Q: You went flat out all week but never completed your critical task. What happened?
A: You forgot to slow down.
Here is an analogy. I love mountain biking. The gnarlier the path the better. But sometimes I get so caught up in negotiating the next rocks and drops that I fly right past the turnoff. I end up lost. Sometimes I have to climb all the way back up.
Have you ever been in the flow like this, where you completely loose track of time? It feels so good! You just don’t want it to stop. But what was the cost of having to repair the mistake? Sometimes in hindsight it was totally worth the cost. But at other times, we are only able to listen to the strongest medicine such as a missed business deal, an accident or a fling that cost the marriage for our self awareness to develop. Often it is the worst costs that force our long-term focus to mature. These are the lessons that change our behaviour.
Impulse Control: Indulgence is a textbook ADHD symptom.
Some mountain bikers say they are going too fast to prevent a mistake about ten percent of the time. So far, it has been blind luck that they haven’t been injured. And they are fine with it. Being too “in the moment” in the workplace might include forgetting to follow-up on an initiative, getting a parking ticket, or enjoying researching for an article for way too long.
How does one become aware when they have derailed from their task? When lost in the moment people can become blind to choices we are making.
The solution is to develop the habit of checking if you are present. But that can only happen when you have decided, and I mean really decided, that the direction you are taking is what you truly want.
I recommend using a reminder device. An elastic. An egg timer. A ring. A bracelet. Or post it notes. Set calendar appointment alarms with questions in the title. Anything that will cause you to ask yourself: “Am I actually doing what it is that I want to be doing with this time?”
I have found that strengthening our self-discipline muscle means being fine with saying no to indulgences and wanting to say yes to what it is we really need. Saying no means that you can stay focused on what you really want to say yes to.
Believing in yourself and your vision is a necessity. But it’s not enough. You need to make the decision you want it enough to do the work. This means living like a person who earns it especially when nobody is looking. Have you ever had a moment when you suddenly become aware of what you are doing e.g. you pulled out of the driveway to the left as if you were going to work, but you needed to go right? You snapped out of autopilot. Congratulations! We can do the same thing just as we slip into an indulgence that might protect us from social threat, or from feeling uncomfortable from effort. Snap out of your autopilot and into your presence so that you are aware of what choices you are really making. Once you have decided for yourself the rest is much much easier. A coach can help with this.
If I asked you when you have done this before, you would give me a long list of when you did a great job of snapping back into being present. You can do this: it is a question of degree and how much you want it.
Self-discipline bootcamps can help you address sudden urges. Or coaching support can help you train your new thinking habits and action reflexes to step up to what you are capable of.
My guess is you already have lots of grit, just look at what you have accomplished so far. But could you accomplish more if you had better impulse control? If you managed your focus more effectively, what could you achieve? Evaluate if the cost of indulgences is getting too expensive at this point in your life. If you could do it alone with the tools and support you presently have, you would have done so already.