Impulsivity is a topic that I have been hearing about a lot from my clients lately. Even in my meet up groups (especially from parents in the parenting meetup group) I hear "what can I do to help my child with impulsivity"? Or... I know I need to slow down and 'be less impulsive' but I don't know how. Yes, there is a negative side to impulsivity. And we more often hear about and see that side. But for today I wanted to share a more positive, lighter aspect of impulsivity. This will help you consider the ways impulsivity can work for you!
Many times we view being impulsive as a negative aspect of ADHD and it often is….. But it can be a good thing too! It's what we do with it in the moment that really matters....Read on to find out how to turn the negative aspects of impulsivity into some positive ones and have more fun and joy in your life!
First off, what exactly is impulsivity? Well… the definition according to dictionary.com is… being “swayed by emotional or involuntary impulses” “A brisk and abrupt action based on a persons feeling or emotions” “often without careful thought or analysis’.
Very often impulsivity involves behavior that is very quick or spur of the moment. Many times the decision may have a negative impact on an aspect of our lives such as a relationship or our finances or even our health if we impulsively overindulge in low-quality foods.
When impulsivity shows up often and consistently without any thought it can wreak havoc on our lives, our goals, and aspirations. And when it occurs over and over in ways that do not align with our goals and aspirations it can be very harmful and destructive. It could make the difference between moving forward in our lives or not… It could also mean having healthy relationships or losing them.
Impulsivity is essentially a swift action into a decision without much thinking or consideration. Impulsivity can show up in many areas of your life, such as in relationships, career, work, finances and spending, health, and eating. When it consistently works against your goals it puts you at a great disadvantage.
With that in mind… What can help make the difference between impulsivity having a negative impact on our lives or a positive one…......
Many times we view being impulsive as a negative aspect of ADHD however, it can be a good thing too! And here is how.....
My family and I decided to take a last-minute (one might say impulsive trip) to Arizona. We literally said - “We need a vacation, let's go away '' We realized how hard we were all working and that we needed to get away... and also that we had not been away since last year… but in typical ADHD fashion, we had failed to plan anything and spring break for my kids was just 10 days away.....here is how we kept this very impulsive decision in the positive realm....
“Impulsivity Gone Right”
Using an impulsive thought and making it work FOR you…
Here are the steps we used to flip the impulsivity from negative
First take a moment and Pause… when we do this we step back and look at our situation and make a decision based on choice. When we pause to slow ourselves down we move one step away from the negative aspect of impulsivity. In the case of my family, we paused to think… “why am I so tired, what do I need right now”? That led us to think about taking a break and needing a vacation. Had we not paused to notice what was going on we may have missed this opportunity. What opportunities are before you that you may be missing because you are not allowing time to pause and notice?
We continued to pause and reflect “is this even possible”? “Can we do this”?
Next do something active to slow yourself down … such as the example with my family. We had to start to look and research where we wanted to go on this trip. That took some time. It forced us to slow down and we even ended up enjoying the process of finding somewhere fun to go.
Then delay yourself a bit longer….. The research process took a bit longer than we expected so it made us wait one more day; making us sleep on it which is always a good rule of thumb for any big decisions in your life. You can view this as being part of your impulsive action!
Build the habit of delay - what delay tactics can you use? With any decision, you need to make, build in some delay tactics that will move you away from the negative impact impulsivity can have.
Move into making a plan.. Once we paused and noticed, slowed down to learn about where we might want to go, delayed a bit further we moved into a plan. Even though it was swift it was still a plan. Yes, an impulsive action can be planned out. We planned out the kids' school schedule, our work schedules, and dog sitters… then we started planning the location, how to get there, what we would do there…..
When you work your plan you can see what is going to fall into place.... One of my dear colleagues and friends Coach Rudy, always says “one step at a time with each step informing the next”....
Create your criteria….We also created some criteria while we were planning. And you might be asking yourself, what does that mean? What is criteria?
For us in this story with my family, we basically decided that if we could pull together this trip with relative ease and it fit our budget we would do it. That was our criteria.
Setting up criteria is like giving yourself some guidelines around what you are doing. It gives a bit of structure and boundary to it.
And so it was, all the pieces fell into place as we worked our plan and set up criteria. We found a place to stay, booked the airline, and set up dog sitters…
Something that started out as impulsive and could have led to a lot of negative destructive pieces did not… because we…..
Paused and reflected on what we needed/wanted
Slowed ourselves down and did some research
Delayed a bit more, slept on it overnight
Made a plan around it
Set up our own criteria
Remember, impulsive ideas and thoughts can lead to amazing life experiences and creations if you can find a way to utilize these steps. It's what we do with it in the moment that really matters.... I hope you can find some fun and enjoyment in your life by taking something that occurs to you impulsively and using these simple steps to flip it into a positive and spontaneous experience.
I also know there can be a dark side to impulsive behavior as well. It can be swift and swoop in to steal all the joy and hard work. If you struggle with this in more negative ways - reach out and let's talk about how coaching can help. There are solutions!