Rewards of restraint
"Sometimes our power lies not in what we do, but what we don't do."
We are bombarded daily with opportunities to make impulsive decisions that may not serve our best interest in the long run, but certainly satisfy some sort of cerebral itch we feel the need to scratch in the moment. Many of us have some sort of weakness, if not several. Food. Alcohol. Shopping. Social media. If we are unable to control or limit our consumption of these things, they may end up controlling us and limiting our ability to live better lives.
I have my struggles with limiting my consumption and having more impulse control. In some areas I have made great improvements, especially limiting how much food and alcohol I consume. Youtube "research" and SmartNews are two of my recent time bandits that will suck me down a rabbit hole until I catch myself wondering where the last couple hours went. With a little more awareness around my time-consuming habits, I can reclaim some of that precious time I spent learning about the latest technology or business trend.
I have been working recently to limit my guilty pleasures by treating them as rewards for completing items on my to-do list. My problem is that I will get distracted by a headline or notification I see and latch onto it like a dog to a chew toy. For me, clicking on one link can lead me to clicking on several more, leaving less time for me to complete my to-do list. By using restraint and completing my to-do list first, I leave less time for mindless YouTube and smartNews consumption.
Famously, "The Marshmallow Experiment" from Stanford the 1970's, with more than 40 years of follow-up, showed us how delaying gratification led to less substance abuse and obesity, with increased social skills among its stronger-willed participants. Not surprisingly, using restraint and controlling our impulses can help us increase and maintain a higher quality of life. Practices like mindfulness and mediation have shown to help us have more awareness and catch ourselves when we feel like giving in to our immediate desires. By using more restraint, we choose to be more productive or more healthy (mentally and physically), helping us feel better and more in control of the ability to live a more enjoyable life.