“Do not give in too much to feelings. An overly sensitive heart is an unhappy possession on this shaky earth.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” — Carly Fiorina
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“One rough patch is not the big picture.” — Ellen DeGeneres
Trends are more important than your feelings.
Not pop culture trends, but trends in data.
Trends in the data about your life that you gather everyday.
You need to focus on the trends because your feelings are not an accurate gauge of how something is going.
You cannot just rely on your feelings alone.
If you have one negative feeling about a project, a person, an event, a job, or a place — does that mean that thing is always negative?
Should that one bad feeling cause you to think that the whole endeavor is inherently bad?
No, that would be ridiculous.
The reason this is ridiculous is because having a negative experience one time is what scientists call an n of one.
It’s just one single data point.
You cannot draw an accurate conclusion from a single data point.
It just doesn’t work.
When scientists study something, they know that they must gather multiple data points.
Scientists perform experiments with many replicates, and then they repeat the whole experiment several times, until they are ready to make a conclusion.
They don’t just look at one data point and then make a judgement.
This is how you should view your own life and the decisions or judgement you make about it.
Think to yourself, “Am I making this judgement based on an n of one?”
“Or, do I have many data points to support my argument?”
Relying on just your feelings and neglecting to see the trends in your own life leads to unnecessary unease.
It makes your life harder.
Stop giving your feelings so much weight.
Take a step back and view the bigger trends at work to really understand your trajectory and make better judgements.
Why Trends Are More Important Than Your Feelings
When you focus on a single negative instance, instead of zooming out and viewing all the data, you are making a false conclusion.
You’ve surely heard the phrase, “false positive”.
These are used when initially, a single data point suggested a certain outcome, but further testing proved it to be false.
This initial, single data point was wrong.
But, many people will take that single data point and run with it — they will take that senario to the extreme, instead of gathering more data.
They catastrophize the situation.
And, this has an incredible negative effect.
According to a study published in Psychological Assessment, people who catastrophize reported significantly greater emotional distress, and greater pain intensity, than non-catastrophizers.
By obsessing over one negative data point, you end up creating a worse environment for yourself.
You actually start to perceive the world around you as more stressful and more painful.
But, the opposite is true as well.
According to a study published in Health Psychology, acceptance of a situation for what it actually is, rather than catastrophizing it, mediated the effects of catastrophic thinking.
In the study, patients with chronic pain who did not catastrophize had less depression, less anxiety, and less physical impairment from their chronic pain.
Take a step back.
See your situation for what it really is.
Focus on the trends, not your feelings.
3 Times You Should Focus On Big Picture Trends Over Feelings
You are almost certainly relying too heavily on your feelings.
And, it’s negatively impacting you.
Trends are so much more important than your feelings.
Figure out where you are using your feelings to make judgements, instead of relying on the larger trends, and you will see improvement.
Here are 3 ways you are probably letting your feelings take over instead of focusing on the more important and informative trends…
1. A negative health test ≠ you have a debilitating disease.
Let’s say you go in to the doctor for a routine test on your blood sugar.
You get the results back for this one test and it showed that your blood sugar levels are high.
You start to panic.
You think you have diabetes.
You start to do tons of research about diabetes on the Internet.
You buy books about combating diabetes.
That is what happens when you focus on one feeling, instead of the trend.
A whole cascade of stress and fear.
It was one blood test.
You started having those feelings before you even took any sort of follow-up test.
You only have an n of one.
You need several more data points before you can draw any conclusions.
All that panic was completely unfounded.
You just need to go back to the doctor and have some follow-up tests before you jump to a conclusion.
If you were really concerned about being a diabetic, you should get multiple data points across multiple days.
Get the blood tests checked in triplicates on every single day.
Gather multiple data points, over multiple days — only then can you really know what’s going on.
Only then can you view the trend.
2. A bad day at work ≠ your career is awful.
Trends don’t just matter in regards to your health — they also matter in terms of your success, your life, and your happiness.
Certainly, you have experienced this scenario:
You’ve had a really bad day at work, your boss was all over you about something and it felt bad, and you hated it.
And, because it felt so bad, you generalized and thought that the entire job sucked.
Maybe you questioned what you were doing with your career.
Maybe you thought that your life at that point was awful.
One bad day, one feeling, and you are certain that your entire life and career are terrible.
You’ve let your feelings have too much power.
It’s just one data point.
Just an n of one.
You had one really bad day.
What you should do is zoom out and ask yourself, “How many of my days are bad and how many of them are good?”
If you’re going to work and you’re enjoying it, or you’re at least getting by 9 days out of 10, that puts things into context.
It allows you to see the trend.
About every 9 days, you’re going to have a bad day.
If you know what the trend is, you can prepare for it, and you can deal with it.
Always look at the overall data.
Look at the trend.
3. A fight with your partner ≠ your relationship is awful.
The same rule of trends applies to your relationships, too.
One day, you get in a fight with your partner and it makes you feel bad.
So you think, “This is the worst relationship ever, I can’t believe I’m in this relationship.”
But, this is just one occurrence.
You cannot draw any conclusions about the relationship based on one argument.
If 99% of the time you’re happy and things are fine, and then you have one fight every once in a while, you’re valuing that one data point way too much.
You are neglecting to see all the other times that you were happy.
You are using an n of one to make a judgement.
You must zoom out and look at all of the data.
Be more objective and evaluate all the data points without focusing on one event and one feeling.
This applies to other types of relationships as well.
Whether you are evaluating the strength and viability of a romantic partnership, a friendship, or a business partnership, don’t place too much value on any one single experience.
Always take a step back and gather as much data as possible.
Then, you will be able to make the best judgement.
Trends matter. No matter what you’re trying to make happen for yourself, you cannot neglect looking at the trends. You are probably focusing too much on your feelings if you think that one negative health test means you definitely have a debilitating disease, or a bad day at work means your life is awful and you hate your career, or that one fight with your partner means you are in the worst relationship ever. Zoom out and look at the trends. Don’t just look at snapshots. Trends are more important than feelings. Don’t just look at one data point, or one snapshot, or an n of one — collect some more data and you’ll get to where you want to go, faster.
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