Note: The inspiration for this post came from the book Buddha’s Brain — highly recommend if you’re interested in neuroscience. I am by no means an expert in this space and just enjoy learning and sharing thoughts about the brain and how it controls our actions/thoughts. Take all of this with a large grain of salt.
We’ve all been there before…sitting at the airport…patiently waiting at the gate for our flight to board…excited to kick off our “much needed” vacation…then the announcement…
“This flight has been DELAYED”
Of course, just as soon as you hear the word “Delayed” a series of negative reactions ensue:
I told her to book the earlier flight, why did she not listen and book this one!
This always happens to me!
Who is responsible for this!?
There goes my vacation!
These reactions are referred to as Second Darts. Second darts most often serve no real purpose and disproportionately harm us compared to the inevitable first darts. Simply, they are a result of the mind reacting negatively to the experience.
When first darts don’t even exist
One of the saddest parts of all is that many first darts don’t even exist — they are entirely drummed up in our mind.
Have you ever thought about the scenario of your boss calling you into their office to tell you that you’ve been laid off. Perhaps you’ve been called out in meetings the past few weeks and are feeling less than comfortable about your work product. On top of that, you’ve heard rumors circulating around the office that layoffs are coming soon!
So what do you do???
Naturally, you fire off a first dart → I’m going to get laid off.
Then, the second darts ensue….
How am I going to pay for my son’s school!?
We are going to have to move in with my parents because I can’t afford our mortgage!
The market is terrible, how the heck am I going to find a job!?
My wife is going to think I’m a failure!
Wait. Wait. Wait. You are now thinking about moving in with your parents (which is more than likely depressing you and affecting your current mood) based of an entirely hypothetical situation — getting laid off. Doesn’t this seem crazy?
Negative reactions to positive events
Sometimes we actually react negatively to situations that are inherently positive in nature. Think about a time whenever something that was supposed to be great for you actually resulted in you thinking about it in a negative light.
So your boss just offered you a great opportunity at work to step up and take on a bigger role → you can’t stop thinking about whether or not you’ll fail and disappoint (second dart)…
What if I look dumb in a meeting with Executives?
I’m not supposed to be in charge of something this important?
Am I even smart enough to do this?
So what’s happening in the brain
It is extremely important to realize that even just thinking about a first dart kicks off a series of effects on the body. To paint the picture a bit more, here is the chain of events that occur once a first dart is set off in the untrained mind.
First Dart: Getting laid off from work…
How to avoid second darts
The good thing about all of this is that with a little bit of self-awareness and positive filtering of your thoughts, you can save your body and mind from the negative physiological and psychological impacts.
Here are a few ways:
“There is only one way to happiness,” Epictetus taught the Romans, “and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living