Take a Walk

You can’t control your impulses.

If you are angry, you are angry.

Our emotions are real and affect the way we see the world. It is a mistake to ignore or bottle them up. When we don’t honor them, they can change our perspective. Often, they harm our effectiveness, ensuring we see false connections that recreate that emotion.

For example, if you are angry, by bottling your anger, you’ll see more connections to anger because you never resolved your rage in the first place.

Take a moment to acknowledge the emotion, and then look for a way to control your reaction.

For example, instead of bottling up your emotions after something annoyed you, which may lead you to shut down during a meeting, if you have the leeway, get up and go “use the bathroom.” Take the time to walk around for a minute and talk to someone about anything that makes you happy for 30 to 45 seconds.

When you get back to the meeting, you’ll be refreshed and ready to work.

Instead of controlling your impulse, seek to control the reaction. This attempt of control doesn’t stop or invalidate your feelings, so we avoid the dangers of “bottling up.”

Card Games and Impulse

I think of our impulses not as good or evil, but as a pulse of possible reaction.

Maybe our minds are like a deck of cards, and each impulse is just a single card.

Card games usually give us more than one card to play. Any experienced card player would never put the cards down and play the next card on top.


Impulse and Beating Yourself Up

I hate being impulsive.

Relying on impulse is the easiest thing to run to when a situation isn’t going well. The impulse is the great mental escape, and it feels good to answer the first impulse and ride it until the wheels fall off.

There are several culprits to whet my appetite for impulse. If my phone is around, check it, tweet, send some texts out. If I am at a bar, grab a drink and get lost into space. If I am at a restaurant, grab some food and get into the taste. The  impulsive feeling is strong. It feels good and makes me comfortable. These are things I control. I will do anything to take myself out of discomfort, even if it is only for a second.

I always admire the people who get the big things done. When I think of them, I think of self-discipline and willpower. With that said, after picking up the book Daily Rituals, I recognize that is an over simplification.  The book talks about the rituals of many people whose work I respect. They are people who got some big things done. They were also impulsive. They didn’t have the cell phone, but they had a newspaper. They didn’t have a movie house, but they had a play. There was always a drink or a drug, but they learned that a system based approach works better than anything else.

Two lessons I picked up. One, beating myself up isn’t going to make me better. Self discipline matters and so does willpower, but one must factor humanity. I am not a robot so I can’t pretend that I won’t mess up and I won’t have impulses.  Two, when you feel odd, make sure you have a huge book collection. The wisdom that you can grab from a book is always there, it doesn’t change its words, and you learn without judgement.