Impulsivity and Self Discipline: Why I set myself limits

Video games are incredibly entertaining. I love entering the virtual world and becoming totally immersed in the story line, and in interactive world. As far as entertainment goes, I find it a heck of a lot more fun and addictive than passive entertainment like Netflix.

But for me, therein lies the danger. For some reason the way my brain is wired causes me to become easily addicted to things. I tend to jump in with both feet, and become obsessed until I have completed whatever it is I am doing. Its not a good thing. I need to set myself boundaries and maintain a level of self disciplined to keep everything in my life on the rails.

Sometimes I don’t have the best self discipline. For example if I buy a big block of chocolate during my grocery shopping, odds are that it will get chomped through pretty quickly – so I don’t buy them. Same goes for when I buy masses of delicious fruit… although at least that’s good for you to eat!

Risky activities: The motorcycle

Even riding my motorcycle used to prove difficult, as I sometimes felt like a Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. On one hand I was a responsible, upstanding citizen and conservative rider with great risk management skills, but on the other hand I was an adrenaline junkie speed demon who wanted to red line my engine at 16,000 RPM and couldn’t shift the gears fast enough.

With modern super-sport class bikes now exceeding a power to weight ratio of 1:1, accelerations of 0-100 kph in under 2.5 seconds, and capable of travelling at warp speeds above 300 km/hr, this can be a recipe for disaster for young men. Check out the video below for the new the Yamaha R1 with its redesigned CP4 cross-plane 998cc (1 Litre) engine pushing out over 200 horsepower – It is enough to give you goosebumps!

During the ten years I have been riding, I have seen a number of friends and family seriously injured or killed on the road. One by one, my favorite corners became memorials to these accidents, and I found myself distracted and couldn’t enjoy the ride safely. One of the most horrible phone calls I had to make was to a senior company executive to let him know one of our workforce was in an induced coma from a motorcycle accident on his way to the airport, and that medical advice was he probably wouldn’t survive (he did by the way!).

Combined with my goals to reach Financial Independence, busy schedule and a growing appreciation for the risks of riding to my long term health and quality of life, I sold the bike. This was a welcome addition to my ETF portfolio and reduced my cost of living – no more registration, fuel, insurance or maintenance for a second vehicle. These two factors combined to bring Financial Independence over 6 months closer.

However the main driver of the sale was not FI, but rather my lack of self-discipline and impulsivity, thanks to my adrenaline and dopamine fiend of a brain.

Rewiring my brain

Perhaps this is a sort of malfunctioning dopamine mechanism that is begging me to get addicted to these kinds of things. I certainly enjoy indulging, pushing the boundaries or even just settling in for a big gaming session. Every indulgence, new limit, top-speed, successful risk take or even just a sweet combo glory-kill in Doom sends my brain into overdrive with hormone’s flittering out and rewarding me for my actions, asking me for more.

I am trying to rewire this mechanism by simplifying and calming my life down, and this is something I see a psychologist to discuss. There is nothing wrong with consulting a psychologist, who are the subject matter experts on how your mind works. I don’t visit the psych because I think I am ‘damaged’ or there is something ‘wrong’ with me – rather, I am proactively engaging to ensure I am getting the best out of myself.

They help me come up with ways I can self-manage my stress, improve my self-discipline, curb impulsivity and communicate better with others. Its all about self-improvement. I have seen too many of my colleagues ‘crash and burn’ mentally in this high stress and high stake job, and the fall out can be devastating. From the seemingly ‘innocent’ alcohol abuse, divorce and the more darker onset of ‘The black dog’, I can unfortunately give you the names of a heart-breaking number of pilots who have taken their own lives. It is important to stay on the front-foot and be proactive.

I was able to rewire my brain a little bit when it came to finance and investing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep working on it to improve these other areas.

Setting boundaries

Accordingly, there are a few things I have decided to avoid or self-limit in my life. Whilst I am not 100% strict (“rules are for fools and for the guidance of the wise“) I like to use boundaries as a rough guideline for my decision making.

Without going into every specific example, here are three ways I set boundaries as rough guidelines for myself

I don’t own a gaming console

I dont own a gaming console because if I had one, I would just play it all the time. It really is that simple. I would get addicted to it and I have better things to do. They are also pretty expensive and it’s not like the good old days where you just needed to buy the console and game – these days you now need a strong, high bandwidth internet connection AND an ongoing subscription to the gaming service to play.

I enjoy the novelty of grabbing a couple six-packs of my ice-cold home-brew and visiting a friend with a new game and being able crack a few cold ones together to enjoy the night. Ever heard of the saying “what is better than owning a boat..? having a friend with a boat!”

