How to make good decisions which help you follow the rules
One of the biggest challenges in the new post-Covid world is knowing what the rules are, and keeping up when they seem to change on a daily basis. How on earth are we supposed to stick to the rules when we can’t always work out what they are? Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer Penny Tyndale-Hardy explains how we can make good decisions.
The rules seem to be written in such a way that it’s not always clear how they apply to a particular situation.
For example, ‘work from home if possible’ is easy enough if you can work from home. But if you can’t, does that mean you are allowed to go to work, whatever your job is? ‘Stay local’ seems pretty clear, but what is local? One mile from home? Five? Twenty? And what are ‘exceptional circumstances’?
This ambiguity means it’s easy to look for – and find – loopholes that justify what we want to do, even if it breaks the rules.
One reason people break the rules is because they infringe our control, our choices, our freedom. Having a sense of control is really important for our wellbeing and when that is taken away it can make us feel unsettled, anxious and stressed, and we may respond to that by rejecting those rules.
Our sense of community is important and our need to belong can make us go along with things that on our own we might not do. For example, if the group around us rejects the rules – maybe breaks social distance advice or doesn’t wear a mask – evidence shows that we are more likely to do this too.
However, there are equally strong drives that help us keep the rules. Our need for security will actively encourage us to follow rules that help us stay safe. When we understand and agree with the rules – if they seem to have meaning and purpose to us – then we are also more likely to obey them.
So when trying to decide what we do, maybe it’s more useful to start by looking at why there are rules. What are they there for?
The rules are there to stop the spread of coronavirus. The more human contact we have with others, the easier it is for the virus to spread. Science isn’t absolute, but all scientific advice will be based on data and evidence. This is then filtered through the politicians, who decide how to use the science, alongside other considerations, such as the economy and people’s wellbeing.
When we are anxious, it affects our ability to think clearly about things and can mean we make emotional decisions rather than rational decisions.
If our anxiety is about how the rules are negatively affecting us – anxiety about not seeing a loved one, for example – we may be more likely to break them; if that anxiety is more about the virus itself it might make us frustrated by others who break the rules. However, it’s important to remember that we cannot control other people’s decisions – we can only control what we do ourselves.
Good decisions come from our rational thinking rather than our emotional thinking. We need to come at it with a clear head, which doesn’t happen when we are emotionally aroused.
So if you are having anxiety around interpreting and sticking to the rules – whether because you find it difficult to keep to them, or are worried about staying safe – make sure you calm that anxiety before making a decision. Try some mindful breathing or read our other resources on coping.
When we are calm, we can clearly assess the rules and make good choices. Respecting each other and bringing compassion and understanding will help us make decisions that work for the whole community.
Author: Kristina Brinkley