I can trace back most of my mistakes in life to two kinds of behaviors:
- Not taking action when I should have done it.
- Taking action when I shouldn't have done it.
Today, I have a few thoughts on #2.
When I say "taking action", I don't just mean it literally. It's a broad category that includes all kinds of things that usually have to do with impulse control:
- Doing something without a plan.
- Doing the wrong thing instead of the right one.
- Acting on my emotions and impulses.
- Giving in and dwelling on feelings.
These can range from minor distractions to major issues, e.g.:
- Giving in to the impulse of checking Reddit and getting distracted.
- Lashing out at someone because I'm having a shitty day.
- Skipping my morning routine and jumping straight into work.
- Doubling down on a poorly thought-out project due to the sunk cost fallacy.
- Starting a new business on a whim without doing even basic research.
- Dwelling on a negative feeling until it becomes crushingly uncontrollable.
And depending on the severity of the action, the consequences can be negligible (an unpleasant interaction, a minor distraction), or pretty devastating (wasting years of life, fortunes of money, or loads of mental energy on trivial things).
These examples all have the same common thread: I'm charging ahead (physically or mentally) without taking the time to make sure I'm acting in my best interest.
Hit the mental brakes. Slow down. Stop. Breathe. Take the time to think.
This is something I try to do whenever I'm feeling impulsive, not thoughtful. When I want to drop what I'm doing and get distracted. When I'm stressed out. When I feel like what I'm doing doesn't make any sense. Or when I get an idea that feels brilliant, like the best thing ever. When I'm irritated and have an urge to complain about it. Or lash out. Or feel sorry for myself. Or sit down and cry.
When I catch myself in one of these states, I make an effort to pause and refocus. Sometimes simply catching the impulse and not acting on it is enough. Other times, I may need to repeatedly bring my mind back to the task at hand until it stops flailing around. If I'm in a particularly busy and stressful period in life, I may need a few days to slow down, get out of the weeds, get my head back above water, rise above the noise and stress, and regain my sense of awareness and direction.
This may sound simple, and sometimes it really is. Sometimes all it takes is a few seconds (minutes) of NOT doing something. Not thinking something. Not saying it. Not reacting. Other times, slowing down feels literally impossible, and I have to come up with techniques to help me. Distraction blockers. Guided mindfulness exercises. Thoughtful discussions with close friends. Writing. Substances.
The important part is not just to stop briefly and then jump right back in, but to really slow down – enough to regain your sense of awareness. I had periods where I'd gone weeks meditating daily, but still never being present – doesn't work.
Slowing down is one of the most important techniques in my mental toolbox. It's something I learned the hard way over the years, and I hope it helps you, too.
Have a mindful week,
A few thoughts
Reinventing the emotion wheel. I spent the last couple days actively trying to deconstruct my feelings and emotions to figure out what kinds of them I experience the most and what components they consist of. A fun exercise!
Zoomers are alright. When I hear a version of "kids these days" I can't help but think of the person saying it as a cranky old geezer no matter their age. Go spend some quality time with the younger generation and put the idea of their inferiority to rest. Big fan of Zoomers right here.
No shoes no service. Got kicked out of the gym last week for wearing socks and finally sat down to pick a pair of versatile weightlifting shoes instead of my generic trainers. Went with Nike Metcon 8 – looking forward to smashing my PRs.
Adult Awakening: My Personal Health Transformation and Journey "This journey started with a near-fatal accident that forced me to reassess my health and habits. I emerged from the wreckage healthier, stronger, and driven to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships."
Create and Curate (fs.blog) "When people are telling me that ‘I’m doing this because of my childhood’ or ‘I’m doing this because of this,’ I think you’re giving up some amount of power."
Parking Laws Are Strangling America | Climate Town I visited the US for the first time last year, and the massive empty parking lots felt surreal to me as a European. Here's my favorite climate comedian/сommunicator explaining how it happened and what do we do about it.
The fun part
Having photographer friends is seriously underrated.