Do you choose your response or act on impulse? Impulse says, "eat the M&M" or "pull the lever", or "hit the snooze button." It feels good in the moment. It’s bad for you in the long run.
Why Do We Do It?
If it’s bad for us, why do we do it? Because it feels good. We’re wired for survival. It’s basic instinct. Me want food. Me want sex. Me want sleep. It’s a simple, decision making process. Your emotions drive you. That is, unless you …
Choose Your Best Response
You can choose a more effective response. Here’s how. Inject a pause. Before you react, get your options. Then choose. To get your options, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you want to do? (you already know this, but put it out there)
- What does your gut say?
- What would be in your best interest?
- What’s the most effective thing to do?
Putting your options on the table helps invoke your best thinking. It breaks the automatic response of just doing what you want. At the same time, your getting input from your emotions, your gut and your mind. Now you can make a thoughtful response. Simply put, it’s being mindful. The fact you make it a choice, empowers you. Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you. For me, "what’s the most effective thing to do" helps a lot.
Practicing the Pause
You can use the Power of the Pause for a variety of scenarios. Here’s some examples:
- Breaking a habit.
- Starting a new routine.
- Changing from emotional reactions to thoughtful responses.
I use the Power of the Pause when I reach for something I shouldn’t eat. I use it each time I hesitate to hit my treadmill. I think of it as willful improvement.
Improving Your Effectiveness
Here’s some more information to help improve your ability to choose your best response:
- Your thoughts create your feelings. What you think about, changes how you feel. Think about it. How do you feel when you remember the best part of your day? What about your worst?
- Changing the question, changes your focus. You can change your focus, by changing the questions you ask yourself. Asking what’s the best thing for you to do is very different than asking yourself what you want to do, or not asking at all.
- Prefrontal cortex over fight-or-flight. Our prefrontal cortex is our mental simulator. It helps us think better. It’s an advantage over animals how simply react. But only if we use it.
- Don’t let people push your buttons. Whether you’re reacting to insults or trigger words, remind yourself that you can use the Power of the Pause to choose your best response.
As simple as it sounds, injecting a pause can make a huge difference in the quality of your life. As one of my mentors puts it, "you’re the sum of your decisions."
What are some simple ways you can use the Power of the Pause to improve your life?
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Photo by Pink Sherbert Photography.