4 Seconds

The Urge to Move on a String of Ideas is Hard (Image: Shawn Ward)

Take three breaths, in and then out. That’s about 4 seconds. Our brains scientifically need 1-2 seconds for an urge to react to move past our amygdala (our monkey or reptile brains) and reach our prefrontal cortex where rational thought can take over. Today’s world, the action now world, makes this super hard. We’ve been trained childhood into adulthood that action versus inaction is what makes us successful in our endeavors. The truth, it is the worst thing we can do.

We need to interrupt our normal patterns to want to react and take action to every stimulus that comes our way. That takes time. 4 seconds to start with. Over and over again.

Lets take something that is near us more than other humans, our smartphones. When it beeps or wakes up and you see that notification, your first reaction is to want to grab it to see what’s important now. Take 4 seconds before you grab it, breath, and bring yourself back to what you were doing before the interruption pinged you. If its still important, like a call you’ve been waiting for at a certain time, then pick it up. Simple and very hard to do at the same time.

Before you go to bed, take 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, and ask yourself a couple questions:

What worked today?

What didn’t work today?

Getting your behaviors daily down in a journal (written or electronic) for just 5 minutes a day will give you the incredible power of perspective. The 4 second habit is not as easy as you think to change your old reactionary self over to a more rational one. You’ll need to think about all the times you reacted versus how you were proactive with your habits to jump to action for several days. With a map (the journal) of what your triggers are, you’ll be able self-aware and stop more before taking action. You also will move into each day with a little more purpose and intentionality with your choices.

As you logged your reflections from the day, where were there opportunities to recognize the type of surroundings you were in? How could you maybe think about changing your expectations of your reality based on the environment you’re going to work/play/learn in? The best thing you can do for yourself is to practice selective action versus actioning on everything that comes your direction. What environments make you less selective in your next steps? What ones make you more reactive? This perspective and knowing that before walking into the environments you spend a lot time in will help. Listen to learn versus respond.

Lastly, where does meditation live in your routines and habits? In today’s information first and action now environments having meditation play a better role in your life is a great skill to have. Learning how to resist urges, creatively, has helped me tremendously. Overcoming the anxiousness of moving from space to space in my head, HUGE! I’m clear headed with my choices and I get more from my ideas. I’m sure others around me get the best version of me through this habit too. I would hate for them to get the high strung, action oriented, directionless one they cannot depend on. I choose far more strategically and intentionally than I have ever before. I have regular meditation practices to thank for this ability. A regular practice of 15-20 minute daily meditations before or after my day is all it took. I expect this to get longer in practice with time as I learn to value it more and more.

Interrupt your normal patterns. Take a breath for just 4 seconds before deciding to move. Let the stimulus pass and make a more intentional next step by allowing yourself to have the space and self-awareness needed. Make a great decision versus one from the hip. The people around you will be so much more attracted to someone that thinks differently over the one that tackles everything the same way over and over again.

Have a great week! Welcome to March!

✌🏻 Shawn


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