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!
I try to live by rules as well. In fact, my most recent blog post was about rules - http://www.betterstrongerfaster.com/rules/. I have found rules to be extremely helpful. When you eliminate decisions, you eliminate the possibility of deciding poorly.
I think it would be very helpful to develop the ability to pause. I remember that Stephen Covey wrote about pausing between stimulus and response. Easier said than done though. :-)
You make a good point but in reality, impulse control is extremely difficult, even when we realise the folly of our behaviour.
I've been thinking the same, but I guess thats where you can lay your focus and decide what is more rewarding. Probably you've built a habit of binge watching as did I. Sometimes when shove comes to push I meditate and focus on fact that producing is more rewarding than consuming and with that focus it becomes easier and fun to keep on trucking code, doing designs etc.
Love the post. Is that mindfulness meditation you've been working on?
Also, where in China are you going? If you make it to Zhengzhou, send me an email and I'll treat you guys to dinner ;)
Tynan, thanks for verbalizing what's been on my mind lately. I "discovered" this technique when I ate a chocolate cake early in the day and felt absolutely horrible and couldn't think the whole day. It felt miserable I couldn't get any work done. But the negative association with chocolate cake is now so bad I no longer get impulses to eat them (at least not in the middle of the day)
I'll do this intentionally more often.
I have found meditation helps improve my noticing about myself and increase the time between inputs and actions too.
This is bring more consciousness into how I react. Consciousness = awareness + choice. The meditation opens up my awareness to the impulse at the time when making a choice will make a difference.
That is funny, I also set up black and white rules for myself to follow. Even though I work for myself from home, I keep very strict working hours. I also have quotas that must be completed each week. Some people think I am silly, but I always tell people that the best way to have good judgement is to avoid making judgement calls. I try to decide what I am going to do, how I am going to act and who I am going to respond to situations before the time to make a decision comes. The rules keep you from making snap judgement calls which we all are miserable at.
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...”