Reeling in That Impulsive Urge

Brian picHurry, stress, and fatigue play into the temptation to impulsively declare, “I’m done with that task.” What started with enthusiasm, or maybe just teeth-gritting duty, has turned into the craving to say, “The job is done” when it’s not, well at least not to high standards. A little voice inside says, “This needs more attention, more looking over,” but that thought brings waves of “No!”

A decision might even seem firmed up, but the inner voice won’t let go. Restlessness and dissatisfaction keep stirring up useful agitation begging for reconsideration: “Don’t let your decision harden into a fixed state yet.” Decisiveness is a virtue but not if impulse has sneaked in and swarmed the better brain cells out of necessary grit to make sure all is right.impulse-ctrl-button

I fight this impulse regularly. It’s part of being human, but quality work is built on more than pleading human frailty. Much is gained by having to weigh up consequences and contingencies when the desire to do so is zero, or less than zero. It’s the ability (learned from failure) to think through the welter of opposing thoughts, all crying. “This is just too hard. It’s too much trouble. This will just have to do. I’m sick of working on this.”

You don’t want your nurses, doctors, generals, and financial consultants thinking like this, or the coaches of beloved sports teams, your children’s chaperones, or the contractors working on your house.

takeyourtimeIt is true that some individuals beat things to death. “Enough!” we cry. I read about an author who never would have published his book because he kept finding things to fix or change. A friend told him that he had long overdone the process, and it was time to get the book to press.

More often though, regret comes from under-doing a task, not overdoing it. College is a place where more overdoing is likely welcome, and where impulsiveness hopefully is driven into retreat.

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