This is a form of hacking hedonistic adaptation, which allows me to continuously have novel, fun experiences. I feel like I am actually getting more out of life, without all the associated costs and being weighed down of owning all of these things. But it also keeps things fresh and exciting, and letting me experience a wide variety of experiences, friendships and activities without getting bored.

A really cool experience I had recently was playing in a Virtual Reality world using the Oculus rift technology – this stuff is amazing. Let alone how horny I got for the technology as a potential way of training new pilots, experiencing VR was incredibly fun. I danced with Robots, was fully immersed in some of my favorite childhood ‘old-school’ arcade games and explored some completely new virtual worlds. But I guarantee you if I bought one I would get bored of it within a week.

The following week, I visited another friend to make them dinner and play Ace Combat and dogfight the night away. We watched Top gun, high five’d as Mav saved the day and then spent the evening lobbing missiles at each other and popping flares as we turned and burned our way through hundreds of tanks of turbine fuel and countless millions of dollars worth of armaments.

A few weeks later I dropped in on some old university mates across town with a bottle of red and low and behold, (much to his girlfriends dismay) he was ‘Ripping and tearing’ his way through the latest Doom game. Of course the flashing lights, explosions, violence and heavy metal sound track drew me in instantly, and we spent an hour or two purging the hell-spawn to save the day from the cyber-demon threat.

These are mostly fun experiences, but I have also done some pretty dumb shit too. Like when I visited friends interstate while doing the rounds of job interviews in Sydney. I had a free day, but they both had to work so I stayed at home, and played the latest version of ‘Asteroids’. To be fair, this modern version is HIGHLY addictive – its got everything: Flashing lights, pumping dance music and difficult levels which stretch the laws of physics and geometry to con-fuddle and irritate you. For example you can play on 2D space, 3D space, on the outer or inner surface of a toroid (Donut) or even on a Mobius strip! I started playing the game at about 6am in my pajamas, and when they game home from work at 4pm I hadn’t moved once!

I don’t watch commercial TV or listen to commercial Radio

I don’t listen to commercial media because I have adopted the low information diet. The main thing that pisses me off on these stations is the advertising, but also the subtle and pervasive way it sneaks its way into the core content that you are actually watching.

I can easily find myself in a vegetative state though, and consume hour after hour of movies, documentaries and shows. The Simpsons, Red Dwarf and South Park are all favourites, as well as Attenborough doco’s and anything cooking related (especially Nigella Lawson who I always wanted to marry as a kid!).

Whilst sometimes a good binge can sometimes be the answer to being sick, stuck as a passenger on a flight or dealing with a breakup, I kinda see it as a huge waste of time otherwise. I try to limit myself to an episode or two of something after dinner, which is especially good if your snuggled up with your partner on a warm couch.

I don’t gamble

I don’t gamble because I am an investor. I am not interested in taking financial risks that I cannot control or at least swing the odds heavily in my favor. Ever heard the saying “The house always wins“? It is true, because the odds are always slightly stacked in their favor – meaning over time they always come out ahead. That’s why casino’s are such profitable businesses, and why they are always involved in graft and corruption with politicians, criminals and other government officials.

I have often been looked down on by others as a result of my abstinence from gambling, who often remind me the difference between them and I is that they “Play to win, not to lose” as they feed another $50 into the pokies.

Well, Me-ladd-o, I actually ‘play to consistently win with a very high level level of certainty’. This is called investing, not gambling. This is why I don’t throw my money away on stupid bets or things like pokie machines (slot machines). I have seen too many of my friends and families lives destroyed through gambling.

My high-school sweet heart actually has a very sad story about this, as her Mother had a secret gambling addiction. She racked up such a debt that they actually lost the family home. My Dad is also a problem gambler, although thankfully he has reigned his habits in and it never had such dire consequences.

I can remember as a child waiting for hours in the pub by myself with an ‘unlimited lemon squash’ bar-tab, chatting to the bartenders as my Dad fed his money into the machines. Sometimes they kicked me out as I don’t think kids are supposed to be in a pub unsupervised, and I just waited on the street.

Summary

Self Discipline is an important quality for those seeking financial Independence. Curbing your enthusiasm and impulsivity is the key to becoming fiscally responsible, especially when it comes to impulse purchases.

By understanding why you act the way you do, and how your brain works and responds to certain activities, as well as reading and getting expert advice from psychologists, you can help to rewire your brain.

Setting soft boundaries and guidelines are a great way to practice self discipline and keep yourself on track, set to achieve the most you possibly can, and have the maximum amount of enjoyment and fun experiences in your life.

CaptainFI

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