I just finished up a 12 hour workday. I got a lot of stuff done, took only the bare minimum in breaks, etc. All I wanted to do afterwards was watch Elementary, a modern Sherlock Holmes show. Somehow my "no new shows" rule gets bypassed for new shows about Sherlock Holmes, and I've been enjoying this one.
Last week I watched Elementary. I noticed that while I was watching, I was also doing other stuff on my computer-- organizing files, cleaning up email, checking things online. The anticipation of watching the show was extraordinary, but the actual experience didn't measure up. It was enjoyable, relaxing, stimulating, etc, but not as great as I expect it to be.
As I've written about before, I'm one of those people who has pretty poor impulse control. That's why I give myself so many black and white rules that Absolutely Cannot Be Broken. If my impulses see a crack in my resolve, they push through it. Being someone with poor impulse control is a really bad thing, too; the habit is correlated with less success in pretty much every area.
You'll notice, though, that I'm not watching Elementary right now. Instead I'm writing a blog post. For someone as prone to impulse as I am, it's important to rely on tricks while simultaneously buliding up resistance to impulse over the long term.
The trick I used today, mostly by accident, was imagining how I would feel. I was really excited to watch Elementary, but then I remembered how it felt to watch Elementary last week. Good, but not spectacular. How bad does it feel to hit midnight without having written a post? Pretty bad. And last, how good will it feel when I'm stuck on a plane with a dead laptop battery and I have a fresh episode of Elementary to watch on my phone? Pretty good.
The great thing about this trick is that because it relies on emotions, it actually quells the desire to act on the impulse. I don't have a strong desire to watch the show anymore, but I do have a strong desire to keep working until the bell.
The difficult bit is remembering to use the trick. At least in my case, sometimes the window between impulse and action is so small that I'm acting before I even realize it. For the past six months, though, I've been meditating very consistently, and the one tangible improvement I've noticed is that the window between impulse and action has widened long enough for me to sometimes pause, breathe, and think about how I'll feel.
Photo is a random Buddha statue, I think from the Met in NY.
Going to China next week with Leo!
By the title of the post, you might think this about to be some amazingly woven story of how restricting my calories helped me build talent and thus get married. Nope. It's just a post about a few really good books I've read recently.
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes is a pro-meat book which covers dietary "history" since the 1950s. What I liked most about it was that it covered three angles simultaneously, the political angle (which, unfortunately, seems to have as much of an impact on our nation's diet as any other angle), the research angle, and the biological angle.
“Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox & Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch-box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine...”