Impulse Control Deficit: What It Looks Like

Our great accomplishments can be blemished by a lack of impulse control. Do you see any of these behaviors in yourself?

A lack of impulse control is a lurking deficit and many of us have blindspots. Impulse Control Deficit can manifest itself more clearly in times of high stress. For those in a leadership position, a lack of control over their compulsions will sadly become magnified in a public spotlight.

The best way to think about skills like Impulse Control is to think behaviorally. In other words, what does a lack of impulse control look like at work? Here are some examples of what it might look like:

  1. Interrupting Others: Individuals with poor impulse control might frequently interrupt colleagues during meetings, conversations, or presentations without allowing them to finish their thoughts.
  2. Impulsive Responses: Instead of carefully considering their words or actions, someone lacking impulse control might blurt out their thoughts or reactions without thinking about the consequences or appropriateness.
  3. Difficulty Following Instructions: People with weak impulse control may struggle to follow instructions or guidelines, opting to do things their own way without considering the established procedures.
  4. Emotional Outbursts: Outbursts of anger, frustration, or irritation can occur when someone doesn’t have proper control over their emotions. This can disrupt the work environment and negatively impact team dynamics.
  5. Risky Decision-Making: Impulsive individuals might make decisions without thoroughly assessing the pros and cons or considering potential risks, which can lead to poor outcomes for projects or the company as a whole.
  6. Procrastination: Difficulty in regulating impulses might result in avoiding tasks that require sustained attention and effort, leading to procrastination and missed deadlines.
  7. Over-Sharing: People with weak impulse control might divulge personal or sensitive information in inappropriate contexts, such as sharing personal stories during professional meetings.
  8. Inability to Focus: Frequent distractions and difficulty maintaining focus on tasks could be indicative of a lack of impulse control.
  9. Difficulty Taking Constructive Criticism: Someone struggling with impulse control might react negatively or defensively to feedback, rather than considering it thoughtfully and constructively.
  10. Excessive Socializing: While workplace socializing is normal, an inability to control impulses might lead to excessive chatting, gossiping, or engaging in non-work-related conversations during work hours.
  11. Disruptive Behavior: Impulsive actions such as making loud noises, engaging in horseplay, or repeatedly interrupting the workflow of others can disrupt the workplace.
  12. Overuse of Technology: Constantly checking personal emails, social media, or other websites during work hours due to a lack of impulse control can affect productivity and concentration.

Try This: It’s About Time

When you find yourself overwhelmed by anger, stress, or fear, it’s crucial to put as much time between you and the situation as possible.

  1. Take a deep breath to calm your racing thoughts.
  2. Acknowledge without judgement your own emotions; it’s okay to feel this way.
  3. Remove yourself from the immediate situation, if possible, to create physical and mental space.
  4. If leaving isn’t an option, mentally count to ten, allowing your initial emotional surge to subside.
  5. Positive self-talk is crucial. Remind yourself that you can handle the situation calmly.
  6. Visualization can be a potent tool; imagine a serene place or visualize a positive outcome.

It’s important to note that lacking impulse control doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has a serious disorder; it can simply be a personality trait or temporary behavior. However, if these behaviors are persistent and significantly affect one’s ability to work effectively and maintain professional relationships, seeking support or strategies for improvement might be beneficial.

What a Lack of Impulse Control Can Look Like outside of work

Poor decisions can throw fuel on fires sparked by anxiety or anger, leading to a painful cycle of impulse-driven animosity and alienation.

Struggling with impulse control can have various negative effects on your personal and professional life. If you’re concerned that you might have a problem with impulse control, here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:

  1. Frequent Impulsive Decisions: Making decisions without considering the potential consequences is a common sign. These decisions might include overspending, risky behaviors, or making choices that conflict with your long-term goals.
  2. Difficulty Delaying Gratification: Impulse control problems often involve an inability to delay immediate gratification for a greater long-term benefit. You might find it challenging to resist immediate temptations, such as indulging in unhealthy foods or overspending.
  3. Repetitive Problematic Behaviors: Engaging in repetitive behaviors that are harmful or counterproductive, despite knowing their negative consequences, is another sign. This could involve substance abuse, gambling, overeating, or excessive shopping.
  4. Inability to Learn from Mistakes: Continuously repeating the same impulsive actions, even after negative outcomes, suggests a difficulty in learning from your mistakes and adjusting your behavior accordingly.
  5. Poor Anger Management: Difficulty controlling anger and responding impulsively to frustration or irritation can be indicative of impulse control issues. This might involve outbursts or actions that you later regret.
  6. Relationship Struggles: Impulsivity can strain relationships. Acting without thinking might lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and damaged connections with others.
  7. Financial Troubles: Frequent overspending, accumulating debt, or failing to stick to a budget might signal impulse control problems. This can have a significant impact on your financial stability.
  8. Procrastination: Constantly putting off important tasks in favor of immediate gratification can indicate poor impulse control. This behavior can hinder your productivity and success.
  9. Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus on tasks or conversations due to a constant stream of impulsive thoughts and actions can be a sign of underlying issues.
  10. Feeling Guilty or Regretful: Experiencing strong feelings of guilt, regret, or shame after acting on impulsive urges is common among those with impulse control problems.
  11. Lack of Planning: Frequently engaging in activities without proper planning or consideration of the future can be an indicator. This might include sudden trips, career changes, or major life decisions made without sufficient forethought.
  12. Risk-Taking: Engaging in risky behaviors without adequately assessing potential dangers can point to impulse control difficulties. This could involve things like reckless driving, unprotected sexual activity, or substance abuse.

If you notice several of these signs in your behavior, it’s advisable to seek professional help. There’s no shame or judgement; getting a little bit of help can lead to a big ROI for you personally and financially. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, can provide an accurate assessment and offer strategies to improve your impulse control and overall well-being.

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