Is Your Impulse Control Better than Sophie’s?

This is Sophie, our Wheaten Terrier. She had leg surgery two months ago. She has been wearing this “cone of shame” to prevent her from licking the wound. Again, that was TWO months ago! Every time we take it off, she immediately starts licking the wound. We’ve wrapped it. We applied a sour apple ointment. We’ve even applied a product called Yuck! Her natural impulses always win out.

The truth is, I sometimes feel like Sophie. As I write this, I am tempted to check social media, read the news, grab another cup of coffee, start another project, clear my e-mails and on and on. Sound familiar? With all the distractions and manipulations in today’s environment, controlling the urge to click on a funny image, respond to someone’s zany comment or just watch 30 seconds of cute kitty videos can be overwhelming. Sometimes, we simply give in to all this due to decision fatigue. (The irony is that we are doing this to each other through our marketing and promotional efforts.)

But this failure of self-control impedes us from achieving our daily and long-term goals. Our personal and professional successes are the result of the habits we develop and the self-discipline we exercise. Arguably, there is some luck and timing involved as well. But even that luck and timing has to be leveraged with good habits when it appears. I know I am preaching to the choir here. But I need to hear it occasionally as well. I’ve found that one of the best ways to address this challenge is to emulate those around me who are more consistent in their impulse control. Pretty much every one of us can point to others in our environment who have possess stronger habits than we have, at least in some endeavors.

When I speak to young professionals about decision making, I suggest a simple two-step process for developing impulse control: Begin by figuring out who the best decision makers are around are you. Then ask yourself two questions – “What are they doing that I should be doing?” and “What are they NOT doing that I should not be doing?” In reality, this is a good exercise for anyone, regardless of age. (I am preaching to myself here, as well.) So, what’s one little area where you can begin to improve your impulse control right now?

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