Star Wars nerds everywhere are scrolling to the bottom of this post to let me know I got the quote wrong. But, if you give me a few minutes, I will explain.
Yes, the quote is wrong in the sense that Obi Wan actually said:
However, I’d like to make a case that Obi Wan actually meant was for Anakin to be mindful of his feelings.
If you are not a Star Wars person and you have somehow managed to avoid a Star Wars fan convincing you of it’s greatness by dragging you to see this particular movie (Star Wars: Attack of the Clones), you may not know what transpired before the scene above. Essentially, Anakin has a pretty major crush on the senator from Naboo. The senator is in danger, and Anakin and Obi Wan have been sent to protect her. Anakin and Obi Wan have a conversation about Anakin’s inability to sleep. Obi Wan asks if it’s about his mother. Anakin responds by saying he’d rather dream about the Senator and that “just being around her again is intoxicating.”
In this scene and in many others, which consequently lead him to the Dark Side, Anakin is reacting to his feelings, not his logical thinking processes. It is Obi Wan who is reasoning with Anakin; Anakin is not reasoning with himself. Therein lies the problem.
Know the difference between feelings and thoughts.
We know there is a difference between these two words, but most people have a hard time defining them. Like Anakin, we often express our thoughts as feelings. For example, “I feel like no one understood my presentation.” This isn’t a feeling; it’s a thought. The feeling might be insecurity, inadequacy, confusion, or anger. Thus, a thought can be defined as the internal words of justification and/or description of our feelings. A feeling, then, is our experience of our emotional state.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy asserts that thoughts create feelings, feelings create behavior, and behavior reinforces the thoughts. The limbic system of our brain is our emotional center. When our thoughts have been reinforced by irrational feelings and behaviors, the whole process cycles within our limbic system, gaining traction and steam to feed more irrational feelings and thoughts. These thoughts do not move into the cerebrum, which houses analytical reasoning and higher order thinking.
React or Respond?
Anakin reacts to feelings. Obi Wan knows this, which is why he is constantly trying to get Anakin to consider his thought processes by telling him to be mindful of them. When we react, we go from emotional state –> feeling –> unconscious thought –> behavior. A response, however, pushes our thoughts into the cerebrum for analytical processing. Therefore, a response follows these steps: emotional state –> feeling –> conscious thought –> behavior.
See, feelings are important, but as Obi Wan tried to tell Anakin, they don’t always tell us the truth. They give us information; they don’t give us instructions. Our thoughts give us instructions when we are able to push them out of our limbic system and into our frontal lobes for closer inspection.
It is vital for leaders, like Obi Wan, to be mindful of their feelings and thoughts by responding rather than reacting. Responding is thoughtful, builds trust and relationships, and usually yields better business and relational decisions than reactions.
Be like Obi Wan. Be mindful of your feelings. Respond rather than react.