“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet, you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled — have you no shame in that?”
– Epictetus, Greek philosopher
Our lazy brain is happy to just react to that relentless bombardment of stimuli coming its way. Be it friendly texts or work mails; the world is constantly demanding our attention.
And while you’re doing something, you’re rarely achieving your goals.
That’s because when you’re reacting, you’re not in control of your life.
Control your context.
Research says that we tend to indulge more in an activity if that seems easier to us. For example, we don’t eat because we want to, but because of the context. We eat whatever is there around us and is easily accessible.
When you have fewer things to react to, or you make it harder to react to them, you’ll be less reactive. Make distractions harder to reach.
Stress takes your prefrontal cortex — the rational part of your brain — “offline.” And that’s why just reacting often makes you do stupid things.
Staying calm is key to making good decisions in the heat of the moment.
“…the basic idea is that in many situations, you’re reacting with instincts programmed into your dinosaur brain, rather than thinking through a situation. If you’re in your dinosaur brain, you’re going to play out a 6 million-year-old program, and nothing good is going to happen.”
– Albert Bernstein, Clinical psychiatrist
Think about your goals.
Make sure the most important thing stays the most important thing. Questioning the action, its purpose, and the path rationally helps us focus on our goals.
Thinking about your long-term goals when you’re tempted by distraction gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine, making you feel better and more motivated.
Make a deliberate decision.
Turning down fun distractions is hard. On the other hand, resisting the urge to procrastinate is really hard.
Neuroscience proves that taking some time before making a decision saves you from bad situations.
It also helps you to overcome striatum activity which pushes you towards negative impulses. It is important to think of a long-term goal rather than doing things for instantaneous pleasure.