adapted from Habits of Mind mini-course
Road rage, anger management, impulse buying, credit card dept. These are all signs of poor impulse control.
Planning, prioritising, calmness and orgaization. These are all signs of good management of impulsivity.
We find that successful people are able to manage their impulses well. They are able to set goals, prioritise and keep their plans on track. They tend to be thoughtful and considered in their actions, rather than rash and hurried.
It's interesting to note that this Habit was originally called "Reduce Impulsivity". Successful people aren't necessarily the ones that are going around quietly managing themselves, ticking off their goals as they go, being very straight... and lets face it, boring! There are times when we should hold back our impulses and times when we should go with them. The key is knowing which is which.
Steven Covey refers to this disposition in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He describes two types of people: reactive people and proactive people. Proactive people manage their impulsivity well in order to create a gap between the stimuli they encounter and their response. In this gap proactive people exercise their independent will, conscience, imagination and self-awareness to choose how they respond. Covey describes this as the first of his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.
Reactive people tend to jump to conclusions and are victims of their environment. Proactive people take time to consider, manage their impulses and make good choices about the best course of action. In this short video see if you can identify if the people involved are being proactive (managing their impulsivity well) or reactive (managing their impulsvity poorly).
People who manage their impulsivity well tend to spend more time on tasks that are important but not necessarily urgent. They are able to prioritize well the most important tasks and put the lesser tasks temporarily to the side.
Managing Impulsivity also relates to the ability to delay gratification, not to take the first reward that comes our way, but to hold out for our ultimate goal. This has been shown to have significant correlations to success. It also relates to the ability to withhold judgment before reaching a conclusion. A person who is able to manage their impulsivity well will take the time to consider alternatives, gather information and come to a considered conclusion.
The Marshmallow Test TED video is a great example of the importance of delayed gratification.