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Friday, February 01, 2008

Emotional Investment - Emotional Yield

I just talked to a fellow that had turned down an appointment to West Point. He decided to get married instead.

It reminded me in reverse of a fellow I knew that was always concerned about how his name was pronounced, he would interrupt classes and conversations if he heard Steve instead of Stephen. He would get red faced and adamant about someone knowing his name was NOT the short version.

The common thread between these two seemingly unrelated stories is the emotional attachment of the parties.

In the first, the man considered all the benefits of West Point; free high quality education, secure future, an "old boys club" that can't be beat, and to repeat - security!!! He traded all of that for financing his own education and an uncertain future. He also retained his freedom and got to marry the girl he loves.

In the second, Steve was defensive and always uncomfortable waiting for the need too defend a name someone else had given him. He had no gain from his defense, just a reputation as a prickly sort of person best avoided.

In the first we have an active decision to go the route with the most personal promise. As in all speculations, he could be wrong; but he made what to him was the best decision based on current information.

In the second we have a refusal to consider the costs of change, and a huge emotional investment in a single variable that returned a negative emotional yield. The thought would have been rejected immediately that he could easily change his name to any that suited him; and start concentrating on more important ideas. As John, or Bob, or David he would have little investment and be able to seek a positive return for his other emotional commitments.

What does this reveal for us about ourselves?

We need to look closely at what drives us emotionally, and at the returns we derive from our commitments. If a value or a relationship yields happiness and contentment perhaps it merits an increase as a percentage of our emotional portfolio.

If those factors that effect us emotionally have low or negative yield, be they jobs, national affiliation, attitudes, or commitments -- they need to be reviewed. We may find that changes are in order. Perhaps we have already made the best choices in major areas - but might it not be wise to develop the habit of questioning new values as they arise, and periodically the old values to see if they still hold?

It is not easy to question those things we are taught to accept without question. But it can create emotional stability and emotional wealth to make our emotional investments where they will procure the greatest positive emotional yield.

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