The Impulsive (Part II)

Part I: The Impulsive

Be Kenobi

If we conduct ourselves in a way where an action is taken with little forethought and consideration it can be either spontaneous or impulsive. An impulsive action will usually be triggered by emotions such as fear, anger or sadness. There is a sense that the action is wrong but lack of self control enables it.

Spontaneity on the other hand might be triggered by creativity, imagination, happiness, joy or contentment. Love is a trigger for spontaneity. Flowers or a diamond ring for someone special is bought with a spontaneous heart. Deciding on a whim to get drunk after an argument is impulsive.

So how can we be less Impulsive and more Spontaneous like Obi-wan Kenobi?  Before you do anything “at the drop of a hat” or on an impulse you should try to do the following:

1. Think, think, think

Ask yourself why am I doing this? What are the motives? Does it serve? Gun shops in most states in America must impose a “cooling off” period before selling a firearm for the simple reason that the disgruntled looking man who has walked in all red faced and shaking may be intending to do something regretful.

If we are having a bad day and we decide impulsively to get “get back” by getting drunk, we need to chill for a moment and think it through. Think before reacting on social media or posting a comment or photo that will come back and bite in unexpected ways.


2. Look before leaping

So you have decided to do something, there is no turning back. If that’s the case, then may as well do it properly. What’s the rush? Instead of walking to the boss’s office right now to deliver a resignation in colorful language why don’t we sit down and write it out clearly spelling out our reason. Once written, read it back and perhaps even read it to a co-worker. Once you have finally decided to go ahead with it, do it but in a way where you don’t let your principles down and add another person to your amends list. Never burn bridges.

Taking a moment to think rationally and objectively may also help you decide on another outcome. Never draft an angry email and send it straight away. Leave it in the “draft” folder for a night and return to it the next day. You may be surprised how different you feel about what happened “yesterday”.


3. Speak to someone

Speak to a friend, partner or confident about your plans to gauge their reaction. You may be decided to act but their input may provide food for thought. Also ask yourself if acting in a certain way is consistent with your values and principles. Is it who you want to be?


4. Weigh up the Consequences

Impulsive people rarely consider the implications or the consequences of their actions. Losing one’s temper and quitting a job can lead to financial hardship and going out and getting drunk after an argument may lead to further bad decisions such as drunk driving or violence. Spontaneous people generally weigh things ups before they commit where as impulsive people don’t.


5. Know your triggers

Impulsive reactions are often the product of emotions that we have trouble processing such as anger. It is easy to make rash decisions when emotional. An argument with a spouse or a bad day at work may “force” us to make impulsive decisions. Sometimes we act on impulse when someone cuts us off on the road or we encounter a rude person.

When having a HALT moment (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) it is a good idea to delay action and pick up a phone. By knowing our triggers we can be prepared to avoid an unpredictable response.


6. Trust yourself

Impulsive people ultimately do not trust themselves. We know that history has shown that impulsive decisions lead to poor outcomes however we seem to never change. With recovery we becomes more confident and in control of our emotions. We learn to trust ourselves more in the decisions we make. Usually we know if a decision is spontaneous and good or impulsive and poor by looking inward and being true to our principles.


While sometimes it is inappropriate to be spontaneous and other times acting on impulse is the right move the opposite is usually true. Emotional maturity and sobriety means being able to resist acting on impulses particularly when the triggers are emotions such as fear, anger or frustration.

Being able to act with spontaneity can bring enjoyment, fulfillment and creativity to many people who are “free spirited” when they act with discernment, good judgement and a bit of “common sense”.

Being Jedi is not about being bland and boring where every decision is based on thorough assessment and approval. We do not go through life like automatons, inflexible and afraid to make decisions because of fear of consequence of the opinions of others.

Being Jedi is being open minded, flexible and agile enough to respond quickly to a rapidly changing environment without allowing emotions to dictate actions. Good outcomes are based on good choices and follow through. Ultimately when we are confronted with a choice we must first ask “does this add value” and “is this what I want”. The decision should be simple without resorting to impulse.

Life can be full of spontaneity if we choose. Research has shown that spontaneous people are happier. If you watch children at play you will remember a younger you when the world was so vibrant and the moment exciting and fun. Kids are spontaneous because it is in their nature. It is in our nature too. Being spontaneous expresses who we are and reflects our true divine self. Recapture that feeling of spontaneity in your life.


Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit” – EE Cummings

The Impulsive (Part I)

“if you make decisions out of fear you are more likely to be wrong” – Ahsoka Tano


Unlike Twins

If someone calls us “spontaneous” we might be inclined to view it as compliment or at the very least not a negative descriptor. If on the other hand we are called “impulsive” it is somehow a bad thing. Spontaneous people are fun to be around, they make quick decisions and think on their feet. They are doers and make things happen. Spontaneity is to suddenly quit your job and go traveling. To kick off your shoes and jump in to life feet first. The newlyweds who just met in Vegas were being spontaneous when they decided to marry. To be spontaneous is to ignore the feelings of fear and self doubt and to approach life with open and willing arms. But isn’t that what impulsive people are like? Are they not sort of the same?

