Introduction: Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility is among the 10 skills that professionals need to succeed in the future. It has been difficult for me to find the right books that will teach you this skill. Although to master any skill, it takes a lot of practice, it is not about just reading books. But it is even more so for cognitive flexibility. I came across Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility by Kerry Gallagher and I was happy because the book is a great starting point to learning and honing the skill. The book was not what I expected, but it was what I needed.
In other posts, I mentioned that if you want to master a skill, you need to read five very good books on the topic to give you different perspectives. This is one of the five books on cognitive flexibility to read.
What is Cognitive Flexibility?
“Cognitive flexibility refers to the brain’s ability to transition from thinking about one concept to another. The quicker you are able to switch or “shift” your thinking from one dimension to another, the greater your level of cognitive flexibility.” Source http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/07/24/what-is-cognitive-flexibility/
Have you read?
What is Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility About?
Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility Kerry Gallagher is divided into two parts.
Part 1: Preparing for Progress
What behavior holds you back, preventing you from achieving success? Do your actions create awkward or unwanted situations at work. Are you a slave to your impulses, or can you make long lasting changes? You can use four steps – Pause, Poise, Plan, and Proceed – to achieve Impulse Interrupted.
Identify Your Impulse
Before you can interrupt the impulses that hold you back, you need to know what they are, and what triggers them. The triggers are your Impulse Zone. The author, Kerry Gallagher, recommends that you ask the questions below to figure out your impulses and triggers.
- What was the environment? Where were you? These questions will help you to identify your Impulse Zone.
- What did you do or say on impulse? What is it about this impulsive action why you want to change it? These questions help you to discover what behaviors you want to change.
- Do you know someone who is cool in similar situation? What would that person have done in your awkward or unwanted moment? These questions help you to find a way to respond to the triggers in your Impulse Zone. You have to be clear about what new behavior you will replace the awkward or unwanted impulses with.
For you to effectively apply the Four Ps, you have to find your Impulse Zone and the impulse you would like to get rid of.
Make a Statement
Now that you know what impulse you want to change and what triggers them, think about a better way that you could have responded. Write down what you would like your new behavior to be. This is your Statement. Your focus is your desired behavior to get your desired outcome. Make sure that your Statement is positive. Write about what you want to do instead of what you want to stop doing. Again, focus on the desired outcome.
Issue: I am an introvert and there are a few people who monopolize conversations. So, I often do not speak up and voice my opinions in meetings.
Make a Statement: In meetings I speak up so that others benefit from my unique ideas and perspectives.
Choose your words carefully and do not play the blame game. This exercise is to help you be in control of yourself. You cannot control others in your Impulse Zone. Identify Your Impulse is to get clear on your impulses, Make a Statement is to identify your preferred behavior. You will use your Statement to retrain your brain to change your impulses into desired outcomes. When you develop new responses to your environment, it demonstrates cognitive flexibility and allows you to stay in control.
It’s All About Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change. The more you do something, the easier it becomes until it’s automatic.
“The 4Ps to Impulse Interrupted utilize this understanding of how to reshape thought processes in order to prevent previously ingrained responses and implant new ones.”
Gallagher uses a great example of walking a trail to demonstrate this point. There is a trail that you usually take, an old impulse, that holds you back. But you take another trail that is unfamiliar to you, but it is a better one for you. You will feel some trepidation when you get to the junction because one trail is familiar, so it is comfortable. The other makes you anxious because it is unknown. You have to walk carefully along the new path because it really is not a trail yet, you are making the trail. When you come to the end, it is a beautiful site, and you know you did the right thing. But you have to keep on taking the new path until it becomes second nature and you respond reflexively.
“The more you deliberately choose a new response to a situation, the easier it will be for the new behavior to become an impulse.”
Part 2: The Four Ps
Step One: Pause – To change a behavior, the first step is to Pause. Pause before you respond to triggers with undesirable or unwanted impulses and Pause before you act. You have to Pause so that you can recognize your Impulse Zone. You can prepare by understanding what is in your Impulse Zone. Answering the questions mentioned previously can help you with this. Take time daily to visualize the situations where you act impulsively to create awkward or unwanted situations. This will help you so you can quickly recognize them and the triggers.
Step Two: Poise – Gather your thoughts and position yourself so you can show your message that you want to communicate. Say your statement like you mean it. Imagine how you would like to be, what traits you want to exhibit. Poise is the deliberate act of positioning yourself to show your more positive traits. Poise is the point on the trail where you consciously decide to turn away from the old trail and make a new trail. This is the point where I would say my Statement with conviction.
In meetings, I speak up so that others benefit from my unique ideas and perspectives. I carry myself like someone who is accustomed to speaking up in meetings. I exhibit the traits of a self-assured, confident person, who knows how to join a conversation, and does so respectfully. Practice your body language and the posture of your new impulse.
Step Three: Plan – Plan your strategic course of action that you would like to take, or the verbal response you would like to make to achieve your desired outcome. You want to master your impulses – gain control over them. Your posture and the words you carefully choose are the physical or auditory manifestations of the statement you have been saying to yourself. You are leaving behind the old impulse and replacing it with a more desirable one. You are moving toward the more desirable outcome.
Reflect on your actions and outcomes by using If/Then and I Will/So in your Statement. Design and practice a list of generic responses or actions that may be used in a variety of scenarios to give you more time to Plan when you are faced with a situation you have not practiced for.
Step Four: Proceed – Proceed is the action of deliberately carrying out your well-designed plan. As you move forward, you are in control of your words and actions. You are not home free from your Impulse Zone because you cannot predict how people will respond to your new behavior. Their response may send you back to your Impulse Zone, so you have to be prepared.
Final Thoughts: Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility
I have to find a book that teaches me how to quickly and effectively shift my brain from thinking about one concept to another. Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility by Kerry Gallagher is about replacing a negative impulse with another one that is positive and desirable, and doing it until it becomes automatic to you.
Impulse Interrupted: Four Simple Steps to Improve Cognitive Flexibility is a short e-book, but it is worth the read.
Books on Cognitive Flexibility
Literacy Processes: Cognitive Flexibility in Learning and Teaching
Conquer Negative Thinking for Teens: A Workbook to Break the Nine Thought Habits That Are Holding You Back
Links Between Beliefs and Cognitive Flexibility: Lessons Learned