevant.

Later that night, I was trying to study for an exam, but I felt exhausted. I was emotionally drained. I had calmed down at this point, but couldn’t stop thinking about trying to reconcile things with my girlfriend and group project team. I couldn’t focus and ended up doing poorly on my exam the next day.

In 24 hours, one little disagreement had turned into a couple of long, bitter fights and a bad grade on an important exam. I had injured my group dynamic, alienated my girlfriend, and hurt my academic career in one fell swoop…all because of a few bad decisions. Each bad choice led to another, and another, and ultimately created a vicious downward spiral.

Some people have the ability to make a bad choice and somehow prevent it from affecting the rest of their life. I am not one of those people…and I’m certainly not alone. For most of us, emotions transfer from one situation to the next…and will affect the decisions we make.

So what is the solution? After all, we’re going to make bad choices sometime. Here are a few ways to avoid going into a tailspin:

Recognize that you’ve made a mistake: It’s never easy to admit that you were wrong, but it’s often the right thing to do. In my next group project meeting, I apologized for my behavior and made an effort to listen to other people’s ideas. This not only improved the group culture, but also allowed me to gather more attention and respect for my own ideas. I could have avoided the whole negative spiral had I just done this from the beginning.

Be aware of your feelings: We need to know when we’re feeling angry, sad, scared, or even overly excited. Once we understand our emotional state, we can adapt our behavior. Emotions are only temporary and they are much easier to control once we know where they are coming from.

Never take things for granted: This is a huge area of improvement for me, which is why I’ve tried to put myself in other people’s shoes more often. It’s much easier to empathize if you make an effort not to take others for granted. This is especially true with the people who matter most – your families, significant others, and even your loyal customers and business partners. Acknowledge their contributions to making your life better, and your life will continue to improve.

How do you avoid the downward spiral?

One Response to “Avoiding The Downward Spiral”

  1. Pratima says:

    Dear Sathvik,
    Beautifully written and very true.  Keep writing, I am looking forward to read more of such nice articles.

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