The good news is that they are not the same. The Webster dictionary defines spontaneous as: “proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constrain” and Impulsive as “acting or tending to act suddenly and without careful thought He’s impulsive and does things he regrets.”. Most people would agree that being spontaneous is not a bad thing while acting on impulse can lead to regret. A spontaneous demonstration in support of a popular cause or spontaneous clapping and cheering is different to reacting on impulse to an insult with violence or getting drunk because the cat peed on the rug. Impulsivity has been called the “evil twin” of spontaneity.


The highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people” – Woodrow Wilson


Toss of a Coin

Every major decision I ever made in my life had a certain degree of spontaneity to it. In fact most things I planned do to didn’t happen instead life seemed to unfold in unexpected ways. Somehow I would make decisions on the spur of the moment and a whim when confronted with a choice. I even took to tossing a coin; “heads I do this, tails I do that” sort of approach to life letting chance decide. It was insane.

Imagine traveling or job hunting and deciding your next move on the toss of a coin or a gut feel. I would just go with the flow acting spontaneously. I met my wife with a toss of a coin. Sitting in a Pub around a table with male friends, all of us nursing hangovers from the night before, I noticed a girl at another table and caught her eye. My friends saw my glances and egged me to go over and “chat her up”. I pulled a coin out of my pocket and said “tails I go over and you buy me a pint, heads I don’t and get a round in”. Tails never fails. I never told her that story but told her my actions that night were based on a spontaneous decision, not a coin toss or Dutch courage.


Spiritual awareness unfolds when you’re flexible, when you’re spontaneous” – Deepak Chopra


Being Impulsive

Was that me really being spontaneous or was I being impulsive? I could be impulsive especially where booze was concerned and it generally led to trouble. I remember a friend of mine a Sergeant  in the Army telling me how my latest drunken spree was going to see me get thrown out. “How can you be so bloody reckless and impulsive”? he demanded in bemusement. Impulsive was what the Teachers called me every time I pulled some crazy stunt or got in to fist fights. My case officer wrote “impulsive” on my file when I was assessed during processing for entry in to the State Care system. Every time I embarked on a binge after a single beer it was put down to some impulsive behavior that seemed to come when I had a drink. I thought I was being spontaneous.

A snap decision would see me accept job and then leave it at the drop of a hat often without even any notice. I just didn’t show up after a disagreement with the boss. Confronted with a predicament or an important choice I would act on impulse and usually anger and indignation. Decisions were made on a whim and based on “f*k everything and run” (FEAR) approach. The alternative was to sit around and agonize over a decision to act and lose momentum. Without defaulting to chance, I was stuck. This was a feeling I loathed, being unable to make a decision and being immobile. Better to be moving, doing something, anything.


“Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been.” – Chief Seattle


Impulsive by Nature

I did not know it at the time but impulsivity is a characteristic of people with  an addictive personality. Alcoholics get drunk at exactly the worst and most ill thought out time because they are impulsive by nature. Our Orbifrontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps with decision making is dulled with chronic alcohol abuse. If we were impulsive before we started drinking, we were more likely to fall into substance abuse and become addicted.

The merry-go round of addiction relies largely on an impulsive nature. Being highly influenced by emotions is also a trait of an impulsive alcoholic. We have less ability to regulate our emotions and exercise self control in our actions.


Spontaneous but Jedi

In the Clone Wars we see Obi-wan often reacting in a spontaneous not impulsive fashion. Obi-wan Kenobi made decisions on the fly and could react instinctively to a rapidly evolving situation. Obi-wan had the ability to quickly think things through and act when required, otherwise he paused and waited for the right opportunity. Ob-wan’s master, Qui-Gon Jinn was also spontaneous and unorthodox in his approach and was also good at inspiring and motivating others. Yoda too could be spontaneous in his actions and often surprised friend and foe alike with his ability to quickly transform from contemplative elder to agile warrior. Yoda could be serious and measured and then be almost childlike in his interaction with others.

Anakin on the other hand had an impulsive nature driven by emotions. Anger, fear and frustration often clouded his judgement and allowed him to act in impulsive and reckless ways.


“A powerful Jedi you are, yet unpredictable and dangerous you can be, to both your friends and your enemies.” – Yoda to Anakin “Clone Wars – The Box”.

Danger to ourselves

Someone who is spontaneous can be impulsive and vice versa. The two are different but not mutually exclusive. If a person is spontaneous they are usually described as enthusiastic, idealistic, independent, creative and dynamic. Traits that describe Obi-wan Kenobi. Spontaneous people can switch from one thing to another quickly and act on a whim but they do so mindful of the consequences.  Impulsive people are described as reckless, emotional, obstinate, uninhibited, reactive, uncontrollable and impetuous. Words that describe Anakin as he began to spiral out of control. Anakin’s lack of self control and his impulsive nature was a danger to himself and others.

Impulsive people will sometimes rationalize their actions but in most cases will blindly follow their emotional response without any thought. When I look at the descriptors I see Anakin in the impulsive person that I once was. My goal now is to be more like Obi-wan Kenobi.