Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quick and Dirty Guide - Impulse Control & Delayed Gratification

I love all the articles online about impulse control, written by people who probably haven't thought deeply into why someone would buy something they don't need, or do something that's unhealthy. And the spectrum of impulse control issues are wide and varied; there's a huge difference between buying something unnecessary and cheating on your wife.

Here's some advice for not playing video games from a popular website, and just so we're clear, that's their spelling error not mine: 


Think of the TV or Video games as time vampires sucking your limited amount of time out of your life. When you pick up the remote control, it is a tube stuck in your hand. The more you watch and play, the moe life is sucked out of you. You fade away, out of existence, even while your mind is screaming that you didn’t do what you always wanted to do."


Really? Really. We're adults, not children and the above seems likely to induce depression and guilt. Let's try identifying, analyzing and constructing ways to mitigate our impulses instead by practicing delayed gratification.



If you've identified that you have a problem with impulse control the first thing is to write down a list of situations you're impulsive. Maybe you're like me and you have an issue with buying things you don't need. This is what my list looks like:

1. I get an idea of something I 'need' and end up buying more things that I 'want' in order to make the trip or time spent having the item shipped 'worth it'.
2. I buy expensive food or items when out with friends to enhance the 'experience'.
3. Eating when I'm not hungry
4. Lingering on the internet for hours at a time

Once you have your list, figure out what seems to be the root cause for each of the issues seems to be: stress, filling a 'happiness hole', boredom, or avoidance.

1. happiness hole - I'm at the store anyway, I 'need' this thing, I might as well get it.
2. happiness hole - I just got paid and I want to have a good time.
3. boredom - I need a break and something to do
4. Avoidance - Tasks seem to large to accomplish, so why bother?

Now, I agree that some creative implementation of mindfulness may be necessary, but let's do ourselves a favor and be gentle with it, yeah? The last thing we want to do is induce a failure mode operation that causes negative thoughts about ourselves.

Instead let's think of ways to physically limit our ability to participate in those actions and strategies for in the moment impulsiveness. Our goal is to delay the need to deal with those feelings in order to procure a quality reward

1. When I go shopping I make a list. If there's less than 5 items on my list, I don't grab a cart. I don't allow myself to put things back to make more room in my arms for things that are not on my list. If my arms are full, it's time to check out. I have saved money and stress. I also don't feel guilty.

2. Take out cash for the evening. You'll be conscious of the fact that you'll look like a putz if you spend more than you intended...and will end up having to bum money from your friends which will not be good. So don't spend more than the cash you take out. I had a good time focused on the quality of my friends, rather than the quality of my food.

3. This one is very hard for me. At work my desk is positioned right by the break room. I can see when the doughnuts arrive on Friday morning and no one can directly see how many of them I eat. In this case I bring breakfast to work and wait to eat it until the donuts have arrived. Unfortunately, there are times where I forget breakfast and my mind goes 'pfft, one doughnut isn't going to screw us up.' Then I end up eating three through out the day. The best way I've learned to cope with this is to set a time limit. I have to wait 5 minutes and if I still want a doughnut then I have to drink a glass a water. If I still want a doughnut after that I pop a Jolly Rancher in my mouth. After that, well. I'll take a half. I only ate half a doughnut and gained self-respect!

4. On Sunday I experienced this. I've been trying all week to clean out my closet and transition from winter clothing to summer. So after about 4 hours of watching Japanology on YouTube, I finally took a deep breath decided that I could, at the very least, put my sweaters away. That was enough to get me going, because once I stuff on the bed, I had to get it off...Then I had to find some place to put it. I completed a task and now have a clean and relaxing place to get dressed.


After I cleaned out my closet I felt a huge sense of relief and satisfaction. I also ended up finding a sweater that I hated. For a moment I was on the verge of throwing it out, thinking I would just buy a new one. I realized in that moment the sweater just needed something to make it better. I replaced a couple of the buttons and patched it up using the Boro method of mending, and guess what? I love it now. It's 100% a better article of clothing.


The only scary thing about limiting your impulsiveness is taking the time to examine your actions. This week's topic of quality is coming to a close and I've learned a lot about quality and have taken steps to reduce the fluff.

What are some things that you do in order to avoid being impulsive? Let me know in the comments!





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