How To Manage Impulsive Decisions

25 October 2010, by A. Cedilla

Generally speaking, hardly anyone has ever made it to the age of majority or moved past it without having made decision’s they’ve grown to regret.

For what it’s worth, the deep issue with making impulsive decisions does not just end with their results, which by themselves can’t be taken back, but lies with the control and discipline necessary to harness the impulses behind these decisions, and the willingness to learn from the aftermath.

Being able to control your impulses are tied in with you having important personal goals and a sense of direction…If you don’t know what you want, any old thing that catches your fancy can trip you up on you way to who knows where. And that’s sad.

Children and teens can get away with this to a certain extent because they’re still learning about themselves, and trying to find out how they fit in the world. Past a certain point, though, you just have to have learned enough to stand on your own and make an informed decision as to how and where your life will go. The great part of growing up is the mastery you can attain with every difficulty you conquer and every new skill you earn.

One important skill to master is to learn how to manage and control your impulses. But how?

Find the factors and environments that contribute to the most common impulsive decisions that keep tripping you up. Assess those factors. Then act to lessen their influence. Sounds simple, but in practice, it isn’t so easy.

For one thing, people have different triggers and areas in which they let themselves loose. You may deal with stress by reaching for a tub of ice-cream. A colleague may choose to dive into a marathon session of Warcraft. Your friend may head for the nearest mall-sale whenever she feels out-of-sorts. Your spouse may just take it into their head to tell off that jackass in Accounting, when in reality it’s just the aftermath of the recent visit from your in-laws.

For another, we each have different areas in which we suffer the most from impulsive decisions. Time, money, attention…add your own problem area.

For example, it’s hard for you to keep friends because you have this little issue with your temper. Or you work hard to pay the bills but somehow the money keeps getting away from you. And so on.

Common problem areas include money (trying to save it, or stop spending so much of the little you’re saving), time (trying to make your time count, or not wasting it on stuff that doesn’t matter), strong emotions (anger-management, anyone?) and focus (scattered attention is a common side-effect of the many demands we have on our time).

A few of the factors that contribute to making impulsive decisions are time (usually when you feel rushed), stress, and availability of options.

  • You give in to desire and expediency – and you slip on your new weight-loss plan because the drive-thru was right there, okay?!
  • You let the emotion ride you – and you blurt out something that leaves your sweetheart reeling in shock and pain.
  • You bring a bad mood home – and take it out on your family instead of talking it over with your best friend, who’s away on vacation.

Get the benefits of foresight from your previous experiences; look back. What was it about the impulsive decisions you made in the past that stuck with you? Probably, they were:

  • Ill-thought out – you didn’t think things through and acted impetuously in the heat of the moment.
  • Based on inexperience – yes, you really didn’t know what you were doing, and you did it anyway. It was a miracle you survived.
  • Instead of thinking of the ramifications of your decision, you couldn’t see anything past getting what you wanted.

Having to live with the consequences of these actions, what did you learn from the actions where you ignored the possible long-term benefits for short-term gain? And have you applied what you’ve learned? Knowledge + action = WIN!

Dealing with impulses is easy when you know yourself and you know your weaknesses. When you know which buttons are very sensitive to outside influence, you can take the steps to shield those buttons as you live and move towards your goals.

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