Avoid the impulse

There are times that impulsive decisions are necessary.  There are some people who have become successful because of their impulsive decisions, but for the rest of us we should avoid impulse decisions.

Impulsive decisions often lead to regret and remorse.

How often have you decided to do or say something based on just an impulse?  Did it always work out for you or were you more likely to regret the decision?  For me I have regretted 99% of all my impulse decisions in my lifetime.  Sometimes the regret will come a month later, a week later, but often the regret comes minutes after the decision was made and I acted.  The worst part for me is that the regrets I have from an impulsive move seem to both last longer and are more painful than other regrets in my life.

There are three types of impulsive decisions I have always regretted making and I try to avoid.

The impulse purchase

We have all been at the store, standing in the checkout line, and while we wait for the person ahead of us with 45 items to purchase in the 15 item or less lane to either learn how to read or how to count, we spot something out of the corner of our eye.

It may be something shiny, or it could appeal to our taste buds, but whatever it is – it was not on our shopping list.  We grab it and toss it into our cart saying to ourselves “So I now have sixteen items, at least I do not have as many as the lady in front of me.”

We may already be aware of the risks of the impulse items at the check out lane, but our impulse to buy something may cost more than a pack of gum or a bottle of Pepsi – for my impulsive purchases have cost me more than just a few bucks.

I have been known at times to impulsively purchase electronic items (streaming and AI devices are my kryptonite).  Sure, I do enjoy them but when I come down from the high I felt when I first started playing with them (also known as when the newness wears off) I am often remorseful of how much money I spent on a toy I really did not need.

Sadly, it has become easier for consumers to make impulse purchase.  Between the ease of shopping via the Internet and apps on our phones, and how easy it is to use a credit card (which takes away the feeling of actual cash leaving your wallet) impulse purchases have become not only a thing, but a lucrative business for stores and the credit card industry.

When those bills come in for the past month’s impulse purchases, if you are not already regretting spending all that money – you will because once the money is gone you can not get it back.

The impulsive reaction

You are in a conversation with another person.  It might be a friend, a co-worker or family member that said something that offended you.  You act on your first impulse which is often “if you hurt me I am going to hurt you back more.”  The words you spoke were not chosen carefully, they more likely were chosen out of anger and you impulsively blurted them out.

I cannot (and honestly, I do not) want to count the number of times I said something out of impulse that I have regretted.  Sometimes the impulse was because I wanted to hurt someone back who had hurt me, other times I though I was being funny, and I wasn’t.

Words blurted out impulsively can never be taken back. The damage done may take a while to be repaired – if it can be repaired at all and remorse is coursing through our heart and soul.

As much as many of us, including myself, have made strides in not impulsively reacting in face-to-face interactions, the Invention of the Internet and the explosion of social media has made it easier for us to impulsively react to information and opinions of others.

Sadly, most of us have found it easier to impulsively tell some faceless person how we feel on an issue or their opinion without any regard of the feelings of others.  When it comes into a flame war, we regret what we said.  Even if we go back and delete our original comment, it is too late.  Someone may have taken a screenshot of that comment and now it will live on forever on the Internet – leaving you to regret that comment for the rest of your life.

The impulsive behavior

An impulsive behavior can range from impulsively choosing to go to a World Series game instead of studying for a mid-term to choosing to go out and drink with your buddies when you know you are battling a problem with drinking.

Like any other impulsive decision, impulsive behavior will feel good at the time, but often, you will regret it.

How to avoid he regret that comes from impulsive choices

There are two keys that I have found that have helped me limit both acting on impulse and the regret that comes afterwards:

  • Self-Disciple: when I became self-disciplined in all aspects of my life: finances, relationships, goals, etc. I have found my self-discipline habits help prevent me from making impulsive decisions that I will regret.
  • NEVER respond to anything out of anger, hurt or any other negative emotion: This is a rule for me that I often follow (okay, I am not perfect at it but I am getting better).  When someone says something to me, especially online, I make myself walk away form the computer until I calm down.  I have learned, the hard way, that when you impulsively respond to any situation that has upset you, you will regret your response 10 times more often than you won’t.

One of the hardest things to learn in life is when to be impulsive and when not to.